IT process automation (ITPA) has stepped into the spotlight as a hot commodity among IT professionals worldwide. With IT process automation, IT can deliver better services in support of business, allowing for increased business agility and service delivery. IT accomplishes these goals by delivering services to business faster and with fewer errors. The reasons for automating IT processes within the data center and across the IT ecosystem are numerous - increased productivity, reduced human error, elimination of repetitive manual efforts, and most importantly, reduction of IT management costs. The true driving force behind the increasing interest in IT process automation, however, is the business value that it provides.
In addition to improving IT efficiency and reducing operational costs, IT process automation helps to bridge the gap between IT management solutions and high-level processes, such as ITIL. Automation also presents the advantage, when implemented with a tool that supports a heterogeneous approach, of integrating IT management tools from a variety of vendors, thereby enabling IT to fully utilize these "vendor silos" and create more synergy between disparate tools without the need to rip and replace them entirely with vendor-specific suites.
Why Do You Need Repeatable Processes?
Today’s IT ecosystem embraces a heterogeneous mix of hardware, networks, applications, and databases, each of which may be managed by a variety of different tools from many different vendors. This leads to an IT infrastructure that is extraordinarily complex and difficult to manage - particularly in a global enterprise where change is constant and there is no downtime window. Because there is frequently no integration between systems, attempts to effectively manage IT often fall back onto processes that are performed manually, which introduces two big problems for IT executives: latency in service delivery and risk of human error. In fact, these are the primary causes of downtime. IT industry analysts are taking note and have taken a close look at this efficiency phenomenon. Recently it was reported that 80 percent of all IT work is spent on maintaining existing systems.
A prime example of how IT process automation can benefit enterprises is seen in virtualization implementations. Although virtualization technology allows companies to maximize resources and save on hardware expenditures, it adds layers of overhead and complexity to the data center. It can significantly impact operations, security, and management processes, resulting in virtual management sprawl, security exposures, and configuration chaos. More complexity is added when the virtual environment must interact with the non-virtual environment. Manual processes simply cannot cope with the increased speed, scale, and complexity of virtualized environments. To make these systems truly cost-effective, IT departments have no choice but to automate so IT staff can spend less time on routine, repetitive tasks, and instead focus on more important projects and corporate initiatives.
Another top concern currently on the minds’ of IT professionals around the globe is ITIL v3, which highlights different values compared to previous versions. Foremost of these values is a shift from the measurement of transactions and processes to that of measuring contribution and value to the business. IT process automation can help with implementation and operation of IT processes that are compliant with ITIL standards.
Enterprises are always mindful of implementing solutions that will continually improve IT efficiency, whether by increasing the speed of service delivery, controlling maintenance costs, or increasing return-on-investment. From a budget perspective, manual intervention has significant financial impact - spending IT dollars on managing existing environments leaves very little investment for enhancing or adding new services. In order to automate these processes and drive value for the business, IT process automation technologies have become a necessity.
By defining and automating the end-to-end IT processes that orchestrate and integrate existing infrastructure components, enterprise IT executives can meet business demands in a rapidly changing environment with greater agility and flexibility.
One of the greatest misconceptions about IT process automation is that it’s difficult to implement and requires a large staff to maintain. This is simply not true. With a script-free IT process automation solution that delivers deep, out-of-the-box integration which “plays well” with existing management tools and applications, IT process automation can be implemented quickly and requires a very small staff to maintain.
Another common misconception is that IT process automation from large vendors is the only option. On the contrary, enterprises should always consider a best-of-breed solution that allows for seamless integration with existing investments in enterprise IT tools. Often the process automation solution offered from large vendors is not independent of the vendor’s suite of products – all of which must be purchased, yet may not match the IT process automation capabilities from a best-of-breed vendor.
Inside and Outside the Data Center
The demand for automating IT processes has seen dramatic upswing recently, as industry analysts and enterprise IT management have acknowledged that IT process automation is a viable solution for improving IT efficiency.
Enterprise-ready IT process automation solutions should enable automation inside and outside the data center across heterogeneous IT ecosystems. They should be easily implemented and quickly return value. To support the entire IT ecosystem, IT process automation solutions must employ a scalable "enterprise services" architecture to automate processes and workflows for critical IT initiatives, such as virtualization, provisioning, ITIL-compliant processes, disaster recovery, consolidation, and security. To truly manage the enterprise-wide IT infrastructure, these solutions must have deep integration with systems management tools from a variety of vendors, in order to provide an integration bridge that allows IT management to orchestrate intelligent automation throughout a data center, regardless of the complexity and silos in their IT management infrastructure.
Enterprise IT executives will always continue toward their goal of making smart investments. Whether to drive down operational costs or to increase productivity while enforcing compliant best practices aimed at improving performance and availability of critical business applications. With the kind of business agility and value that IT process automation provides, it should be on top of their list.