Manage Complexity Like an Expert – In 4 Easy Steps

Nobody wants to add complexity into IT systems! However, complexity will never be eliminated. It’s a normal part of IT.  But that doesn’t mean we need to drown in it!  Anyone can minimize the inherent risk that complexity introduces into IT systems and manage complexity like an expert. 

It’s a fact: infrastructure operations are inherently complex.

RackN is an infrastructure pipeline platform that handles many complex customer scenarios. In nearly every case, the complexity is necessary to meet the organization’s operational requirements. For example, purchasing from multiple server vendors may be a vital design choice to reduce supply chain risk as well as cost control. However, this design choice requires managing multiple vendors, each with unique management tooling and configuration processes.  Similar challenges arise when managing and migrating platforms, providing robust security and connecting networking, storage and compute.

Can an organization manage self-inflicted complexity? Additionally, can managing known complexity reduce or eliminate unnecessary complexities?  RackN can help you do manage complexity like an expert! We use a four-step process to tame this complexity: isolate, integrate, standardize and automate. 

Let’s explore each step in sequence.

Step 1: Isolate operations

Want to manage complexity like an expert? Then the first thing you’ll want to do is identify the tools that are fit for purpose. Tools you choose for different tasks should be designed for that task. Don’t repurpose or modify them, adding features that may make the tools more useful. 

Use tools designed to solve a specific problem. This minimizes scope and impacts creep. If a tool is misbehaving, it is far easier to troubleshoot, quickly isolate, duplicate, and engage with the vendor for help with fixing the problem.

Step 2: Integrate Isolated Functions

Digital Rebar creates consistent and standardized interfaces with isolated components. From an operator’s perspective, there are no differences in a workflow even when multiple tools are used in different contexts. The experience must be smoothly integrated so that each isolated part can work together as if it were a single system. That is critical to understand because by integrating the components, they act as a single system.

Step 3: Standardize towards Replaceability

The next step is to decouple the operational components. Isolated, integrated systems are easier and less risky to decouple. In many cases, it is much easier to substitute for change components in the delivery stream. 

Being able to substitute components empowers teams to re-evaluate choices such as upgrading or replacing components in their work pipeline without impacting adjacent systems. It’s pretty common for our customers to switch from internal Bios/RAD scripts to Rack processes without interrupting the deployment workflow.  

Another example would be the process to add new hardware or a public cloud into the infrastructure.  Interchangeable steps allow teams to standardize and at the same time simplify operational complexity. 

Step 4: Automate Workflow as Pipelines

End-to-end processes can be treated like pipelines once they have been established. Look beyond the automating a process and discover how the system can be exercised and validated automatically.

Put it all together to manage complexity like an expert

Once you’ve accomplished all four steps, putting it all together is what shows you can manage complexity like an expert. Now it should be possible (even desirable) to run the same processes used in production in a comparable dev or test environment. Standardization for the win!

If you drive this process every time a component changes, the team can be much more confident that changes will be made safely in production. Once you conquer automation at the system level end-to-end testing becomes so cheap and reliable it will be easier to run the tests and promote then doing the work any other way. 

As a side benefit, when systems are exercised end-to-end the scope of breaking changes is frequently much smaller and easier to resolve.


RackN customers have seen dramatic results when implementing infrastructure pipelines to manage complexity.

At first glance systems complexity might seem overwhelming. However, once it is broken down into these four steps the problem becomes manageable, addressable, and solvable.  Most of all when you manage complexity like a pro it enables collaboration throughout an organization. This alone creates value and opportunity.

If you’d like to hear more on this topic please check out this episode of the Definitely, Maybe Agile podcast. If you’d like a partner in this journey then consider RackN. Our singular focus is to enable your team to become self-sufficient operators of infrastructure. We can help you manage complexity like a pro!

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