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September 12, 2008

Automation: The Forgotten Option?

Derrick Harris

We talk a lot about efficiency and reducing operational costs, but the discussion generally is focused on technologies like virtualization or, taking it several steps further, cloud and utility computing. But what about automation? Isn’t automation a smaller-scale way to achieve the grand goals of concentrating valuable brainpower on the datacenter tasks that really need it and spending money on  the business objectives that bring real benefit to the company?

In the feature presently gracing our home page, GridApp CEO Robert Gardos discusses how database automation can help keep the data gears turning without constant attention from the DBA. Given the DBA shortage he cites, and the resulting increases in job importance and salary, this valuable knowledge really should be put to use on the greater database strategy.

Of course, automation doesn’t stop — or begin — at the database tier. IT automation encompasses everything from run book automation to server provisioning, from resource mapping to job scheduling. And the vendor community just keeps growing. Among those vendors you’ll be seeing more of, including on this site, are Stratavia, Opalis, Parallels, Enigmatec, Tideway and OpTier, to name a few.

Granted, if there is a sexy way to discuss OPEX reductions, it probably is around high-concepts like cloud computing and advanced virtualization practices. While these certainly are accurate, the truth is that they do require some infrastructural, architectural and cultural adaptations that might make certain organizations uncomfortable — especially during the infancy stages of these solutions. The various IT automation solutions aren’t seamless, for sure, but, overall, the process does seem like a more immediate and (depending on your level of skepticism) less risky way to achieve some of the goals of the more involved, more landscape-changing options.

For those of you who used to read GRIDtoday, you know this is a far cry from the sandbox in which we used to play. But it is an important new concept, and it certainly is on demand. (Actually, I think automated might be even more immediate.)