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4 Best Practices for Automating Your Data Center

by on September 15, 2011

Thinking about automating some of your data center processes? These days, IT shops everywhere are automating processes like provisioning, compliance, routine maintenance, configuration management and tape and vault management. The end goal: to improve efficiency, raise productivity, reduce costs and improve quality—in other words, enable IT to do more with less.

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Data center managers can take their pick from among the vast numbers of data center automation tools on the market today, and they’re less expensive and more powerful than ever before. But, buyer beware: As with most things IT, the tool alone is not the answer. Automating a convoluted process that isn’t working well to begin with is going to create more work for IT, not less; lower efficiency, not increase; more expense, not less.

If you’re considering automating processes in your data center, here are some proven practices that will serve you well:

1. Use a structured project methodology.

This should be a no-brainer and is a hallmark of any well-managed IT project, but we all know that reality doesn’t always match up with the best-laid plans. According to the data center automation experts at HP, the right approach would include:

  • Assessing operational maturity and developing a vision for the end result—one that reflects input from all business and IT stakeholders.
  • Defining comprehensive “value chains”—that is, end-to-end sets of steps that IT executes to deliver value to the business—in the areas you want to automate. Whether you’re looking to automate application code promotion, OS provisioning, patch management, software management, monitoring and alert, troubleshooting and repair, audit and compliance, or even disaster recovery, process must always come first.
  • Developing standardized, “gold standard” processes for the areas you want to automate.
  • Implementing the new and automated processes, with clear agreement up front among all stakeholders about what success means and what ROI the project will deliver.

2. Let go of homegrown solutions.

Many IT organizations have gone to the laudable effort to create their own scripting tools and workflow engines. But these tools don’t scale as the organization’s needs and its data centers grow.

3. Go with an open environment.

When choosing an IT automation technology, make sure the environment is open and extensible, so that you’ll be able to integrate any application in the future. The wise investment is in tools “that offer the most extensible approach possible because, after all, no one really knows what might be coming through the data center door next,” according to Mike Vizard of CTOEdge.com.

4. Keep it simple.

Choose data center automation tools that will have a short learning curve for your staff, for example, those with a drag-and-drop interface.

Reaping the value of automation isn’t automatic. There’s more to it than just implementing new software. Let your business needs and well-defined processes drive your technology solutions, and you could be well on your way to managing a more efficient, effective data center that better meets the demands of your business.

And if you do decide to automate your datacenter and want to include a tape management solution, contact B&L. We’ll be happy to talk to you about your challenges and offer some time- and money-saving solutions.

What do you think? Is there anything else you would add to the list?

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