Five signs that data centre automation is right for your business

Data centre automation simplifies management of today's complex IT systems. In this interview, an expert talks about how data centre automation can streamline processes and add business value.

IT managers continue their struggle to manage multi-vendor infrastructures efficiently while complying with corporate policies. Kalyan Ramanathan, a virtualisation expert from Hewlett-Packard's Business Service Automation Division, discusses the role of automation in a virtual environment, concerns about the changing of management and how automation can mitigate security issues. He offers his take on when a data centre can benefit from automation -- with five signs to watch out for.

1. You have gone virtual -- how can automation benefit a company that has a complex virtualised infrastructure?

Kalyan Ramanathan: Virtualisation has added a new layer of complexity to IT. It is very easy to create virtual machines (VMs), which of course has many benefits, but these are difficult to keep track of. If too many VMs are left uncontrolled and unchecked, it can cause numerous problems with VM sprawl and security as the environment continues to grow. Ideally, a business should look into automation at the beginning of their virtualisation journey, before any deployment.

A business's automation strategy should encompass multi-vendor physical and virtual infrastructure that coordinates tasks across silos during virtualisation processes. This will allow organisations to automatically provision the necessary resources to meet their changing business demands.

2. You need to cut costs. Why would an IT manager part with his precious budget for automation?

Ramanathan: If a business has several internal rules and standards it has to stick to, it can become very tough to keep up. For example, if a company has 400 servers, they all need to be kept up to date with mission-critical information protected, quickly. This is where automation comes into play, as it just cannot be done manually. Many businesses waste resources on complicated, labour-intensive processes -- these eat up manpower and are often riddled with errors. With automation in place, these procedures can be replaced with automated workflows that can save thousands in workflow costs and reduce the risk of error. If you have got to the point where you have multiple manual tools for these processes, it is a recipe for disaster.

In addition, a business may feel they need to invest in a new administrator or IT manager when they reach a certain amount of servers, as one person can only manage so many servers at once. With automation, the same-sized team can manage double or even triple the amount of servers needed, without having to add more staff.

3. Your infrastructure is changing. Can a small IT team keep up without an automation strategy in place?

Ramanathan: Depending on the organisation, the technology infrastructure for the average enterprise is constantly in flux. This constant change is necessary to maintain a competitive edge, but change runs the risk of service disruption. By automating the service, the organisation can keep pace with the rapid rate of technology changes and ad-hoc changes to the data centre. This enables IT teams to see potential change conflicts before they happen, possibly disrupting the business. Changes can also be prioritised to mitigate risk.

4. You are under pressure to deliver more value to the business. How can automation show the company's directors that there's more to the IT department then just fixing IT problems?

Ramanathan: The face of the IT department is changing. It is not just there to fix IT problems anymore; it needs to show how it can add more value to the business. The ability to bring new products to market faster in such tough economic times will have an enduring edge over the competition and help drive the business's bottom line. Automation across the data centre makes it easier for business to introduce new services to their clients. It allows previously siloed teams to ensure that these changes are coordinated and introduced into the environment in a repeatable fashion.

Furthermore, time and resources that were once spent on updating and maintaining systems can be diverted to other areas of the business and higher values of work, such as new revenue generating initiatives.

5. Compliance takes up too much time. Will automation free up enough time to manage the important things, such as the company's applications?

Ramanathan: Two of the most important and recurring topics about businesses IT environments today are compliance and security. Organisations are under constant pressure to ensure high levels of security for private information and confidential customer data, so for the IT team, this means keeping servers, network, storage and client devices up to date with the latest security patches and configurations. With too many servers operating, this becomes near on impossible for a human to keep up with.

Kayleigh Bateman is the site editor for

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