Automation that Every Enterprise Azure Cloud Platform Needs 

A guidebook for automation gives technology teams just-in-time provisioning of landing zones to deploy to Azure in a responsive, consistent, secure and scalable way.

Ryan Skarin
August 22, 2023

Moving to the cloud without scalable best practices and patterns is like driving up a mountain without guardrails – you drive 10 miles per hour, gripping the wheel until your knuckles turn white, stressed about the tight curves ahead. 

It doesn’t have to be like this. 

When teams have the proper deployment, security, and compliance tooling and automation in place, they know they aren't going to accidentally fly off the cliff and leave a portion of their infrastructure in an insecure state.

If your organization has not yet fully moved infrastructure and applications to the cloud or has piloted by migrating a few apps or services in an ad-hoc way, you might be able to strategically reset your initiative. Leverage our Azure Guidebook – a customized map and tooling to accelerate your organization into the cloud using proven best practices that have delivered measurable value on projects for companies of all sizes, ranging from start-ups to Fortune 100 companies.  It is not a commercial product, it’s a process to enable your team long after your engagement with Trility.

A Path to Long-Term Cost Savings

According to a study by Forrester, The Total Economic Impact of Microsoft Azure PaaS, companies can achieve additional cost savings and business benefits by implementing the practices outlined in our solution. In the infographic below, it demonstrates just the estimated savings in manual DevOps work for the lifetime performance for each app, service, or workload – not the impact to other teams. For a medium to large company with 1,000 of these running, a company could save $3.36 million over five years. Imagine what revenue-generating activities a DevOps engineer could accomplish for your company instead?

This infographic demonstrates the return on investment a company can achieve when environment setups are automated using DevOps practices.  

View our online fillable Adobe PDF form of the infographic and enter your own data points to estimate your DevOps Engineer time saving.

Moving to the cloud is challenging

Moving to the cloud – in a secure, strategic, and scalable way – is hard. The cloud is not like an on-prem data center and it shouldn’t be treated like one. Think of the cloud as a Platform-as-a-Solution that your organization’s technology is built on top of, as demonstrated below.

Trility’s Azure Guidebook uses DevOps best practices to help companies architect and engineer a custom platform that can potentially save thousands of hours long-term – not to mention the savings in the Azure bill due to environments optimized and only active when needed.

If you don’t take the time to unpack what benefits the cloud provides, why you need it, and how it will benefit your organization, you may end up with unsustainable manual practices. This lesson has been learned by many companies that ventured into the cloud without achieving any of the promised cloud benefits. 

For the highest chances of success, organizations should align from the top down on these key aspects:

  • Why you want to go to the cloud
  • Where you want to go
  • Where you are at in your cloud journey
  • How you will get there

Providing the vision, objectives, principles, and guidelines to follow provides a means for your cloud team to measure success. A good tool for new or established cloud teams is to perform a self-evaluation based on capabilities that determines your cloud maturity level. 

If you aren’t in the cloud yet, here are a few things that should be discussed, understood, and aligned on before any work is done: 

  • How/why are we migrating, and what do we hope to achieve?
  • What systems/applications need to be integrated with our new cloud platform?
  • Who is using our cloud platform and applications? How do we ensure they are secure? 
  • What systems/applications need to be built and deployed? What dependencies do they have on it?  
  • Do our teams have the skills to be successful in the cloud? What are those skills, and how do we get proficient in them?  
  • What cloud platform are we moving to, how it is configured, and how will we operate within it?

Once you are ready to construct your organization’s vision, objectives, principles, and guidelines, keep the five pillars of Microsoft Azure’s Well-Architected Framework in mind:

  1. Reliability – The ability of a system to recover from failures and continue to function.
  2. Security – Protecting applications and data from threats.
  3. Cost Optimization – Managing costs to maximize the value delivered.
  4. Operational Excellence – Operations processes that keep a system running in production.
  5. Performance Efficiency – The ability of a system to adapt to changes in load.

If challenges, dependencies, and best practices aren’t discussed and aligned at the start of the project, it doesn’t take long for the following common issues to arise.

