Managing the Dynamic Datacenter

Datacenter Automation

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Datacenter Automation Authors: Liz McMillan, Yeshim Deniz, Michel Courtoy, Ashish Nanjiani, Pat Romanski

Datacenter Automation: Blog Post

Automating your job out or automating your job in?

Automation is key for your success

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Wikipedia definition of automation is “Automation or automatic control, is the use of various control systems for operating equipment such as machinery, processes in factories, boilers and heat treating ovens, switching on telephone networks, steering and stabilization of ships, aircraft and other applications and vehicles with minimal or reduced human intervention”. The key word in this definition is the last few words “ reduced human intervention”. Given automation is associated with reducing or eliminating human intervention, it often scare’s us to automate our job with the risk of losing our job. However, does automation really results in your job out or its actually a way to keep your job in?

The term automation was coined in the automobile industry in the year 1946. It was used widely in a manufacturing context, however if you look back humans always have been curious to automate their tasks with the sole purpose to reduce their effort and increase productivity. The invention of wheel was not done because one fine day someone accidently came across an object in the form and shape of a wheel. It was invented to reduce the manual task of a human. According to historians the wheel was first developed to assist potters to make earthen pots and it was somewhere in 3500BC wheel was first used as a means of transportation. Before the invention of wheel and subsequent invention of wheel based transportation vehicles, most of the transportation was done using animals. Horses, elephants, camels, donkeys were used to transport goods and humans from one place to another. Will we consider this as a form of automation? By definition using animals did reduced human intervention and efforts and hence it is a form of automation. Did it resulted in job reduction? Perhaps yes, given humans who earlier used to transport goods on their shoulders were no longer required as animal’s provider much better means of transport. However more than the job loses, the benefits of using animals far exceeded the loss of few jobs. Use of animals stronger and faster than humans allowed the task to be completed quickly resulting in increased productivity and higher ROI. In addition, humans gained new skills to domesticate animals and use them for transport. With the invention of cycles and motor vehicles, the need of animals used for transportation reduced significantly and hence lot of animals lost their jobs!. (I wonder if we could understand animals, they would have told us that they are happy to lose their jobs! ). At every phase of industrial revolution automation has played crucial role in reducing human effort to gain productivity and reduce overall cost. While one may argue that automation in the automotive sector lead to loss of many jobs, however on the other hand automation lead to faster production, higher quality and much safer vehicles. And while many people lost their jobs, many of those who were able to learn new skills quickly were rehired to operate machines at much higher pay and benefits. An example of automation in more recent times is the invention of computers. While the invention of computers lead to elimination of many manual tasks and hence caused lot of jobs lose, the same technology has added millions of jobs, including mine! Hence instead of seeing automation as a way to eliminate one’s job, it should be looked upon as a way to keep one’s job. If you don’t automate your job today, someone smarter then you will figure out a way to automate your job tomorrow! At that point, you will have no choice but to pack your bags and find another job! Instead one should use the time at hand and make every attempt to automate one’s job! Imagine you have a job which requires you to do the same task every day again and again. You get paid by achieving your daily goals. Let’s assume this job is to do data entry related to incoming and outgoing funds by looking at the receipts and invoices. Every day you have to take each receipt/invoice and make entry to a database or an excel. Given you are using computers, you have already automated manual tasks of making these entries in a book and using your brains to do calculations. What if you found a way that using  modern scanning technologies you can cut down the task of data entry by 60-70% or even possibly eliminate this 100% . Would you use this technology knowing that once you use this technology you are basically automating your job out ? Two scenarios can happen here. Scenario 1, Assuming you ignore the technology and carry your daily job with the hope that your job is secured, you will continue to hold to your job until your boss or colleague introduces this technology. At that point, you will have no choice but to either adopt new technology quickly or lose your job. All of a sudden, your skills have become legacy and only two things can happen with legacy. Upgrade or decommission! Now imagine you were the one who introduced this technology at the first place. Your boss would be extremely happy that you are looking to increase productivity of the company at the risk of your own job! Most likely you will not only be made in charge of operating this new machine but also will be given additional responsibility which will not only give higher monetary benefits but also increase work satisfaction. This way you have automated your job in and not out!

Bottom line is you cannot run away from automation, you can only buy time until it catches up to you. A smart individual is one who understands the change and adapts it instead of resisting the change and fight against the tide. After all, even the best surfer in the world cannot ride every wave out! So you decide if automation equals job out or join in ?

Ashish Nanjiani


More Stories By Ashish Nanjiani

Ashish Nanjiani is a Senior IT Manager within Cisco IT managing Cisco worldwide IT data centers as an operations manager. With 20 years of IT experience, he is an expert in data center operations and automation. He has spoken in many inter-company events on data center automation and helps IT professionals digitize their IT operations. He is also an entrepreneur and has been successfully running a website business for 10+ years.

Ashish holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical and Electronics and a Masters in Business Administration. He is a certified PMP, Scrum master. He is married and has two lovely daughters. He enjoys playing with technology during his free time.