Programmable architecture: attain business value from advanced systems without the complexity

The IT world is undoubtedly heading towards greater levels of automation. If we look at what has happened in the past within other industries (manufacturing is an obvious one) it seems like an inevitable evolution in order to drive efficiencies and grow economies of scale. IT systems are becoming more and more complex in order to deal with the exponential increase in workload and required functionality. In my view, vendors who can hide that complexity from the end user without sacrificing functionality or flexibility are more likely to succeed (or survive depending on your perspective).

While we have seen some level of RESTful API functionality integrated into many products, the effectiveness of this, from what I have observed, depends on whether it was something implemented from day one or as an afterthough to play ‘catch up’ with the rest of the market. The Rubrik platform does a huge amount of work under the covers to abstract the complexities of a modern, sophisticated IT product from both users and other IT services. It does this using a wholly policy-driven architecture – programmability through APIs. This was in fact a key design goal for the Rubrik team when first developing the product: all capabilities that are present in Rubrik’s GUI can be called via the API.

Where administrators may have in the past used some level of automation, much of this may have been limited to simple scripting such as Windows batch files. Even today, it’s not uncommon for IT administrators to default to using the GUI or more manual methods mainly because it can be hard getting started with some of the newer automation engines – particularly if you’re not a developer by trade. However, the world is increasingly moving towards more formalised and structured interpreters such as PowerShell and Python to help deal with the issues of complexity, quality and reliability. These tools can also bring about a huge amount of operation efficiency as they remove the need for for manual checks and balances, which also carry you an inherent risk of human error. This automation can not only increase quality but can translate into many man hours saved. Rubrik eases the pain further because they have a well-developed, consistent API that allows scripts to be lightweight.

Keep in mind that programmability doesn’t have to be introduced via a ‘big bang’ approach if that’s not right for you or your environment. Like everything in IT, use it where it fits! While some environments will benefit from comprehensive automation via a bespoke orchestration engine (or a third party suite), it doesn’t have to be this way for everybody. I’m seeing many organisations almost ‘drip-feeding’ the use of APIs into their environment and allowing orchestration to grow organically where it’s most effective. An example of an automated process could be an API-enabled workflow that validates that a set of backups has been successful and reports this back to a customer’s central monitoring dashboard. Although simple, this workflow alone may be replacing a lengthy manual process that was necessary with a previous product – hence hours of that administrator’s time could be saved.

What are the benefits of programmable architecture?

  • Operational time savings and simplicity – underlying architectural complexity is abstracted from the user
  • Improvement in IT service quality – workflows that may have been performed manually in the past (and potentially subject to human error) can be partially or fully automated
  • Enables holistic control and orchestration – consistent, open APIs improve reliability and repeatability of product and service interaction making full automation a reality

Rubrik plan to release further API enhancements in 2017 and we’ll keep you up to date with those. If you’d like more information or advice on programmable architecture, please don’t hesitate to get in contact with the team. Contact any one of the team here at NG-IT or me directly here

Contact Olly: Olly@ng-it.co.uk or via Twitter @HybridGuru