Organizational Inconsistencies

It’s not uncommon for an enterprise to have hundreds of teams building thousands of internal and external-facing apps and services. For each app to be built, a developer or cloud engineer must configure compute, storage, and deployment settings. 

Not only is human error impossible to avoid, but as companies begin their  DevOps journey, people who strictly focused on software engineering are now being asked to learn and manage more of how the software is hosted and deployed. The same goes for operations engineers and administrators who are now being asked to manage infrastructure in a completely new way with concepts like Infrastructure as Code. This leads to staff working outside their core competencies – potentially getting frustrated by the work and developing bad habits to get it done. 

Inconsistency Leads to Technical Debt 

Given the freedom that cloud services offer, different teams in the same organization might decide to configure servers, storage, and other deployment processes in different ways. If these teams are creating their own environments without repeatable processes, it doesn’t take long for inconsistencies to balloon and sprawl across the enterprise, creating a management headache at best. 

Configuring cloud environments shouldn’t be: This is how Team One does it. Or, this is how Team Two does it. It should be: This is how our organization does it.

You can only automate at the level of maturity the organizational allows. Organizations that prioritize engineering automation from a platform level are the ones that will see the greatest benefits because they provide engineers with enough context and scope to optimize at the enterprise level.
– Steven Gates, TRILITY Senior DevSecOps Engineer

Scalability Constraints

If you don’t create processes and guardrails that take scalability into consideration, you could run into issues with critical software applications or systems that need to be addressed while also remaining available in production without disruption. As your cloud work expands and more services get built out, you most likely need to change or consolidate services, roles, and privileges, and it’s hard to do so without disrupting developers and environments – causing downtime, inefficiencies, and blockers to work. 

The ability to increase or decrease IT resources as needed to accommodate demand is an important aspect of a sound cloud strategy. When moving to the cloud, it is important to create processes and guardrails that take scalability into consideration from day one.

Change is Inevitable

The one constant in IT is that nothing stays static for long. Applications come and go. People come and go. You need to be able to swiftly respond to those changes across the enterprise. 

If you’ve manually configured hundreds of security groups owned by the app team leader and she leaves the team, how do you get her replaced quickly so as to not have operational disruption? What if a new service needs to be called and the network security group rules need to be modified across all environments? Manually attempting to respond to these changes results in bottlenecks and disruptions.

Cost of Down Time & Cognitive Dissonance

People with the skills to solve problems and move companies forward are the largest expense in IT. When those people are blocked for any reason, that downtime is money lost with no return. Development teams experience this every day in organizations around the world. Empowering these people to get what they need when they need it is essential to eliminating waste and creating flow.

Comparatively, there is a very real cost that never shows up on a spreadsheet, but it can be a killer for your organization. This killer is a result of:

  • A constant pressure for development teams to perform quickly with tight deadlines and budgets.
  • The organization isn’t capable of moving quickly to respond to the needs of its development teams. 

The result is anxiety, stress, and ultimately apathy, due to the cognitive dissonance of being told to perform and move faster without the organization's providing the tools and resources to effectively manage that change at the pace required to succeed in supporting the business. 

When you have a project with a tight window of opportunity and a development team ready to go, taking a month, week, or even a day to provision the necessary resources for them to get started and be successful can seem like a lifetime to a team under pressure to perform. 

The end result over time is often people leaving – or even worse becoming apathetic to the organization’s needs. That cost can be enormous to an organization that needs to compete.

How can you address these pitfalls?

We have found that eliminating manual work queues and replacing them with self-help apps backed by automations is key to success with the cloud. These automations encompass workflows and approvals, and the work is performed by services with no manual touches. No bottlenecks. Requests are promptly addressed with the result being seemingly instantaneous to the requester.

Azure Guidebook Enables the Cloud Journey

Our Azure Guidebook is a customized and validated solution that is tailored to your environment and your needs. Our guidebook sets up a foundation for automation. When followed, it provides your technology teams just-in-time provisioning of landing zones to deploy to Azure in a responsive, consistent, secure, and scalable manner which helps to ensure security shifts left, permissions are scalable, and your organization can quickly move your business to Azure through proven DevOps tooling and practices. 

