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A Shaky Virtual Stack

Our InformationWeek 2013 Virtualization Management Survey shows automated service delivery is the future -- unless you want to find yourself managing cloud providers.

Automation Conundrum

To build a highly available infrastructure that responds in real time to changing conditions requires a few things. First, each level of the stack needs to communicate with the other levels. Second, you need policies to respond to scenarios and contingencies that may affect service delivery. Say a superstorm knocks out your East Coast offices, to use a painfully real-world example. Can your employees in Chicago still get to critical business data and applications?

But most important, policy-based service-delivery systems depend on automation. Without automated application delivery workflows and orchestration techniques, IT can't hope to meet service-delivery goals.

To that end, we saw healthier-than- expected levels of automation processes interacting with the 15 IT systems we asked about in our survey. At least 80% of respondents cite some level of automation for server virtualization, application virtualization, application deployment, application monitoring, backup and recovery, and network management. Analytics and data warehouses, at 74%, and directory services (76%) fell just shy.

That's encouraging, but we know from experience that it's difficult to demonstrate a strong ROI for automation projects, especially those that don't involve mission-critical applications, which helps explain why only 15% of respondents to our survey have fully deployed automation suites vs. 45% with no plans. Without a common language, the level of manpower involved in automating service delivery schemes is simply too expensive for the current market to bear for anything except the most mission-critical applications.

Another reason for weak adoption is the state of today's data center automation systems, even mature ones like those from BMC, CA, and IBM/Tivoli. Vendors essentially say: "This product can, with a huge investment of time, energy, and money, automate your systems to a certain extent." The value proposition isn't compelling enough unless the service in question is so critical that downtime would mean a massive monetary loss.

The biggest barriers to adopting automation systems, cited by 81% of survey respondents, is no perceived benefit to IT (38%) or decision-makers (43%). Others cite inadequate skill sets (30%), the expense (21%), and integration difficulties (14%).

We think the big reason IT teams are reticent to jump into service-oriented IT boils down to one fact: There are so many moving pieces at so many different levels of the stack, the promise of integrating them with one another and a service-delivery engine seems like an impossible dream. As IT veterans will tell you, the devil really is in the details. What do you mean these modules can't talk with one another? What do you mean we need a specialized programming team to make that happen? The more moving pieces involved, the greater the likelihood of running into a problem that just can't be solved, at least not at any reasonable cost. Multiply this challenge by the number of systems involved in delivering IT in a service-oriented way, and it's no wonder decision-makers are reluctant.

When IT teams are rolling out automation and orchestration systems, they're doing it where the dollars are: business continuity and disaster recovery, automated performance tiering, and dynamic performance management for enterprise applications. All of these categories have a clear ROI: business continuity and disaster recovery for reasons of business survival and regulatory compliance. Automated performance tiering because there's a clear capital expense savings associated with using equipment better. Orchestration because it saves on manpower. And dynamic application monitoring because of the risk of losing sales or suffering bad PR if customer-facing services go south.

chart: are you using tools to automate IT workflow or processes?

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User Rank: Apprentice
12/12/2012 | 9:35:35 PM
re: A Shaky Virtual Stack
It seems that there is an issue/error Erreur 310 (net::ERR_TOO_MANY_REDIRECTS) in "InformationWeek 2013 Virtualization Management Survey" link. is there any chance that you could solve it ?
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