The world of automation has come a long way in the past 10 years but the revolution is only just beginning. Virtualization was initially lauded as a way to maximize the utilization of hardware assets but is rapidly showing its real value around increasing business agility. Virtualization in conjunction with automation and well defined IT processes has given rise to the game changing behemoth that is Cloud Computing. Well defined service offerings can be requested by business users “on demand” through simple to use web based interfaces and consistently delivered in a matter of minutes. A task that would previously have taken a world class IT organization weeks if not months to complete can now be achieved in the same time it takes to make a trip to the canteen to get yourself a nice cup of coffee.
What has been achieved to date is outstanding. If you had of shown this capability to your average IT manager a few years back their jaw would have hit the floor! So job done right? Pats on the back and move on to the next big thing?
Hang on, not so fast! Is the job really done? The business user is happy they got their service up and running and understand they will pay an ongoing monthly fee for it, but how do they know that its being properly managed? You can’t just deploy a business service and not manage it can you? How long before the business users want this next level of information served up to them….. am I really getting what I paid for?
This presents many challenges to the IT department which must be overcome.
“Day 2” management tools are typically silo focused. By day 2 management I mean all the tasks that go on to manage the underlying infrastructure after it’s been provisioned. For example ongoing configuration management, patching, compliance, backups etc.Today’s automation tools allow me to patch a server or run a compliance check on a network device, but how do I relate this silo based approach to the service centric view that cloud adoption has fostered? Informing a business user that a Windows server (that is just one component of many) in their business service is compliant with some government or industry standard is meaningless to them.What about the service itself?
The answer is that automation tools must understand the services that are delivered. They must become service aware. It must be possible to initiate automation at the service level and span multiple technologies. The questions that the business users will be asking are “Do my customer facing financial services meet industry PCI regulations? Is the configuration of my ERP system secure, have there been any changes which deviate from the “trusted” end to end configuration of the service? Automation tools need to answer these questions and be able to provide results back to the end users in a context which they are able to understand.
It’s not just the expectations of the business user that are changing either. Hardware vendors are now shipping “Cloud ready hardware in a box”. Not only is it a server in the big tin box anymore, it’s also the networking and storage all pre-wired and configured. Just look at the Cisco UCS platform! This converged infrastructure is requiring a new type of IT operator, one that needs to be an IT generalist as opposed to just a specialist in one area. Yes IT still needs the in-depth specialist tools but they also need more usable, cross silo solutions that help them manage this converged infrastructure in a consistent and centralized way.
Automation tool vendors must rise to the challenge and support the needs of this new service orientated, converged infrastructure, cloud enabled world of IT. Automation has been the catalyst for business agility in the cloud revolution, its next goal is to help deliver business alignment.