b m c i N D U S T R Y INSIGHTs

Data Center Automation —
Your Path to the Cloud
By Ben Newton, Senior Manager of Operations Management Solutions, and
David Williams, Vice President of Strategy in the Office of the CTO, BMC Software

When you look at moving to the cloud and consider all the hype that’s out there, it can
be difficult to know where to start. The smart place to begin is with automation. You
can’t achieve the benefits of the cloud — more cost-effective service delivery, greater
flexibility, and faster time-to-market for new services — without automating end-to-end
processes. When you automate the processes in your data center, you lay the foundation
for the cloud and gain value as you go.

One of the best ways to get started with automation
for the cloud is to focus on service provisioning,
the building and configuration of services, including
the operating system, middleware, databases, and
multi-tiered application environments. In particular,
automating your infrastructure services goes beyond
virtual provisioning, beyond rapidly distributing vir­
tual machines, and beyond spreading the workload
across available capacity. Because automation
should focus on allocating resources and workloads
in line with the services you’re providing, it should
also take into consideration your organization’s
contracts, expectations, and behaviors. It should
orchestrate your network, storage, and services, as
well as the set of technologies that support those
services and their accompanying service level
agreements (SLAs).

To prepare for success in the cloud, you must go beyond
simply provisioning the base operating system and
reach to all of the applications and configurations
on top of that operating system — the entire stack.

Zero Options = Zero Mileage
What does end-to-end service provisioning look
like? To paint a clearer picture, compare service
provisioning to auto manufacturing. Think about the
key components of an automobile. A standard, yet
essential, component of any vehicle is the chassis.
Another key component is the engine. Some com­
ponents are not essential but rather are add-ons,
or “nice-to-haves,” such as automatic windows and
locks, or cruise control.
Think of the basic infrastructure of a service as being
like the chassis of a car and the operating system

and basic applications as being like the engine. With the
cloud, what often happens is that the service provider
stops there — offering little more than the “chassis”
and the “engine” to get around in as your organization
attempts to do business. The service provider may offer
only the most basic services — the bare necessities —
without thinking about the additional services that the
business wants and needs to be competitive.

As IT organizations move more business-critical, and
complex, services to the cloud, the “nice-to-haves,” such
as fully configured enterprise-level application servers
or databases, have become necessities. Manually
configured services in the cloud lose much of the anti­
cipated benefits of the cloud, since new capacity could
take days or weeks to deliver. Automation enables you
to consistently and rapidly deliver a service.

When it comes to cars and trucks — and cloud services —
optional features are important. Consumers of services
demand options to match their needs. For example, if a
company delivers vegetables, it needs a truck equipped
with refrigeration. An ordinary truck would not meet
these requirements. Similarly, if your company is car­
ry­­ing heavy freight, you need some sort of towing
mechanism on the truck, another option. With IT, an
optional feature in the cloud might be the ability to deploy
a preconfigured environment for a developer, which
might include a database and an application server.

Where Do You Begin? Building Core
Competencies for the Cloud

As IT organizations move
more business-critical, and
complex, services to the
cloud, the “nice-to-haves,”
such as fully configured
enterprise-level application
servers or databases, have
become necessities.

What if car manufacturers created vehicles as one-sizefits-all, with no options? If you wanted refrigeration (or
a towing mechanism, or electric windows and cruise
control), you’d need to install it yourself. This is just the
position, service-wise, in which some enterprises are
finding themselves as they begin to enter the cloud.
When it comes to provisioning services, it’s important
for IT to be flexible enough to be able to deliver the range
of services its users are seeking without requiring an
extensive investment of work upfront from the user.

Do you need a fully automated data center before you
can even contemplate moving to the cloud? Not really.
Data center automation and service provisioning are
not one-size-fits-all. A few enterprises are attempting
transformational installs, where they start from scratch
and do everything in a single push. While an all-or-nothing
strategy is fine for some groups, this approach will not
necessarily be best for every organization. Instead,
many enterprises take a phased approach rather than
automating the entire data center at once. This enables
IT to focus on incremental projects that offer a greater
likelihood of real value for the organization.
You can start developing standardized automation
processes long before you enter the cloud. For example,
you can design a server provisioning process and
later use an enterprise service provisioning solution
to “elevate” that standardized method as a service, pro­
moting it to the cloud when you’re ready. The enterprise
provisioning solution should not only automate the
process but also provide an integrated service catalog
for the standardized services that you build.
You can take the same approach with the rest of your
automation tasks, from provisioning a virtual network,
to building out applications, to allocating storage.
Decide on a standardized way to build on a network, and
later move that network to the cloud. By building core
competencies, enterprises can obtain real value along
the way to achieving the goal of cloud computing. Selfservice and service catalogs are essential to building
common, stan­dardized services. That’s because these
resources provide a standard interface for the end-user
experience while reducing the complexity of deliveries for
the IT organization.

