Automation Anywhere – The Bots Are Here To Help

Disclaimer: I recently attended Tech Field Day 19.  My flights, accommodation and other expenses were paid for by Tech Field Day. There is no requirement for me to blog about any of the content presented and I am not compensated in any way for my time at the event.  Some materials presented were discussed under NDA and don’t form part of my blog posts, but could influence future discussions.

 

Automation Anywhere recently presented at Tech Field Day 19. You can see videos of their presentation here, and download my rough notes from here.

 

Robotic What?

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is the new hotness in enterprise software. Automation Anywhere raised over $550 million in funding in the last 12 months. That’s a lot of money. But what is RPA? It’s a way to develop workflows so that business processes can be automated. One of the cool things, though, is that it can develop these automation actions by observing the user perform the actions in the GUI, and then repeating those actions. There’s potential to make this more accessible to people who aren’t necessarily software development types.

Automation Anywhere started back in 2003, and the idea was to automate any application. Automation anywhere want to “democratise automation”, and “anything that can be automated, should be automated”. The real power of this kind of approach is that it, potentially, allows you do things you never did before. Automation Anywhere want us to “imagine a world where every job has a digital assistant working side by side, allowing people doing what they do best”.

[image courtesy of Automation Anywhere]

 

Humans are the Resource

This whole automating all the things mantra has been around for some time, and the idea has always been that we’re “[m]oving humans up the value chain”. Not only that, but RPA isn’t about digital transformation in the sense that a lot of companies see it currently, i.e. as a way to change the way they do things to better leverage digital tools. What’s interesting is that RPA is more focused on automating what you already have. You can then decide whether the process is optimal or whether it should be changed. I like this idea, if only because of the number of times I’ve witnessed small and large companies go through “transformations”, only to realise that what they were doing previously was pretty good, and they’d just made a few mistakes in terms of manual process creeping in.

Automation Anywhere told us that some people start with “I know that my job cannot be automated”, but it turns out that about 80% of their job is business tools based, and a lack of automation is holding them back from thinking strategically. We’ve seen this problem throughout the various industrial revolutions that have occurred, and people have invariably argued against steam-powered devices, and factory lines, and self-healing infrastructure.

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

Automation is a funny thing. It’s often sold to people as a means to give them back time in their day to do “higher order” activities within the company. This has been a message that has been around as long as I’ve been in IT. There’s an idea that every worker is capable of doing things that could provide more value to the company, if only they had more time. Sometimes, though, I think some folks are just good at breaking rocks. They don’t want to do anything else. They may not really be capable of doing anything else. And change is hard, and is going to be hard for them in particular. I’m not anticipating that RPA will take over every single aspect of the workplace, but there’s certainly plenty of scope for it to have a big presence in the modern enterprise. So much time is wasted on process that should really be automated, because it can give you back a lot of time in your day. And it also provides the consistency that human resources lack.

As Automation Anywhere pointed out in their presentation “every piece of software in the world changes how we work, but rarely do you have the opportunity to change what the work is”. And that’s kind of the point, I think. We’re so tied to do things in a business a certain way, and oftentimes we fill the gaps in workflows with people because the technology can’t keep up with what we’re trying to do. But if you can introduce tools into the business that can help you move past those shortfalls in workflow, and identify ways to improve those workflows, that could really be something interesting. I don’t know if RPA will solve all of our problems overnight, because humans are unfortunately still heavily involved in the decision making process inside enterprise, but it seems like there’s scope to do some pretty cool stuff with it.

If you’d like to read some articles that don’t just ramble on, check out Adam’s article here, Jim’s view here, and Liselotte’s article here. Marina posted a nice introduction to Automation Anywhere here, and Scott’s impression of Automation Anywhere’s security approach made for interesting reading. There’s a wealth of information on the Automation Anywhere website, and a community edition you can play with too.

Random Short Take #7

Here are a few links to some random things that I think might be useful, to someone. Maybe.

Puppet Announces Puppet Discovery, Can Now Find and Manage Your Stuff Everywhere

Puppet recently wrapped up their conference, PuppetConf2017, and made some product announcements at the same time. I thought I’d provide some brief coverage of one of the key announcements here.

 

What’s a Discovery Puppet?

No, it’s Puppet Discovery, and it’s the evolution of Puppet’s focus on container and cloud infrastructure discovery, and the result of feedback from their customers on what’s been a challenge for them. Puppet describe it as “a new turnkey approach to traditional and cloud resource discovery”.

It also provides:

  • Agentless service discovery for AWS EC2, containers, and physical hosts;
  • Actionable views across the environment; and
  • The ability to bring unmanaged resources under Puppet management.

Puppet Discovery currently allows for discovery of VMware vSphere VMs, AWS and Azure resources, and containers, with support for other cloud vendors, such as Google Cloud Platform, to follow.

 

Conclusion and Further Reading

Puppet have been around for some time and do a lot of interesting stuff. I haven’t covered them previously on this blog, but that doesn’t mean they’re not doing interesting stuff. I have a lot of customers leveraging Puppet in the wild, and any time companies make the discovery, management and automation of infrastructure easier I’m all for it. I’m particularly enthusiastic about the hybrid play, as I agree with Puppet’s claim that a lot of these types of solutions work particularly well on static, internal networks but struggle when technologies such as containers and public cloud come into play.

Just like VM sprawl before it, cloud sprawl is a problem that enterprises, in particular, are starting to experience with more frequency. Tools like Discovery can help identify just what exactly has been deployed. Once users have a better handle on that, they can start to make decisions about what needs to stay and what should go. I think this is key to good infrastructure management, regardless of whther you were jeans and a t-shirt to work or prefer a suit and tie.

The press release for Puppet Discovery can be found here. You can apply to participate in the preview phase here. There’s also a blog post covering the announcement here.

Brisbane VMUG – September 2016

hero_vmug_express_2011

The September version of the Brisbane VMUG meeting will be held on Thursday 22nd September at Telstra in the city from 2 – 4 pm. It’s sponsored by SimpliVity and should make for a great session.

Here’s the agenda:

  • 2:00 – 2:15pm: Registration and Welcome
  • 2:15 – 2:30pm: VMUG and VMworld Update
  • 2:30 – 3:15pm: SimpliVity HCI Market announcements VMworld 2016
    1. SimpliVity All Flash
    2. Enterprise Scale for VDI
    3. Database backup enhancements
    4. Automated DR testing
    5. Analyst Coverage

     

  • 3:15 – 3:45pm: vROps and SimpliVity live demo
  • 3:45 – 4:00pm: Q&A with customers

SimpliVity have done some great presentations for VMUG in the past and I’m really looking forward to hearing about their recent product announcements and seeing their vROps demo. You can find out more information and register for the event here. I hope to see you there. Also, if you’re interested in sponsoring one of these events, please get in touch with me and I can help make it happen.

Brisbane VMUG – August 2016

hero_vmug_express_2011

The August edition of the Brisbane VMUG will be held on Tuesday 8th August at EMC’s office in the city (Level 11, 345 Queen Street, Brisbane) from 2:30 – 4:30 pm. It’s sponsored by VMware and should be a lot of fun.

Here’s the agenda:

I’m really looking forward to Michael Francis continuing his enablement series on vRO. You can find out more information and register for the event here. I hope to see you there. Also, if you’re interested in sponsoring one of these events, please get in touch with me and I can help make it happen.