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HP Software's community for IT leaders // October 2012
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3 smart ways to automate your data center

Automation helps global cloud provider cut labor costs and reduce time to new services.

As the data center's data center, Savvis provides cloud infrastructure and hosted IT services to enterprises around the world. Savvis faces many of the same challenges that other IT departments face―but on a larger scale. Operations efficiency is key to Savvis, because thousands of IT departments rely on Savvis meeting―and bettering―its service-level agreements. Automation is at the heart of the company’s IT infrastructure, enabling the company to save $250,000 in labor costs in the first quarter of 2012 alone, and to create new services more quickly.

In a recent Discover Performance podcast, Art Sanderson, Savvis’ senior manager of enterprise management tools, discussed how a suite of HP performance, operations orchestration and Business Service Automation solutions improved its incident resolution and sped the delivery of new cloud services to its enterprise clients.

“We have thousands of customers that we have to support with their own IT departments,” Sanderson notes. “So our solutions have to be able to scale beyond what you would find in a typical IT organization.”

He highlighted the following strategies that helped Savvis achieve and maintain its challenging goals:

1. Use automation to perform automation monitoring. Ops staff at Savvis used to do this task manually, but automation has helped to cut "mean time to resolution" values. On a typical day, Savvis runs between 10,000 and 20,000 types of automation. That’s what let the company bank $250,000 in labor savings in Q1 this year.

“[And] it's hard to quantify the value of adding to the business side,” Sanderson adds, “because those are solutions that we’re offering to the market space that are generating new value back to the organization as a whole.”

2. Use automation to create new business and services. “The business is driving the priorities from an operational perspective as far as what we’re spending our time on,” Sanderson says. HP’s automation tools allowed Savvis to solve business problems faster. “In some cases, we’ve built frameworks using these tools where we can turn around an automation that used to take two to three weeks. Now, it can take less than an hour to turn around that same automation.”

Savvis network and storage engineers used automation tools along with service provisioning and activation software, and operations orchestration tools to create new services. By using these applications as the basis, Savvis is able to eliminate the business analyst function of a typical systems development lifecycle, and cut the time to market for new offerings.

3. Use automation tools in a reusable, self-service way. Because Savvis focuses on making automations that are reusable, it keeps costs down and service quality high. The company uses a meta-model to drive the creation of its operations orchestration flows, based on operations patterns. When users want to request a new service, they do it from a user interface that connects to the meta-model. Savvis operations staff produces the data through the user interface and publishes a new flow, skipping the need to write a new operations orchestration flow.

Looking ahead

With more than 25,000 servers under management in 50 data centers worldwide, and about 10,000 automations on a typical day, Savvis needs the ability to scale and innovate. Sanderson says that maintaining an upgrade path and a vision of scaling is vital, especially in such a fast-growing marketplace.

“We would never have anticipated, when we started a few years ago, that a customer would come to us to say that ‘We want to order 400 VMs,’ or ‘We want to order 1,000 VMs,’ but customers are coming to us today doing that,” he says.

Listen to the full podcast, or read the transcript. For more on Business Service Automation, check out HP’s Data Center Automation page.


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