Manual deployment and management of software applications in a cloud environment are among the biggest causes of security incidents.
A process that involves a lot of manual intervention is usually categorized as a high-touch operation. If you perform configuration, provisioning, deployment, or management of cloud infrastructure/services manually, it can slow down releases, thus increasing the time to market new features.
Manual processes are also more error-prone. They increase security risks and may not allow you to follow the best practices, which in turn leads to suboptimal results. Automation can reduce human touches in deploying and managing cloud infrastructure, applications, and services. Automotation ensures consistency, best practices, faster delivery times, fewer errors, and high security. A system that requires minimum human touch/interaction is referred to as a Lowtouch system.
Achieving Lowtouch Cloud Adoption
Automation is the key to building Lowtouch systems. A change in enterprise perspective that the entire infrastructure and application stack can be codified is the first step toward achieving a Lowtouch environment.
CICD processes like building, testing, infrastructure provisioning, configuration, deployment, scaling, monitoring are all automatable using advanced tools. These processes and environments can be codified as part of the application’s lifecycle and within the scope of DevOps/CloudOps programs.
Such automation allows organizations to create repeatable processes and reduce time-consuming manual tasks and related costs.
Advantages of Lowtouch Operations
Some of the important benefits of adopting a Lowtouch environment are:
Lowtouch environments are fully automated, and it operates near Zero-touch. This automation provides a fast, consistent and repeatable process for enterprises.
Faster Time to Market
Manual building, deployment, provisioning, and management of applications and cloud infrastructure are time-consuming, which means organizations will take a long time to make changes to their existing applications or introduce new product features to meet customer expectations.
An automated Lowtouch platform can provision infrastructure, build, deploy and manage applications changes in a few minutes or hours, enabling more frequent releases of different software versions.
Manual processes are more likely to be error-prone. Lowtouch systems reduce human error chances and ensure consistency through a high level of automation.
Lowtouch platforms may also have the capability to detect and correct errors automatically (auto-heal).
Adherence to Compliance
Enterprises want their applications running on-premise or in the cloud to be compliant with local and international regulatory guidelines.
An automated system can be configured to follow the best practices and compliance rules as per the organizational or regional levels. Once the right policies are set and validated, every other software release guarantees consistent adherence to such policies.
Adoption of New Technologies
Adoption of new technologies, like cloud technologies, could be complex, time-consuming, and costly. Moreover, some technologies may require a steep learning curve due to a lack of operational know-how or the right skill sets to forge ahead.
For example, research shows that many organizations want to adopt Kubernetes and Container technologies, but they find it hard because these technologies are too complex for them to understand and practice.
Lowtouch platforms and services that provide Kubernetes-as-a-Service come as a savior for these enterprises in such cases. By choosing the right partner and the right Lowtouch platform, enterprises will not need to worry about the complexity of the technology, security, best practices, compliance, etc.
Provision to Try out Fail-Fast Strategy.
When enterprises try to adopt new technologies, there are a lot of risks and costs involved. It is always disastrous to see a failure after spending a lot of time, money, and effort to achieve your goal.
Fail-fast is a strategy where we get fast feedback and the time to inspect it; if the results are not good, terminate it fast before more money is spent. Lowtouch platforms help enterprises to try out something, get faster results and make an early decision on whether or not to continue ( thus saving a lot of time, money, and effort).
Lower human intervention to production systems reduces the risks of hackers getting access through user credentials and user’s personal environments.
Connecting to a production server from remote machines or storing/transferring keys unprotected will give hackers a chance to target the remote user/machine and get access to the production environments.
Security best practices and policies can be configured and integrated into the Lowtouch platform to enhance system security further. Keys can also be auto-generated and kept in vaults to avoid thefts and provide additional security.
Enforcement of Best Practices
Enterprises usually lack the expertise and experience to implement the recommended best practices when they first plan to move to the cloud. This is primarily due to the lack of in-house expertise and a shortage of skilled resources in these new technology domains.
There is also a high chance that the DevOps/CloudOps guy may forget to follow some of the best practices while doing the Cloud migrations or management. In an automated Lowtouch environment, many such policies and practices can be configured using declarative methods and validated before a production release. There on, it becomes a repeatable standard process.
For example, in a Lowtouch cloud migration platform, scanning and signing can be set up to prevent vulnerabilities during the build and run processes, configurations can be hardened using CIS benchmarks, and separation of duties can be enforced.
