Automation has long been helpful in many data center tasks. This applies in particular to daily, frequently recurring, primarily administrative tasks. This includes setting up user accounts or file-sharing servers, temporary access to individual resources, providing storage and virtual workloads, or deleting data or log files from a database. This development will not stop halfway. The IT company with headquarters in Hamburg, on the other hand, expects a more robust trend towards highly automated data centers.
“Some tasks in the data center are even more time-consuming, sometimes significantly more complex and therefore more error-prone, and they also have to be documented. This applies, for example, to setting up virtual machines, expanding the network, expanding storage capacity, or integrating private and public cloud resources,”. Here, automation ensures more standardization and reliable fulfillment of compliance requirements by always completing the repetitive processes precisely. The same way.” The need-based allocation of resources to virtual machines is an example of how greater efficiency and reliability can be achieved through automation.
This ultimately results in trouble-free, cost-saving operations. The IT team gains time to optimally adapt the data center to strategic business requirements and trim it for maximum benefit instead of just trying to keep operations running “somehow.” Automation, therefore, seems to be the logical way out of the ever faster-turning hamster wheel. However, successful automation must first be implemented. It turns out that consistent automation affects many areas of data center operation – and not all automation is the same.
What Can Be Automated?
A typical starting point is incident management. Most IT departments struggled with regular tickets generated due to a temporary error. The system administrator must deal with this and delete redundant tickets, which wastes valuable time. Automation can solve this problem by significantly reducing the number of tickets on the monitor. Automation tools can also integrate and streamline requirements management, workflow engines, and identity management. The same applies to release management. Automation can help automate patching processes and rollbacks to reduce the time it takes to prepare and execute patch rollouts.
Change management can also be automated. Again, it is possible to reduce the amount of work by automating tasks such as moving VMs to other environments, assigning new security policies, or assigning new VLANs in the network. In addition, these changes can also help in the daily work in the data center through solutions such as Documentation-as-a-Service. Automation ensures more efficient hardware management and optimizes the management of virtual machines throughout lifecycle management. This starts with the automatic provision of VM templates and extends to the automatic decommissioning of individual VMs.
Another candidate for automation is configuration management. Most of the time, a configuration management database is updated manually to implement the changes. If several administrators are involved, this can lead to an inconsistent database. An automation tool that supplies the database with real-time information prevents inconsistencies. “One mission-critical area is disaster recovery. In non-automated environments, falling over in a disaster requires a few dozen manual steps. The recovery time objective, i.e., the time target for the restoration, is calculated very tightly in many companies, often in the order of minutes”. “The more manual steps that are required in an emergency, the higher the probability that the RTO bar will be torn.
Automating disaster recovery to a large extent makes it possible to meet even ambitious specifications reliably.” Many IT departments change users’ passwords once a month to meet security requirements. The administrator executes the same set of commands on thousands of servers and network devices to change the credentials. This process can also be automated. Administrators in data centers are usually given the additional responsibility of manually triggering jobs for applications such as SAP. Automation relieves the burden here, allowing the team to focus on core tasks such as monitoring the data center. Automation can also be used for this task to automatically trigger appropriate response measures in the event of a drop in performance.
Automation Of ITIL Processes And More
The ITIL Framework (IT Infrastructure Library) has often served as the basis for partial automation in the data center. Within ITIL processes, the components monitoring, configuration management, ticket system, and automation engine interact with various management tools. These include deployment management, event management, configuration management, incident management, change management, and service request management.
These tools, in turn, initiate automated measures in individual server operating systems, file servers, hypervisors, databases, and cloud services, in the REST API or Active Directory. Automation does affect ITIL processes and the associated infrastructure and business components such as ERP, CRM, and HR, for example, in the form of SAP applications. An orderly procedure based on a roadmap is essential here. In most cases, different processes are already automated, but not everything, according to a holistic approach. There may already be automated areas in the data center that are not integrated.
Different Approaches – Silo-Based Or Holistic
There are two basic, different approaches: silo-based and holistic automation. As a rule, scripts, utilities, and tools used for automation do not work “across silos,” which often results in media breaks. The silo-based automation usually only addresses sub-areas but does not provide a complete audit trail and has no integrated interface concept in the IT service management ecosystem. In addition, silo-based automation is purely technical and is not geared towards complete process automation.
On the other hand, holistic automation is organized centrally and follows a strategic, holistic approach that includes technology and processes. A central automation platform is usually used for this. Scripts, utilities, and tools can be integrated, and all processes can be automated across silos. An entire audit trail ensures complete compliance. In addition, a fully integrated interface concept is available in the ITSM world, including monitoring, tickets, and configuration management. Optionally, automated reporting can be integrated. Holistic automation works in the bi-modal world of classic enterprise/legacy environments and modern Agile/DevOps initiatives.
“Holistic automation is the way to a highly automated data center with an automation level of 70 percent or more. Experience from IT automation and service management specialists shows that this is accompanied by an increase in efficiency of 30 percent and a 15 percent improvement in risk optimization. Depending on the company’s size, the annual savings potential can be in the six to seven-digit euro range.
A better quality of data center operation, higher efficiency and easier compliance with SLA, RTO and compliance requirements speak for the holistic approach on the way to the highly automated data center”. “Given ever-tougher competitive requirements, higher efficiency requirements and stricter data protection standards, there is no way around it. Automation is also the key prerequisite for the trend towards software-defined data centers that is dominant at the same time.”
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