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Automation is a big focus as more businesses migrate to the cloud and implement DevOps strategies. And while IT shops can gradually learn AWS automation skills -- if they don't have them already -- the demand for that knowledge continues to rise rapidly.
"Perhaps a direct reason for this is the more widely adopted principles and practices of DevOps," said Scott Thomson, director of public cloud at Softchoice, an IT consulting and managed services provider based in Toronto.
DevOps has moved from a grassroots or department-level initiative to a more widely adopted and advanced option across enterprises. As DevOps continues to evolve and spread, the percentage of people on DevOps teams has increased from 16% in 2014 to 27% in 2017, according to Puppet Labs' "2017 State of DevOps Report."
In DevOps initiatives, teams use automation to orchestrate the continuous testing and release of new applications, as well as the configuration of their underlying cloud resources and environments.
"The benefit of automating anything is to reduce the time and effort required to complete a set of tasks," Thomson said. "At scale, this [automation] can save organizations months' worth of man-hours a year, which results in direct savings in the form of greater productivity."
In addition to AWS automation skills, DevOps initiatives require a cultural transformation to succeed. The traditional app dev approach separates developers and IT operators. With DevOps, silos need to come down, and IT needs to work more collaboratively.
"In this context, new roles or accountability will certainly be required to steer the ship," Thomson said.
New IT roles emerge around automation
In addition to strengthening DevOps with evangelist or coach positions, Thomson said IT teams must fill other new roles, such as an automation architect. Unlike the evangelist, who nurtures the cultural DevOps transformation, the architect designs, inspects and implements strategies, such as continuous integration and a continuous delivery pipeline.
As legacy IT shops make the transition to public or private cloud, many focus on another emerging technology that relies heavily on automation -- software-defined networking (SDN) -- and again must adapt their staff roles accordingly.
Although companies might have to reach for outside talent, it isn't a stretch for a cloud administrator who knows scripting to pick up some additional AWS automation skills and responsibilities.
"All they need is the APIs for SDN, and they need to learn the toolkit, namely Chef and Puppet," said Chris Gardner, senior analyst at Forrester Research in Cambridge, Mass.
AWS automation skills for multicloud
As it does with SDN and DevOps, automation plays a key role in multicloud deployments. Luckily for multicloud enterprises, third-party tools, like Chef and Puppet, work across different public cloud environments. That means IT teams can use these automation tools without a thorough knowledge of a specific cloud platform, such as AWS.
"When everyone is going toward multicloud environments anyway, from an organizational perspective, they are getting away from a command-line world or even a web GUI and, in the case of AWS, increasingly relying on those [third-party] automation tools," Gardner said.
Businesses that prefer to use an AWS-native automation tool can turn to AWS OpsWorks. The service treats server configurations as code and uses Chef to automate server configuration, deployment and management across Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) instances, as well as on-premises environments.
AWS has other related options, such as an automation feature in EC2 Systems Manager that helps with a range of tasks, including updating Amazon Machine Images and building workflows.
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