b m c i N D U S T R Y INSIGHTs

How Technology Can Help
A consistent set of automation technologies can play a
key role in managing the entire IT operations environ­
ment. Ideally, what is needed is a solution that would
not disturb the daily duties of IT administrators and
decision makers, and yet manage to invisibly break
down operational silos that have vexed senior IT man­
agers for so long.
Emerging solutions for service provisioning allow
for the consistent deployment of complete business
services across applications, servers, networks, data­
bases, and client devices using a defined architecture
for provisioning, compliance, and release management.
Technology like this can help IT organizations accel­
erate the delivery of new services, reduce the risk
associated with change, improve productivity, lower
management costs, and enforce operational, security,
and regulatory compliance.
It’s not enough to just build out services over time.
Automation also plays a critical role in the maintenance
of services in the cloud. A service provisioning system
that can build a service, but cannot update and config­
ure that service over time, will reduce the value of the
cloud for your organization. The automation system
must be able to update and maintain configurations
without the entire service needing to be reprovisioned.
This means that the automation should not rely too
heavily on templates and images, as is common
in the cloud. Rather, it should be able to surgically
change configurations without creating downtime
caused by misconfiguration.
Additionally, in the cloud, both security and operation
continue to be important — perhaps even more so.
Just as with your traditional data center, the cloud
needs to be kept in compliance with your operational
standards, security standards, and any applicable
regulatory policies. This means that the automation
platform must be able to integrate compliance pro­
cesses with the configuration management processes
after the services have been provisioned.
Finally, the cloud environment must still be a part of the
larger data center. As a result, the cloud environment
should be integrated with any IT management process­
es already in place. This includes processes such as
change, incident, problem, and release management.

This ensures that the cloud environment does not be­
come separate from the normal operational processes
that have been developed over the years.

The cloud environment
should be integrated
with any IT management
processes already in place.

Looking Ahead
Cloud computing has quickly taken what was once
a “nice-to-have” (automation) and turned it into an ab­
solute “must-have.” No longer can problems be solved
simply by hiring more people — the complexities of the
data center are expanding too rapidly, and pressures to
hold down costs are greater than ever. You have to be
able to extract maximum value at the least expense.
Automation is the only way you can consistently deliver
a service again and again with the fewest resources.
Now is the time to evolve automation so that you can
provide more than the “bare-chassis, zero-option car”
needed for your business to operate in the cloud.
Automation and end-to-end service provisioning will
help you to make the right set of options available to
users — ones that will help your enterprise remain
competitive as it enters the cloud.
For more information about data center automation,
visit www.bmc.com/dca.

b m c i N D U S T R Y INSIGHTs

About the Authors
David Williams is a vice
president of Strategy in the
Office of the CTO at BMC
Software, with particular
focus on availability and
performance management,
application per formance
management, IT operations
automation, and management tool s archi­
tectures. He has 29 years of experience in IT
operations management. Williams joined BMC
from Gar tner, where he was research vice
president, leading the research for IT process
automation (run book automation); event, corre­
lation, and analysis; performance monitoring;
and IT operations management architectures
and framework s. His past experience al so
includes executive-level positions at Alterpoint
(acquired by Versata) and IT Masters (acquired
by BMC), and as vice president of Produc t
Management and Strategy at IBM Tivoli. He also
worked as a senior technologist at CA for
Unicenter TNG and spent his early years in IT
working in computer operations for several
companies, including Bankers Trust.
Ben Newton is senior
ma na g er of O p er at io n s
Management Solutions at
BMC Software, where he
leads a team focused on
p ro d u c t m e s s a g­i n g f o r
BMC’s data center auto­
mation and proactive oper­
ations portfolio. For the last decade, he has
specialized in the various aspects of data center
automation, particularly related to configuration,
application release, compliance automation,
and cloud computing. Before joining BMC, he
worked as a systems architect for Electronic
Data Systems (EDS) and Northrop Grumman. He
graduated in 2000 from Cornell University with
a master’s degree in computer science.

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