A New Automation Chapter Begins

October 19, 2016 in Personal4 minutes

Two years ago, while I worked as a network engineer/consultant, I felt strongly that the industry was ripe for change. In February 2015 I jumped feet-first into the world of network automation by going back to my roots in software development, combining those skills with the lessons I learned from 3 years of network engineering.

I’ve learned a ton in the last 2 years - not just at the day job but by actively participating in the automation and open source communities. I’ve co-authored a network automation book. I’ve released an open source project to facilitate automated and distributed testing of network infrastructure. I’ve spoken publicly about many of these concepts and more.

Despite all this, there’s a lot left to do, and I want to make sure I’m in the best place to help move the industry forward. My goal is and has always been to help the industry at large realize the benefits of automation, and break the preconception that automation is only useful for big web properties like Google and Facebook. Bringing these concepts down to Earth and providing very practical steps to achieve this goal is a huge passion of mine.

Automation isn’t just about running some scripts - it’s about autonomous software. It’s about creating a pipeline of actions that take place with minimal human input. It’s about maintaining high quality software. I wrote about this and more yesterday in my post on the “Principles of Automation”.


Later this month, I’m starting a new chapter in my career and joining the team at StackStorm.

In short, StackStorm (the project) is an event-driven automation platform. Use cases include auto-remediation, security responses, facilitated troubleshooting, and complex deployments.

StackStorm presented at the recent Network Field Day 12 and discussed not only the core platform, but some of the use cases that, while not specifically network-centric, are important to consider:

When I first saw StackStorm, I realized quickly that the project aligned well with the Principles of Automation I was rattling around in my head, especially the Rule of Autonomy, which dictates that automation should be driven by input from other software systems. StackStorm makes it easy to move beyond simple “scripts” and truly drive decisions based on events that take place elsewhere.

So, how does this change things in terms of my community involvement? Actually I expect this to improve. Naturally, you’ll likely see me writing and talking about StackStorm and related technologies - not just because they’re my employer but because the project matches well with my automation ideals and principles. This does NOT mean that I will stop talking about other concepts and projects. One unique thing about automation is that it’s never a one-size-fits-all….you’re always going to deal with multiple tools in a pipeline to get the job done. I am still very passionate about the people and process problems that aren’t tackled directly by technology solutions, and I plan to continue to grow my own experience in these areas and share them with you all.

I still very strongly believe that the first problems we should be solving in the networking industry, and in IT as a whole, are problems of culture and process. So, from that perspective, nothing has changed - but from this new team I feel like I’ll have the support and platform I need to really get these ideas out there.

Lastly, there are still openings on the team so if you’re passionate about automation, please consider applying.

By no means am I done yet - but I do want to take the opportunity to say Thank You to all who have been a part of my public journey for the past 5+ years. I couldn’t have had the learning experiences I’ve had without readers who were just as passionate about technology. My goal is only to increase my involvement in the community in the years to come, and I hope that what I contribute is helpful.

I attended NFD12 as a delegate as part of Tech Field Day, well before I started talking with StackStorm team about employment opportunities. Events like these are sponsored by networking vendors who may cover a portion of our travel costs. In addition to a presentation (or more), vendors may give us a tasty unicorn burger, warm sweater made from presenter’s beard or a similar tchotchke. The vendors sponsoring Tech Field Day events don’t ask for, nor are they promised any kind of consideration in the writing of my blog posts … and as always, all opinions expressed here are entirely my own. (Full disclaimer here)