Discover PerformanceHP Software's community for IT leaders // March 2013
Automation first, better cloud second
Know what to automate before implementing the cloud—so you can make sure the cloud actually delivers later.
The cloud promises that it can make IT more agile, efficient, and cheaper to operate. That sounds like what all ops leaders need, but they also know they can’t implement this kind of change overnight. Ops teams need a ladder—a step-by-step process—for transforming the cloud’s potential into real results. In this case, the ladder is automation.
Forward-looking companies are realizing that automation is an absolute prerequisite for migration to the cloud—and the key to a smooth, non-disruptive transition to hybrid service delivery. But how do you get started? What’s the right way to implement automation projects, and when can you start moving toward a cloud model?
Automate operational tasks
The first step is to ask your staff to identify the most time-consuming, repetitive tasks in their day-to-day routines. Focus on four key groups: the server team, the database team, the storage team, and the network team. Ask them to consider four key use cases: provisioning, patching, configuration, and compliance. For most organizations, these operational tasks are the low-hanging fruit—the stuff that’s easiest and most critical to automate first.
In many cases, one team will already have automated one or more key operational tasks with good results. Make sure to share that learning with the other groups.
Automate IT processes
The next phase is to extend the benefits of automation from the element level to the IT process level. Start by asking your teams which processes are bogging them down, taking too much time and effort. One common example might be incident management: too many events and not enough people to handle them.
In this case, one possible first step would be to automate your troubleshooting process and eliminate repetitive tasks. Then think about automating the process of requesting services from IT. For example, instead of requiring tickets to be submitted to the help desk, you could transition to a self-service catalog with an automated request submission process. The multiple steps that were previously required would be automated and would execute in the background, so the request would be fulfilled faster with less inconvenience for the end user.
Automate service delivery
Once you’ve automated IT processes, you can automate the service lifecycle or closed-loop incident process from initial provisioning to updates, change management, and continuous monitoring. That lets IT support self-service environments and provide faster response times.
In the help desk example, the self-service catalog—and the automation behind it—could serve as the precursor to developing a private cloud that hosts and executes complete IT services for internal customers. You could also then take advantage of public or managed cloud offerings from third-party providers with specific expertise, such as SaaS, IaaS, and PaaS. Or IT can build hybrid clouds that combine the advantages of private cloud, public cloud, and on-premise service delivery. Regardless, you’ve laid the groundwork for hybrid service delivery, where you can deliver the right service from the right place at the right time.
Don’t rush it—but don’t delay, either
No matter how much your organization needs the promises of the cloud, you can’t get there until you’ve thought through and implemented a data center automation strategy. But the key is to get started. Success breeds success, and ROI builds over time as you automate more processes.
For a more in-depth look at why automation must come first—and practical advice from experts and IT managers who have been there—read the full white paper, “Enlightened Data Center Automation in the Cloud Age” (reg. req’d).
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