Pre-Built Automations: Hottest Thing Since Programmatically Sliced Bread

August 12, 2019 | Tucker Von Holten
Pre-Built Automations: Hottest Thing Since Programmatically Sliced Bread

Nothing makes developers happier than software that requires nearly impossible entry-level learning to use? Incorrect. Mistaken. Erroneous (and yes, I did just copy synonyms for wrong off of Google to avoid using the cliché affirmative-wrong introduction, so consider me an English aficionado).

At Itential, we understand that our customers need to be able to realize success from our software and automation in general, rather quickly. So, we decided to make it even easier to get started with Itential’s Automation Platform (IAP) by creating Pre-Built Automations and Pre-Built Adapters to the ecosystem of IT systems and network technologies that NetOps team need to be able to leverage for network automation.

Pre-Built Automations: Why do I give a hoot (or a holler) about them?

Pre-Built Automations are Itential certified bundles of IAP configuration that make a specific use case a reality. They are consumed by our Artifact Application, which takes the Pre-Built Automations and installs them into IAP with a single click of an “Install” button. It’s easy enough that anyone and their Sims character can do it (and if you’ve ever played the Sims before, you know that’s really saying something). We believe having an effortless installation solution gives you greater access to the customization of IAP and saves you time. It’s basically Buildcraft for your Minecraft server.

What Can I Even Do with a Pre-Built Automation?

Our Pre-Built Automations solve a wide variety of “off the shelf” use cases including Layer 2/Layer 3 VPN provisioning, which creates an effective L2/L3 VPN for your servers simply by filling out a form. Instead of gathering your entire IT department to link your individual networks together (or, as I call it, the Nerd Herd Huddle), the process can be done automatically (with the help of some initial configuration) by IAP. We also include Pre/Post Device Check, which gives you the ability to do a dry-run of commands on a device via Cisco’s NSO or Ansible, so you can check the status of a device, validate current configuration, or to make sure the configuration changes you want to pass in will correctly get passed through your device. Included in Pre/Post Device Check is a stub mode which allows the Device Check workflow to run out-of-the-box without a connected NSO or Ansible instance. This helps when you’re struggling to connect devices to underlying platforms, which is time critical, difficult to troubleshoot, and could mean the difference between life and death in specific situations¹.

¹Imagine James Bond comes up to you with Goldfinger hot on his trail, about to blow up the world with a nuclear bomb, but the bomb is connected via NSO and all you need to do to shut it down is push new config to the device. You’ve got thirty seconds but by golly NSO isn’t recognizing the bomb, so you can’t configure it, and you’re wishing you had some feature that shows what actual code looks like so you could fix the config problem. BOOM! Stub mode: You find the bug, push the config, and now you’re a hero! With the world saved, you know Itential’s got your back.

Why We Open Sourced Pre-Built Automations

What I personally like about Pre-Built Automations is that they’re open sourced. I love tinkering with source code to help out other developers, and I was thrilled when we entered into the friendly world of open source development. As our first steps into open source territory, we released Pre-Built Automations and Adapters that help our users integrate into more common external systems, like Service Now, Jira and so much more. Since then, we’ve been producing plenty of fresh open source adapters. We recently added open source adapter integration into our Pre-Built Automations accompanying the Artifact Application! This means that instead of spending most of your time on advanced adapter setup into IAP, you can click a button, restart your IAP instance, and have an adapter running! With all your newfound time, you could solve world hunger, discover Bigfoot in the Appalachians, or become like Cards Against Humanity and build a giant, useless hole that does nothing with money randomly donated from your customers.

They wanted me write a subtitle about the future of the Artifacts Application but instead I’m dedicating this subtitle to the trend in the early two thousands where song names were unnecessarily long and had almost nothing to do with the song or band (I’m looking at you Panic! and FOB)

In addition to the adapters integration, we recently included open source applications in the list of consumables for the Artifact Application. Adapters (especially open source adapters) are more common for customers to consume, so we started our process with those. However, the jump to applications was not a long one, so we implemented the integration of applications and will soon be releasing open source applications for everyone to use!

Every day at Itential, we strive to make our product better and more easily accessible for our customers because we understand the frustrations associated with poor documentation, difficult installation processes, and unnecessary complexity in software. In other words, we get why there are some days where you head out of the office so stressed that you want to beat your computer with a bat until it’s nothing more than the scattered remnants of microchips. In an effort to keep your motherboard intact, I believe the Artifact Application is a great tool to keep your physical and virtual networks straightforward and effective.

Tucker Von Holten

Software Developer ‐ Itential

Hey, I’m just a dude coding up here at Itential, enjoying work/life and trying to get my GSP into Elite levels. I’m a Co-op, which is essentially a long-term intern, but I feel like I’ve learned a lot and am ready to learn and do even more.

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