Did you ever wonder, what automation really means? Automation is a term that is as widely used a the term vehicle. In this article, I’m trying to differentiate and describe the different flavours of IT Automation.
Automated IT-Service Management / ITSM Process Automation
This is an umbrella term for solutions focused on supporting Service Management workflows, usually based on best practices and standards like ITIL or Cobit. Subordinated terms are Support Automation or Run-Book-Automation.
Support Automation refers to software packages are focused on supporting the routine work of help desk personnel. Think of it as a kind of script integration in existing Service desk, CRM application or even in Knowledge Base Applications for Automated Self Service. Examples for this category are products like CA SupportBridge or mValent Integrity, which is focused on Change Management Automation.
Products belonging to this category are very popular nowadays. They allow to define a set of ITSM-Workflows through a Graphical user interface. Good products offer a multitude of connectors and interfaces to existing ITSM suites like OpenView, Tivoli or Unicenter. Examples for this kind of products are Opalis Integration Server, BMC Realops or HP/Opsware/IConclude Opsforce.
Certain Automation solutions such as Enigmatec are elevating the importance of rules to an higher level. By bringing in the term Policy the rules management get’s a more of the “enterprise-style”. Some solutions in the IT Process Automation area are providing a rich set of features for designing and managing policies.
These concepts stem from early (mainframe) days of computing, where batch processing or job Scheduling were a big improvement, allowing operator to “automate” recurring tasks. Though modern products are highly evolutionized through offering multi platform compatibility, event-triggering, policy-based execution and configured to smart coloured visual GUIs. These products are gaining ground in modern service oriented environments and are represented through products from big vendors like CA/Cybermation and IBM Tivoli or smaller competitors like ASG and UC4
Data Center Automation
This is the hottest topic today, as companies have started to deploy myriad of servers into an extremely fast growing number of data centers all over the world, bringing high demand for automated tools to provision, change and manage vast numbers of components. Any of the large vendor offers such a tool or suite and – you guessed it – here is place, where the bucks go. HP know that story. Products in this category are former Opsware Server Automation System, BMC BladeLogic, IBM Tivoli Provisioning Manager and to bring in some cloudy haze modern and cool products/players like Elastra or 3Tera/Applogic which allow to mix data center and cloud offerings.