Data Center Automation - A Lot Like Power Windows


One day, back in the late 1970s when I was just a lad, my father came home in a brand new Oldsmobile. It was shiny and blue, and it was the first car I'd ever seen with automatic windows, which were still something of a novelty in those days.


My brothers and I (there were four of us, poor Mom) had a ball raising and lowering the windows until Dad laid down the law by saying he and only he was allowed to use them. But it couldn't have been more than a year, long after the novelty had worn off, that the windows failed, leaving us with no way to either open or close them.


Being New Englanders, it was against our genetic code (so I'm told) to spend money either fixing the windows or turning on the air conditioning. So instead of enjoying the new car for the summer, we trekked around in the 15-year-old Chevy station wagon with the leaky transmission, rusted frame and manual windows.


I relay this story whenever someone brings up the subject of automation, data center automation in particular. According to the latest research, data center automation is gaining ground as one of the top priorities of enterprises around the world. Computer Economics reports that nearly half of all U.S. organizations are planning to ramp up their automation capabilities, primarily as a means to lower costs in preparation for tough economic times.


It's easy to see why automation is so appealing. IT consultant Sam Brown says it provides for a more seamless and efficient operation by taking over most or all of the repeatable tasks that human operators currently perform. In fact, with enterprise environments growing more complex by the minute, it won't be long before automation makes the transition from luxury to necessity.


Take the experience of LandAmerica Financial Group, which specializes in real estate transaction services. The company was in the process of centralizing its title and escrow systems and needed a way to monitor and manage the operation from a single dashboard. The company deployed a Netuitive platform that the company describes as a self-learning system that uses automated mathematics and analysis to correlate and determine normal system behavior. The company now has a real-time view of its application and service infrastructure and can manage those elements at a fraction of the cost of just a few months ago.


Mixing automation with intelligence is probably the hot new trend this year. CA recently launched the newest version of its Data Center Automation Manager that incorporates a rules-based policy engine with continual monitoring of physical and virtual layers, as well as application dependences and configuration awareness, to automate such processes as systems discovery, change management, server performance and provisioning and resource scheduling. The company says it is trying to provide a more manageable test environment to better establish virtual machines based on performance and other criteria.


What does all this have to do with car windows? Just that, like automation, power windows are wonderful. But when they break down, even the simplest tasks become impossible.


Now, to be fair, I've had dozens of cars with automatic windows that have worked perfectly for the life of the car. But since the stakes are so high in the data center, it's more than crucial that whatever automation system you invest in has a rock-solid reliability record - or you'll be the one feeling the heat.