Dell research finds autonomous operations and AIops adoption lagging

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Inevitably, data generation will only continue to accelerate.

But as daily accumulation moves to near-infinite levels – from petabytes, to zettabytes, to yottabytes (the largest unit approved as a standard size by the International System of Units, equal to one septillion bytes and named after the Greek letter “iota” ) – the number of people in the world to manage and manage data is finite.

Organizations must fundamentally rethink digitization to not only keep up, but also to master the process and data in general. The answer to this: Autonomous Operations (AO) and AIops — the process of applying AI to IT operations — according to a new report commissioned by Dell Technologies.

“We need to move in the direction of data creation,” said John Roese, global CTO for products and operations at Dell. “We need to improve the relationship between people and infrastructure.”

The report “The State of Autonomous Operations: Why IT Automation is Driving Digital Transformation Success” shows that while organizations are making good progress in their digital transformation, many are lagging behind in adoption of AO and AIops.

Enthusiasm for AI and AIops strong, but strategy is lacking

The analysis classified 59% of organizations as “digital adopters” or “digital leaders”, but in contrast, only 15% of organizations show the same level of maturity when it comes to adopting automation. While IT workers are excited about AI and AIops — often more than management teams and other departments — 60% of respondents said their teams didn’t have a strong strategy for implementing it, and 77% said their organization struggled to culture of innovation.

Barriers to adoption included a lack of in-house skills and expertise; fragmented, aging and compartmentalized IT infrastructure; security concerns; and a lack of both budgets and resources.

But at the same time, nine in ten organizations recognize that they are struggling because their IT staff spends an unnecessary amount of time on manual, repetitive tasks that could otherwise be automated. As a result, more than two-thirds of IT decision-makers said their organizations are vulnerable to security threats and struggle with overall IT speed and IT workforce retention.

AI and AIops will not eliminate jobs

Roese emphasized that only one area, IT monitoring, has been automated by more than half of the organizations. Furthermore, few organizations seem to automate a wide range of IT activities. Part of this is due to reluctance from management and non-IT departments, Roese said: There is a general fear that their jobs will become obsolete.

However, Roese has seen the opposite and points to the automation of security event management monitoring. That process is almost completely automated and piped into machine-intelligent frameworks. And in return, organizations can hire “not enough” analysts to look at upstream distilled information, he said.

Another example is site reliability engineering. Developed and conceived by Google, this practice involves incorporating and applying aspects of software engineering to infrastructure and operational problems. But, as Roese said, automated infrastructures can run into a whole host of problems that require human attention, creating new jobs and requiring expertise.

He also underlined the benefits that automation can bring when it comes to data cleansing and data sanitization. This traditionally includes as much as 80% of the work of data scientists. But “there’s absolutely no reason for it,” he said, adding that their heirs can be applied to more important areas.

Roese agreed that with every technology implementation, manual human processes disappear and efficiency and capabilities increase. But people still have to “program it, manage it, interpret it,” he said. “The task now is to make sure that the automation works. You have to teach people how to be experts in automation.”

Companies get AO AIops

As a positive sign for AO and AIops, the survey revealed that 20% of identified “AO adopters” said there were no barriers to the process. And most other organizations recognize the importance and benefits of automation, with 87% saying they are excited about it.

Likewise, 91% of IT decision makers understand that automation is the future: they believe their IT systems will be able to respond autonomously in 3-5 years to align with business goals.

Tech leaders are also recognizing the benefits automation can bring in providing better service, improving security, supporting business goals and growth, and improving the work-life balance of IT employees. Further afield, they said AO and AIOPs will better equip them to onboard and leverage new technologies; provide new products and services that they “can’t think of or understand yet”; and operate at speeds that are “currently unimaginable”.

In short, AO and AIOPs have the potential to dramatically increase IT departments and enable staff to support digitization, Roese said.

AIops calls for more people to embrace automation

In general, the most advanced storage systems have a ratio of one administrator for every 10 petabytes of data, he said. But in the case of zettabytes, that ratio goes up to tens of thousands. As such, it’s critical that organizations improve the infrastructure-to-people ratio – by three to four orders of magnitude. A more holistic approach to AO and AIops is necessary, and IT teams must lead the way in embracing innovation.

If they do, organizations will not run into a ‘human bottleneck’ and can significantly increase their talent pool.

“We do have a talent problem,” says Roese. “We haven’t had enough people in computer science, engineering and other IT fields for a long time.”

Still, he stressed, “the adoption of automation in a vacuum means nothing.” Organizations must judiciously capitalize on new opportunities to create a “virtual cycle of data”: collecting it, studying it, and applying the output to learning and reprogramming systems and updating behavior.

“You have to evolve with automation. It’s a shift, a journey,” says Roese.

He added that, when applied correctly, “automation is a really good addition to humanity, and a necessary one.”

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