We can also set up RBAC (Role Based Access Control), policies, secrets management, encryption of sensitive information and provisioning at run time, integrate observability, monitoring, and anomaly detection, among others.
Ease of Multi-Cloud Adoption
Cloud vendor lock-in refers to the case where an enterprise is stuck with one cloud vendor and its services. Moving to another vendor would not be practical or could be very costly in such cases.
Advanced Lowtouch cloud platforms are capable of deploying applications independent of the cloud providers. This gives enterprises the flexibility to deploy applications to on-premise or any of the available private or public cloud environments.
A good platform should support all popular cloud providers like Amazon, Google, Azure, Nutanix, etc., and multi-cloud environments. Such flexibility provides independence to enterprises and avoids the need for applications to be locked to any single cloud provider.
In such cases, enterprises will have the freedom to choose any cloud provider or multiple cloud providers for their application deployments.
Lower Cost of Ownership (TCO) / Higher ROI
Lowtouch platforms reduce costs by continuously optimizing the processes using integrated auditability, observability, and feedback mechanisms.
Optimized processes increase productivity, accelerates delivery times, and reduces human resource requirements and related costs. The overall cost of ownership and maintenance of Lowtouch systems will be much lesser than that of other alternatives.
Ability to Leverage AI to Improve Efficiency.
AI can be used to enhance the way highly automated Lowtouch platforms work and manage resources. The various logs and other data metrics collected can be analyzed, and the system itself can make intelligent decisions.
For example, unlike static provisioning, AI-based systems can continuously learn and analyze various behavior patterns and resource utilization metrics from the system to build smart dynamic provisioning.
Would you like your systems to run uninterrupted even after a technical glitch? Some of the fully automated Lowtouch systems can continuously monitor, self-detect issues, and correct or heal by themselves, ensuring 24/7 services of enterprise business applications.
However, such auto-recoveries require inherent intelligence to accurately and automatically identify the root cause of the error, the ability to connect to a resolution for the problem and find mitigation actions by using orchestration and automation to enact the required changes necessary to bring back the system to a consistent state.
High Availability, High Scalability
Enterprises expect their business systems to be up and running 24/7.
High-touch systems need to be shut down for a long time during manual maintenance and other upgrade operations. Even rollbacks take a lot of effort and time in case of any failures during the deployment of new versions.
Lowtouch systems ensure high availability as the changes in production systems with new versions are done automatically and are carried out very quickly. In addition, Lowtouch systems can be set to scale up or scale down based on load factors, thus providing quick and easy scalability options for enterprises.
Automation builds repeatable processes for routine tasks, minimizing the need for human intervention and efforts. This means that Lowtouch technologies give employees more time to work on more important activities that provide more value to the organization.
In addition to this, automation helps the employees to be more productive and innovative. Research (Adobe’s Study) shows that “enterprises that encourage creativity and innovation outperform their competitors by driving up customer satisfaction, revenue growth, and market share.”
Lack of skilled resources
Skill shortage impedes the adoption of new technology by enterprises.
It may not always be possible for an enterprise to constantly update its employee skills to match the pace of innovation. In such cases, it is better to choose a reliable service provider and hassle-free Lowtouch platforms that serve the enterprise’s new technology adoption requirements.
Low-touch platforms ensure the right level of maturity in the latest technology, security, best practices, compliance, and lowers the cost of ownership.
Compliance and Auditability
Many enterprises are still constrained by concerns around the lack of skilled resources or good systems in managing security, best practices, compliance, monitoring, data management, and networking.
As a result, enterprises need to develop or adopt a Lowtouch platform that automates these processes and applies best practices across security, governance, auditing, and monitoring, spread across the entire life cycle of the product/service.
As discussed in this article, the benefits of Lowtouch cloud operations are many, including security, cost effectiveness, best practices, compliance and more. Choosing the right partners and tools will definitely help you to achieve maximum automation and resulting lowtouch capabilities for your cloud adoption and management.
About the Author
Dr. Anil Kumar
Dr. Anil Kumar
VP Engineering, Cloud Control
Founder | Architect | Consultant | Mentor | Advisor | Faculty
Solution Architect and IT Consultant with more than 25 years of IT Experience. Served in various roles with both national and international institutions. Expertise in working with both legacy and advanced technology stacks and business domains.