Building a self-healing IT infrastructure
We live in an age commonly referred to as a digital age. The ecosystem of digital technologies is transforming every industry and developing new ways of business dynamics. One central element that is rewriting the rules of customers, competitors, data, innovation and value is IT Infrastructure.
An analogy may be helpful here. Back during the early days of manufacturing, industrial plants were dependent on single sources of power, later electrification changed the industrial plants. Electrical eliminated operational constraints and helped industries establish lines of production for mass production. The next biggest change was driven by Robotic Process automation and self-serviced lines of production.
Similarly, IT infrastructure has been through five main eras – mainframes, personal computers, servers, enterprise computing and now cloud computing with self-servicing infrastructure capabilities. This gives the fair chance of creating self-healing IT infrastructure.
Self-healing IT infrastructure is the next big thing in IT infrastructure. Self-healing IT infrastructure can help teams perform routine tasks automatically further simplifying the new age development practices like DevOps and Agile methodologies.
While companies like Facebook has achieved medium level of maturity in self-healing infrastructure, it is not yet run-of-the-mill task. There is no industry-defined roadmap to achieve this state of infrastructure. In this article, we will walk you through five steps to build self-healing infrastructure for more sophisticated software applications and environments.
1. Infrastructure as code is the basic for a self-healing IT infrastructure
Provisioning servers is one of the most tedious tasks for any developer or operations team. Given the pace of development, compliance and security practices it takes time to configure the same infrastructure every time for staging, testing, pre-production and production environments. When done manually, it is a time-consuming and highly error-prone activity.
Operations team were once used only for dull and difficult work of provisioning servers. Today, there are myriad of tools easing the pain of provisioning servers and surprisingly achieving more perfection. Self-provisioning tools are ready to get more popular, and some of the combinations can help teams to streamline their deliveries.
We have worked with Terraform templates to provision infrastructure, Docker and Kubernetes helped us in automated deployments for continuous software delivery. Our team experience streamlined and error free codes updates in application.
2. Automated Testing
Automated testing has been ranked as one of the hottest trends continuously for two years. The reason being – it is one of the pre-requisites for embracing Automation completely and preparing grounds for building self-healing IT infrastructure.
Even as a part of traditional development process, after a period teams have test coverage for entire codebase – either run manually or automatically. Open source tools can be integrated with Infra as code to test codes automatically before deploying it into production. This includes static and dynamic code tests, security tests, vulnerability tests and performance tests.
3. Logging and Monitoring
As we automate the testing and provisioning of servers, systems and environments require constant and automated monitoring systems to notify any deviation in the performance. Architects are designing applications with the possibility of integrating logging and monitoring tools from the beginning. These systems are trained using Machine Learning to deal with routine deviations automatically.
Monitoring systems should exceed their working limitations of just monitoring and alerting. The recent breakthrough in monitoring systems enable them to perform feats that would have once considered impossible. For instance, there are two web servers that have been configured. If the main web server no longer responds, the monitoring server should make a DNS change to point to the standby server, thereby healing the condition that the primary server is offline.
4. Smart Analytics and Alerts
Smart analytics and alerts are important in terms of preventing the issue even before it occurs, this is an important step in self-healing, create a database with frequently asked questions or addressed issues such as chatbot to avoid unnecessary incidents.
5. Self-protection and Self Optimizing
Infrastructure security is at the root of entire corporate security plan. Secure the network, database, code and run time application self-protection are important in protecting the entire infrastructure. Knowing which regulations to apply, certificates update, end points, route tables etc will help in creating the best security plan.
Once we have achieved smart systems and alerting, these data can be fed into Machine Learning systems to understand which incidents can be prevented ensuring self-protecting and which incidents can weaken the systems to self-optimize them beforehand. These thresholds of incidents can be determined using monitoring and alerting analytics. Self-optimizing refers to both scaling and improvising the performance of entire infra and application.
For example, applications protect themselves by identifying and blocking attacks in real time. That is what technology called Runtime Application Self-Protection (RASP) does.
Overcoming challenges in building self-healing IT infrastructure
Building self-healing IT infrastructure is more of culture and data challenge than technological challenge. We have all sorts of technically viable solutions at our disposal to build such resilient and self-healing infrastructure.
To start preparing and working with self-healing infrastructures, CIOs must prepare their teams to swing and be comfortable in adapting to constantly changing, heavily virtualized infrastructure, spread across hybrid environments in cloud and multiple data centres.
There will be an initial chaos of alarms and monitoring systems to know the pinpoint and cause of any error in system performance. Developers and Operations must recognize the way of segregating false and true alarms till the systems get trained and start putting their ML algorithms in action.
Let us know what you think of IT evolutionary process and where are you on this path of building self-healing IT infrastructure. Qentelli can help you plan your next stage of underlying application infrastructure. Write us: firstname.lastname@example.org
A Technical Architect with 14 years of experience in I.T Operations, Cloud architecture, and DevOps Engineering. Planned, designed and managed engineering solutions to solve specific business problems of many service oriented organizations including large-scale IT and Financial firms.All stories by: Ramachandra Annadi