Why Automation Matters : It’s Not New and Scary!

It’s easy to think of automation as new and scary. Sorry for stating the obvious, but automation may be new to you, or new to your company, but plenty of people have been doing this stuff for a long time. I’m going to illustrate this with some stories from my past…

Automated Deployments

In 2003 I worked for a parcel delivery company that were replacing all their old systems with a Java application running against an Oracle back end. Their build process was automated using Ant scripts, which were initiated by a tool called Ant Hill. Once developers committed their code to version control (I think we used CVS at the time) it was available to be included in the nightly builds, which were deployed automatically by Ant Hill. Now I’m not going to make out this was a full CI/CD pipeline implementation, but this was 19 years ago, and how many companies are still struggling to do automated builds now?

Automated Installations

Back at my first Oracle OpenWorld in 2006 I went to a session by Dell, who were able to deploy a 16 node Oracle RAC by just plugging in the physical kit. They used PXE network installations, which included their own custom RPM that performed the Oracle RAC installation and config silently. The guy talking about the technical stuff was Werner Puschitz, who was a legend in the Oracle on Linux space back in the day. I wrote about this session here. This was 16 years ago and they were doing things that many companies still can’t do today.

I can’t remember when the Oracle Universal Installer (OUI) first allowed silent installations, but I’m pretty sure I used them for the first time in Oracle 9i, so that’s somewhere around the 2001 period. I have an article about this functionality here. I think Oracle 9.2 in 2002 was the first time the Database Configuration Assistant (DBCA) allowed silent installations, but before the DBCA we always used to create databases manually using scripts anyway, so silent database creations in one form or another have been possible for well over 20 years. You can read about DBCA silent mode here. Build scripts for Oracle are as old as the hills, so there is nothing new to say here. The funny thing is, back in the day Oracle was often criticised for not having enough GUI tools, and nowadays nobody wants GUI tools. 🙂

Sorry, but if you are building stuff manually with GUIs, it kind-of means you’re a noob. If consultants are building things manually for you, they are wasting your time and need to be called out on it. At minimum you need build scripts, even if you can’t fully automate the whole process. A deliverable on any project should be the build scripts, not a 100 page word document with screen shots.

Random – Off Topic

While writing this post I thought of a recent conversation with a friend. He was showing me videos of his automated warehouse. It had automated guided vehicles (AGVs) zipping around the warehouse picking up products to ship. It was all new and exciting to him. We were laughing because in 1996 I was renting a room in his house, and my job at the time was writing software for automated warehouses using Oracle on the back end. It wasn’t even a new thing 26 years ago. One of the projects I worked on was upgrading an existing automated warehouse that had already been in operation for about 10 years, with AGVs and automated cranes.

New is a matter of perception.

Final Thoughts

I’m not saying all this stuff in an attempt to make out I’m some kind of automation or DevOps thought leader. If you read my blog, you know all about me. I’m just trying to show that many of us have a long history in automation, even if we can’t check all the boxes for the latest buzzwords. Automation is not new and scary. It’s been part of the day-to-day job for a long time. In some cases we are using newer tools to tidy up things that were either already automated, or at least semi-automated. If someone is presenting this stuff like it’s some brave new world bullshit, they are really trying to pull the wool over your eyes. It should be an evolution of what you were already trying to do…

I wrote a series of posts about automation here.

Cheers

Tim…

Author: Tim...

DBA, Developer, Author, Trainer.

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