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Automation in the Data Center has become crucial

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Data centers play a pivotal role in any firm's operations, whether they serve internal users or external clients. They are evolving all the time, becoming more complex while relentlessly generating larger and larger amounts of data.

In order to adhere to the principle of 'always up, always on' which has become synomous with cloud computing, and which is increasingly being demanded of the IT industry in general, the data center simply has to be operational and reliable around the clock.

The conventional way of monitoring such centers often results in a reactive approach to problem solving. It creates a multitude of alerts arriving at all times of day and night, putting severe pressure on the IT department.

What is necessary is a holistic, pro-active approach that will result in less disruptions, quicker resolution, and increased efficiency. This can only be achieved via increasingly automating routine tasks. Fortunately systems such as SAP ITOA (SAP IT Operations Analytics) and CHEF can be extremely useful in this regard.


Why automation

For digital businesses it is imperative to reduce costs and manage growth. A 2016 study from Ponemon Institute has calculated that the average cost of an outage in a data center amounts to nearly $740.000, which translates to $7.900 per minute.

Automation improves efficiency and accountability and make results more predictable, while at the same time reducing variability, cost and risk. The problem is that until now, control measures have been largely deterministic instead of systematic.

Gartner's research VP, Milind Govekar, said most IT companies currently use scripting to automate certain tasks. What one ends up with in this way, he added, are "disconnected islands of automation".

Scripting, he continued, also strengthens a 'hero culture' in IT: an employee solves a specific problem by writing configuration code or scripts to automate that part of the whole, but when he or she leaves no record exists of such a script.

 

The right way to automate things

Govekar is of the opinion that the process of automating a center should start by taking stock of all current processes that have already been automated, and how it was done.

The next step should be to confront cultural resistance in the IT department. Many IT employees will see automating current systems as a way to eventually make them redundant.

The solution is to appoint a single manager who is in charge of automating processes, who can motivate IT staff and make them understand that this will simply rid them of mundane tasks, allowing more time for high-level work.

 

Systems to speed up and improve the process

A system such as SAP ITOA can, for example, predict when disk space is likely to run out. It can then add more space from a shared pool - and when usage drops again, it can return that disk space back to the pool. This can be done without the involvement of any IT personnel.

This system can also be applied in conjunction with e.g. SAP Predictive Analytics or CHEF to take any IT department to a totally new level.

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