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This week, Mike Vizard at our CTO Edge site asks some key questions on the role of automation in the cloud.
He notes that companies like CA, which have made healthy livings providing automation tools and services for the data center, are rushing to extend those capabilities to the cloud. The problem is, in such a fluid environment, it's not entirely clear that today's cutting edge will be capable of meeting tomorrow's needs.
And that means automation technology will have to change. But how?
That might be easier said than done, however. One problem is the sheer scope of cloud scalability. It's one thing to develop policies and system relationships for a few hundred or even a few thousand virtual images or devices. But if cloud infrastructure takes off the way many expect it to, and you start to factor in all of the mobile applications that could take advantage of it, enterprise managers at large organizations could soon find themselves dealing with millions of rapidly changing configurations in a single day.
A company called LineSider Technologies is targeting that scenario with its new OverDrive Virtual Cloud Orchestration Manager (vCom) system. As the company describes it, vCom converts existing policy and management directives into a syntax that can be automatically rewritten as device-level configurations. By doing away with pre-written configuration templates, scripting tools or command line sessions, vCom can dynamically configure and reconfigure resources on an extreme scale.
Still, as most early cloud adopters have found out, one of the chief impediments to getting started is mapping out the resource settings between the brick-and-mortar enterprise and the cloud provider. But as CTO Edge pointed out earlier this month, cloud providers like Skytap are eager for solutions that simplify this process. The company has devised its own automated discovery scheme based on the REST interface that gathers information about client infrastructure that can then be used to create customized management tools. Users can either recreate their own network settings on the cloud or develop their own automated processes for deploying new resources. Either way, customers retain control of their network configurations and can optimize the cloud to their particular needs.
These approaches are just the opening salvo in what is likely to be a very active area of development for years to come. The sheer scope of the cloud and its highly fluid nature make manual configuration all but impossible.
If the cloud industry has any chance at all of succeeding past the initial deployment phase, it will have to integrate automation as a base-level function.