Purgatorio 7×7: A Discourse on Automation

Purgatorio 7×7: A Discourse on Automation

Statue of Dante

Having left Inferno and entering the Purgatory proper, I am instructed to perform the ritual of washing the stains of Inferno off my face. We see that we have landed on a solitary island. The sun rises and the path climbs upwards.

Virgil explains to me that there are seven terraces in Purgatorio and we will need to climb through them to reach Paradiso, at which point, I will meet someone I have been looking forward to, who will guide me through the realm of Paradiso.

In Purgatorio, the souls are folks who, in their career, utilized automation to help them manage their networks. Naturally, they are tasked to manage the network here in Purgatorio. Purgatorio looks much more stable than Inferno and the souls less hurried. Virgil and I walk at a pace more leisurely that allows us to have a conversation with ease.

“Just like in the living realm, the ability to use automation in managing the network alleviates the tasks tremendously,” exclaims Virgil, “Off the top of my head, I can easily name 7 virtues of automation, just like the 7 terraces in Purgatorio!”

    “Thou canst utilize all the configuration or operational commands the UI provides.”

    “Thou canst modify and enhance the logic of automation with experience”

    “Thou canst notify users when certain conditions occur, malign or benign”

    “Thou canst collect data and information”

    “Thou canst identify and correct problems automatically”

    “Thou canst repeat the steps consistently and deterministically”

    “Thou canst use it in simulations to test a solution or deployment before applying it onto the production network”

“Absolutely! Automation is the lifesaver!! It simplifies the laundry list of tasks in managing the network!” I reply, “but it is not insurmountable! It still has limitations. Here are 7 of them that come to mind

    “Automation canst only what the device and network UI canst”

    “Automation doth not remedy existing implementation flaws”

    “Automation doth depend on the might of the authors”

    “Automation users mayest differ in logics and expectations than the authors”

    “Automation hath predefined logics to monitor selected values and conditions from the output. Data or conditions not examined mayest contain definitive information”

    “Automation shalt change whenever the underlying UI changes or all is for naught”

    “Automation mayest unforeseen results!!”

“What sorts of unforeseen results?” Virgil’s interest is piqued.

“I can laugh about it now but it is definitely a jolting surprise at the time.”

“At my first job, I am tasked to write a script to periodically monitor all the international connections. If one of the connections goes down or experiences substantial packet loss, a text message is sent to the group of on-call engineers to alert them.”

“Does it not work properly?” Virgil asked.

“The problem,” I replied, “is that it works to a Tee!!   The script tests those connections every 5 minutes and if the test fails, the script tests it again to  reconfirm the connectivity problem. If it fails again this second time, a text message is sent. The frequency is set to be once every 5 minutes so that  if a problem occurs, it does not go unnoticed for   too long.”

“Little do I expect the time to fix the network problem takes a long time! The first time it occurs, the on call engineers get the alert message every 5 mins religiously, without fail, until almost 24 hours later, when all the on-call engineers get the final text message that the problem is fixed. Mind you, this occurs when text messaging is new, and the cost is high.”

“The following day, when my boss checks with the phone company, those text messages cost over $10K. And he threatens to deduct it from my paycheck, lest I change the script immediately to reduce the amount of text messages!!! I have to keep the testing in 5-min cycles but dampen the alert messages such that they are sent once every hour if an alert message has already been sent previously.” *

“Ah!!! Thou hast the experience to know the virtues and vices of Automation!” Virgil declares.

“Await no further word or sign from me: your
will is free, erect, and whole—to act against
that will would be to err: therefore

I crown and miter you over yourself.”1

As soon as Virgil disappears from my sight, I hear a divine voice calling my name. It is Voltanetio!

But already my desire and my will
were being turned like a wheel, all at one speed, by the
Love which moves the sun and the other stars.2

  1. Dante Alighieri, 1265-1321. The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri : Purgatorio (Allen Mandelbaum, trans.) Bantam Classics
  2. Dante Alighieri, 1265-1321. The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri : Purgatorio (C. H. Sasson, trans.) Oxford World’s Classics

* This is a true personal experience of the author