After blogging some months about automation, I thought it might be a good idea to talk about the definition of automation. Nearly everyone seems to have an “Automation solution” in place. So what is that Automation-hype all about?
The word Automation is derived from the ancient Greek language and means that something is operating or moving self dictated, which gives quite a good idea about what we are looking at.
Automation might have started with the invention of the wheel decades ago, is omnipresent in many branches and industries and a substancial factor for producing any kind of goods and services today. Robots and Automated Manufacturing systems and During my journey through the world of IT Service Management, I encountered various kinds of Automation. From my point of view most vendors will agree to the following categorization:
Automated IT-Service Management / ITSM Process Automation
This is a umbrella term for solutions focused on supporting Service Management workflow, 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.
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.