Our new digital reality and the need for more IT automation and security

March 19, 2020 - Marc Chenn

As the CEO of SaltStack I have a unique appreciation and insight into the behind-the-scenes operations of our new, more intensive digital reality. Bottom line, our digital lives would not be possible without IT automation and security in the hands of amazing data center operators and security professionals.

What is happening behind the scenes of your favorite digital entertainment service, or workplace collaboration tool, or crucial government and healthcare IT systems, is often taken for granted. But it is no accident that our digital infrastructure has performed remarkably well in the face of significant increase in demand and capacity.

SaltStack makes software used by IT and security operators to automate the tedious work of maintaining and securing the infrastructure on which everything digital runs. But infrastructure automation and security operations software is just one critical component to making our new digital reality possible. While there is no doubt we need need more IT automation and security to power digital infrastructure, there is more to consider.

A CIO who has seen it all before

I have the privilege of knowing and working with Mark Sunday who spent more than thirty years running IT for companies like Oracle, Siebel Systems, Motorola, ST Microelectronics, and Texas Instruments. Mark recently retired from his position as CIO and SVP of Oracle. He was responsible for providing the global communications, computing, and security infrastructure that enables Oracle internal business operations, as well as a variety of customer-facing hosted services for Oracle.

Mark recently delivered a keynote address at our user conference. The full video of his address can be viewed here, but here are the key takeaways which are timeless.

Mark’s entire career was focused on balancing business and IT priorities, and working towards an optimized state of balance he calls, “The Trifecta.” The trifecta priorities are:

  • Adding capability
  • Ensuring security
  • Managing cost

Spoiler alert…automation is critical in making the IT trifecta possible.

Mark said, “IT professionals are core to providing compelling capabilities for the business and customers. In terms of how they perform, their ease of use, and responsiveness to the business. The bottom line is we want to add as much value as we possibly can.

“At the same time, we’ve got to reduce risk by ensuring systems are available, even through disaster.” The bottom line, he said, was IT teams must “protect all the data,  protect all the assets, and make sure all the services are available.”

But there’s a third component of balance, Mark said, “There’s not a technology in the world that doesn’t have some level of cost pressure put on it.” 

And so, he said, you’re typically trying to balance the delivery of new capability with keeping a solid risk profile, all the while being cost effective. “And this is hard. This is really hard because of the incredible complexity we now have. The world is changing so dramatically, everyone has to be fast. So that’s hard on the business. But then for IT it’s equally hard.”

Mark is emphatic that keeping priorities balanced is not possible if worked by organizational silos or if handled manually. “Infrastructure has never been more complex. To manage it all effectively in these bigger, faster networks, you’ve got to automate. Not only does automation make IT faster, it lowers costs and reduces error.”

Want to see what this kind of automation might look like at your organization? You can always try a hosted instance of SaltStack Enterprise for a first-hand, self-guided tutorial.

“Investments in automation not only improve your ability to deliver capability to your stakeholders, but they allow you to be more agile, and to keep pace at the speed of business. And at the same time you’re able to reduce risk by ensuring availability, security, improving privacy and compliance. And it actually costs less.”

Keeping an eye on security controls is also an area where automation presents opportunity, he said. “Compliance is getting harder and harder and harder. Like we did with infrastructure or with networking, why not automate the heck out of it? Why not automate compliance to be faster, more secure, all at a lower cost.

“But to make all this happen we have to tackle the organization. Get rid of those silos and make sure everyone is rowing in the same direction.” 

His conclusion, “Go to the executives in your companies, to somebody like myself, and say, ‘Guess what, I’m not only going to improve the capability of our business, for our organization, for our constituents, I’m going to reduce risk, and at the same time I’m going to save the company money.’”

In the best market conditions infrastructure and SecOps automation drives innovation, provides competitive edge, and expands business efficiently. In these atypical market conditions IT automation is needed more than ever to help businesses optimize and secure existing infrastructure investments.

SaltStack Powers and Secures Digital Business Infrastructure from SaltStack on Vimeo.