Anything-as-a-Service (XaaS) – Why Automation and Self-Service Are Key

Just as movie rental stores gave way to streaming services that deliver instant Friday night entertainment in a click, the “anything-as-a-service” (XaaS) model has fundamentally changed how enterprises access and provision technology. Across the IT infrastructure, what were once physical pieces of hardware have slowly but surely become virtualized services, services the enterprise subscribes to and then delivers to users on-demand.

Taking a XaaS approach solves two problems at once. From an enterprise IT perspective, it can simplify deployments and remove layers of on-premises infrastructure that need to be constantly managed and patched. From the user side, especially for DevOps teams that have ongoing and time-constrained needs, XaaS means they can get the resources they need when they need them. 

By solving both these problems in a cost-efficient, controllable manner, XaaS is the future of IT infrastructure management. Automation and self-service are the key to making that future a reality.

The struggle for IT teams is real

IT teams face some very real challenges. Not only are they charged with deploying and maintaining applications across the enterprise, but they are also responsible for maintaining and securing both these applications and the networks they run on. At the same time, IT plays an essential role as a partner to DevOps teams, teams that are themselves under immense pressure to develop, test and get product out the door fast.

Delivering the VMs and other cloud-based resources DevOps teams need has its own inherent challenges and risks. Outdated processes can mean that provisioning takes an agonizingly long time, and this time lag can drive DevOps to develop their own shadow IT workarounds. What’s worse, when these processes are manual, non-standardized or dependent on tribal knowledge, they can be error-prone and generate avoidable security vulnerabilities.

Enabling resource delivery through automation

An XaaS approach addresses these challenges for both IT and the teams they support. From an IT perspective, this begins with the standardization and automation of provisioning processes. The key here is blueprints. Blueprints are templates that enable the standardized, compliant, and repeatable delivery of resources to business users. Through blueprints, IT can execute actions – or executable scripts – to safely automate and orchestrate complex processes and streamline resource lifecycle management. And since blueprints contain set rules and builds sanctioned by IT, they’ll always be able to accurately and securely deliver the right resources.

Additionally, administrators can use blueprints to define conditional logic that periodically executes and applies remediation steps. In this way, automated rules can be implemented to take corrective actions if there are issues in a particular environment, for example, shutting down unused resources that drain costs. 

In other words, not only do blueprints automate provisioning resources, they remove the manual pain of managing and patching the layers and layers of on-premises infrastructure. 

Enabling access through a service catalog

Standardizing and automating resource delivery is just one side of the XaaS equation. The other side focuses on providing DevOps teams easy access to provisioned resources. In the XaaS approach, this happens through a self-service catalog

The trick here is to make accessing resources as easy as ordering a book off Amazon. Users shouldn’t need to know anything about the idiosyncrasies of configuring this or that cloud. They should simply be able to access the catalog and get what they want. Frankly, providing this sort of easy access to resources is the surest way to discourage users from going rogue.

Self-service doesn’t mean that IT relinquishes control over resource allocation or control. In fact, it’s just the opposite. By using blueprints to provision the resources available through the self-service catalog, IT ensures that the provisioned resources actually come with the necessary guardrails built in. That is, the combination of automation and self-service allows IT to accurately and securely deliver the right resources, while maintaining proper governance and cost controls.

The Anything-as-a-Service Imperative

The idea behind XaaS is that anything in the IT stack can be turned into and delivered as a service. For IT, this is a no-brainer, because the approach makes it possible to deliver technology more rapidly while decreasing overhead and mitigating risk. For DevOps, XaaS gives them exactly what they want: instantaneous access to the resources agile teams need to get products out the door. 

Automation and self-service are the two key components of standing up an XaaS model. Automation reduces the inefficiency of manual processes while providing total control over resource allocation. Self-service streamlines access to resources, keeping users happy and supporting the demands of continuous innovation. 

So, what’s stopping your team from making XaaS a reality in your organization?

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