Standardization and automation are certainly not new concepts in IT. So why is infrastructure automation such a hot topic right now?

The short answer: Containers, orchestration, and other modern technologies have enabled an evolution of infrastructure automation capabilities that, among other benefits, let standardization actually be enforced.

“One can argue that, prior to containers, the standardization of infrastructure and its automation was something of a band-aid,” Red Hat technology evangelist Gordon Haff explains. “Sure, we had standard operating environments (SOEs) and configuration management tooling that automated the provisioning of those SOEs and their ongoing monitoring. But there were still a lot of ‘snowflake’ servers needed for particular tasks, and deployed images could still drift over time even if configuration management software tried to keep them in compliance.”

With containers and immutable infrastructure, deployed instances can’t drift. So infrastructure automation isn’t new. But many of the ways we go about doing it today are.

That took some wind out of the proverbial sails in a long-running pursuit of effective infrastructure automation. Containerization and orchestration have reinvigorated the journey.

“With containers and immutable infrastructure that changed – now deployed instances couldn’t drift,” Haff says. So, no: “Infrastructure automation isn’t new. But many of the ways we go about doing it today are.”

[ Read also: 5 open source Kubernetes projects to watch in 2021 and 8 automation trends to watch in 2021. ]

3 fundamentals to modern infrastructure automation

We’re here to cover three overlapping fundamentals that underpin modern approaches to infrastructure automation. Consider it a primer aimed primarily at IT leaders