Information technology budgets have been essentially flat or even negative for years. Some trace budget constraints to the economic downturn that began about five years ago, while others identify the dot-com bust, which occurred in 2002, as the source of stagnant IT budgets. A Gartner survey published earlier this year confirms that CIO IT budgets have been either flat or shrinking for more than a decade.
Meanwhile, the amount of data created and stored continues to expand exponentially, to the point where new words may have to be invented to describe its scale. Until fairly recently, a terabyte was an unimaginably huge amount of storage space to anyone outside a data center, and now it’s common for home-use laptops to include a terabyte or more of hard drive space.
People who manage truly large amounts of data now speak in terms of petabytes, exabytes, zettabytes and yottabytes, and there’s talk of expanding the list of prefixes to accommodate ever-larger amounts of stored and transferred data from multiple streams. But while the language may be evolving in response to the explosion of data, additional IT resources to manage the exponentially increasing amounts of information aren’t forthcoming, as flat CIO budgets attest.
Just as there is a limit to the utility of adding resources to an industrial-scale warehouse unless the human factor is also amplified to manage the new capabilities, IT organizations need to find a way to bring additional human assets to bear in order to realize the potential of new computing and data storage capacities. Virtualization technologies have emerged as essential tools IT professionals can use to improve organizational performance without adding to the budget. Fully realizing the benefits of virtualization, however, requires a smarter approach to automation.
Increasing Availability and Utilization via Virtualization
Virtualization can dramatically improve the availability and utilization of IT assets, which is why infrastructure virtualization and management products like VMware are so widely used. Through virtualization, a single physical machine can be used by multiple virtual machines, allowing companies to maximize existing hardware, take advantage of redundancy and scale up to meet increased demand. This versatility explains the popularity of products like VMware, which has more than half a million users, including 100% of Fortune 100 companies.
Through virtualization, companies can gain greater control over hardware costs, minimize downtime and maximize quality assurance and development initiatives by isolating these activities from the host operating system. Virtualization also allows IT organizations to get a quick “known good” snapshot of the environment—another reason it is one of the hottest IT trends in an age of cost cutting and efficiency.
There is a major potential downside to virtualization, however: many businesses struggle to find a way to integrate virtual-machine automation with their core business-process automation tools. The problem is that the built-in automation capabilities offered by most virtualization platforms do not integrate well with business-process conditions and events. For example, virtualization automation pathways might trigger the shutdown of one virtual machine and the start of another when a critical performance threshold is exceeded, whereas a cloud service provider might start up a new machine in response to a customer provisioning request, and IT may have set performance failure as a trigger for automatic restoration to an earlier snapshot.
That’s just one scenario; there are many other instances where virtual-machine performance parameters can interact with business-process conditions and events in unexpected ways that do not support the company’s mission. Custom, integrated automation is the best solution: to help their companies fully realize the benefits of virtualization, IT teams need to find a fast, easy way to integrate automation of virtual assets and other applications. They need to develop an automation strategy that fully supports the company’s diverse business processes—without creating a complex new code-development and maintenance project for scarce IT resources.
Combining Virtualization With Automation
IT teams can integrate virtualization and business-process automation for better asset management, streamlined business processes and more-strategic use of the human factor in IT—an approach that delivers multiple wins across the organization. The first step is to find a product specifically designed to enable IT professionals to integrate automation across virtualization and business-process applications without writing and maintaining code.
To achieve maximum flexibility, IT professionals should look for a product that empowers them to combine automation functions across applications and systems, such as VMware’s Server, VMware Workstation, ESX/ESXi, vCenter and VMware Player systems. A solution that enables administration of physical and virtual tools can connect disparate applications in a single workflow, giving administrators the power to clone systems, manage snapshots and power, automate guest OSs, and integrate applications as well as platforms running in physical or virtual environments (or both).
Doing More With Less Through Automation and Integration
As organizations grow and the volume of data they must manage increases exponentially, the benefits of automation are clear: it allows organizations to handle complex business processes with fewer resources, freeing up IT professionals to concentrate on more-strategic tasks like expanding business capabilities, exploring innovation and supporting revenue-generating opportunities.
Virtualization can enable companies to instantly scale up to meet increased demand and more effectively use and manage current assets. But to fully realize the benefits of virtualization and its associated automation capabilities, IT organizations must find a way to integrate automation across virtual and physical assets as well as across existing and emerging business processes. A solution that enables automation integration without requiring IT professionals to write and maintain code can help strapped IT organizations do more with less.
Leading article image courtesy of Qingqing Chen
About the Author
Dustin M. Snell is the chief executive officer and founder of Network Automation, Inc. Always holding true to the tenets of power tempered by functional design, Dustin, an innovator and visionary, realized the relevant need to automate the emerging cloud and virtualization markets. Under Snell's leadership, Network Automation continues its continuous growth that began with its inception.
Dustin’s passion for technology has improved the lives of thousands over a career spanning more than 20 years in the software technology industry, with roles ranging from technical management to various C-level positions. He founded Network Automation in 2004 and served as the chief executive officer through 2010. Dustin was the CTO until resuming CEO title in October 2012. He was also the cofounder of Unisyn Software from 1995 until 2004.