Copyright Network World, Inc., 2007


Network World's Network/Systems Management Newsletter, 07/04/07

Integration, best practices key to automating management tasks

By Denise Dubie

The word automation gets tossed around a lot when talking about network and systems management products.

For instance, most software includes auto-discovery features and a majority of monitoring products send automated alerts based on pre-defined thresholds. And in some cases, vendors promise their products can take automated corrective actions. But a new breed of automation software is emerging from established and new vendors that translates many of the manual processes IT staff must perform into software - which means the automation is not limited to tasks seen as strictly IT operations or network management functions. Though for now it seems increasing operations efficiencies is the logical reason for adopting such technology.

The products - dubbed run-book, IT process or data center automation depending on which analyst firm you ask - use existing management products to carry out the automation, which requires vendors such as Network Automation, Opsware, Opalis, RealOps, and several others to integrate into customers' environments. Such software can serve as the communications bridge among products and enable automation across third-party tools and IT domains, Forrester Research reports.

"The introduction of process automation solutions such as RealOps, Opalis, or iConclude [acquired by Opsware] provides significant progress by: 1) providing the ability to control and launch relevant operations represented by different point products, and 2) passing relevant data between these products, thus resolving the interprocess communication problem," reads a recent Forrester Research report co-authored by Senior Analyst Evelyn Hubbert.

The automation software emerging today also relies heavily on best practice frameworks, such as the IT Infrastructure Library, or ITIL. The coupling of best practices with automation could help IT managers introduce more operational efficiencies into their environments, according to Gartner.

"The [run-book automation] market growth is driven by IT executives needing to increase IT operations efficiencies, especially around the adoption of best practices, increasing IT agility and proving IT operations' accountability to the business," reads a report by David Williams, a research vice president with Gartner. "If you need to automate IT management processes for change management, element provisioning or the adoption of ITIL-based best practices, then now is the time to consider an RBA tool."

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Last Modified: March 9, 2008