In the past, high-level automation technologies represented a bit of a Catch 22 for IT professionals; the tools could help them get tedious work done, but many administrators often wondered if automation technologies could eliminate their jobs because the technology performed so well. Now the reality is if IT professionals don't embrace automation they could actually risk their jobs, because without automation technologies, endeavors into the cloud will fail.
Cloud computing - private, public or hybrid - relies in part on virtualization technologies, and the advent of x86 server virtualization really established the first universal push toward more automated capabilities for administrators. The technology designed to create many logical instances of what used to be a single physical device didn't equate to companies hiring more systems administrators to manage the additional virtual machines.
In the end, the benefits of virtualization outweighed the management challenges it introduced, and as the market saw a need, more automation technologies began to emerge, ideally suited for virtual environments. IT process automation, or runbook automation, workload automation, orchestration technologies and more addressed the growing need to automate tasks and enable workflows without always depending upon a human operator. In fact, virtualization and automation pretty much go hand in hand now.
Now as many companies consider cloud computing, they must also be evaluating automation technologies - or looking for a cloud provider that puts automation to work in their offerings. Take, for example, ViaWest, Inc., a data center, colocation and cloud services provider located in Denver, Colo., According to Jason Carolan, vice president of product development at ViaWest, automation capabilities built into their cloud offerings let them provide customers with high-quality services without the worry of what's running underneath.
"On the IT process automation side, we were looking for a platform that was really agnostic from the cloud layers that it was going to manage," Carolan says. "[We like] being able to give one interface to our support staff and one interface to our provisioning staff and then maybe the cloud technologies continue to change below it, but we wanted to give a consistent platform that would allow us to almost plug in various cloud technologies ... but still have a consistent automation layer across those environments."
Working with a cloud platform and CA Process Automation enables ViaWest to quickly scale services without writing scripts or worrying about major problems occurring.
"The process automation is really a workhorse of various aspects that we really didn't have a solution for before or we had a solution that was a bunch of scripts that were really hard to scale," Carolan explains.
For Carolan and ViaWest, automation technology makes better cloud offerings possible and helps them to avoid problems while also better documenting their work. For IT managers working to get a private cloud set up, automation could help them more easily provision virtual machines and orchestrate the necessary changes to dynamically allocate resources across the cloud or elsewhere in their environment.
How do you put automation to work for you? Does automation make cloud computing possible in your organization? Please leave a comment here, let me know via Twitter @DDubie or e-mail me directly at Denise.Dubie@ca.com.