Simply put, it enables organizational consistency through behaviors foundational to Trility’s approach. It’s code that works as part of the implementation plan. It’s a customized plan of action so your whole team is running the same offense and defense. 

Instead of purchasing proprietary tools and migration stacks to move towards cloud enablement, this guides you to a solution built on Microsoft’s Azure cloud services with code artifacts and configurations that are left behind for the client.
– Steven Gates, Senior DevSecOps Engineer

Leverage Repeatable Configurations

Large enterprises often have hundreds of technology teams that are responsible for (re)building thousands of apps. For those numerous applications and systems, they are checking dozens to hundreds of boxes and drop-downs to configure the cloud environment. When done manually, human error is nearly impossible to avoid. According to the 2023 Thales Data Report, 55 percent of organizations with a cloud data breach in the past 12 months identified human error, misconfiguration, or other mistakes as the cause.

Instead of hand-checking all of those boxes for each environment, code is written that creates and configures the cloud environments in a repeatable, version-controlled, and automated way.

This guidebook leverages an Everything as Code (EaC) approach which means slowing down to speed up. Instead of hand-checking all of those boxes for each environment, code is written that creates and configures the cloud environments in a repeatable, version-controlled, and automated way. One operation is executed each time a new app needs to be deployed instead of all of those individual options needing to be configured. This process could be integrated with an application portfolio system (Service Now, Jira, ZenDesk) backed by automated workflows to ensure that governance processes are followed when approving new apps and systems. 

Read how EaC with CI/CD pipelines can lower your total cost of ownership. 

Address Security from Day 1

The objective of Security by Design is to incorporate checks and balances into every phase of the product development lifecycle. Practices and behaviors are instilled for architecture, development, testing, and deployment. Trility believes that these practices are not something to be adapted to at the end of a project, but to be considered from Day 1 and implemented throughout the lifetime of a system.

In the context of this article, key benefits of this approach would be: 

  • User groups with roles and responsibilities to grant the least amount of privileges needed to perform job functions.
  • Transitioning from team to team within the organization without friction because things are done the same way. It isn’t how Team 1 or Team 100 do things, it is how the organization does things.  
  • Engineers don’t need to revisit security issues in a reactive way when a report is generated but proactively know within minutes where the issue is and how to adapt the solution.
  • You always know the state of compliance of your system.

Azure also provides defined custom roles to assign to app teams so they can monitor and troubleshoot applications while preventing privileged access to modify code or configuration.

Move at the Speed of Need

IT has never had the luxury of time, and the speed of change in business is ever-increasing. Competitive windows are seized quickly. Companies that can capitalize on gaps in the market and provide value in a short timeframe have higher chances of increasing market share or breaking into a new market. 

These high-performing companies have a few things in common. They: 

  • Honestly assess where they are at today
  • Align on where they are going
  • Connect cloud adoption to business outcomes 
  • Define expected impact 
  • Build an application portfolio system backed by automated workflows to ensure organizational consistency, security, and scalability 

Proof of Accelerated, Secured Approach

Trility helped a client accelerate application and service deployment to the cloud using the Azure Guidebook and leveraging HashiCorp’s Terraform, Microsoft Azure DevOps, Microsoft Entra (formerly Azure AD), and Azure Resource Manager. The custom solution accelerated how the client provisioned resources to deploy solutions from Azure DevOps to Azure – and decommissioning apps and services is a simple command in a CI/CD pipeline. 

Schedule Your Whiteboard Session

If you and your team would like to collaborate with one of Trility’s cloud architects, schedule a 90-minute, no-strings-attached whiteboard session to start mapping out your Azure journey. During the session, you will gain insight into:

  • Common customer challenges when moving to the cloud
  • Explore what challenges could apply to your organization
  • Potential constraints
  • Determine a starting point that allows iteration and ensures security