The Convergence Of IT Automation Solutions

We are sometimes so focused on details that we forget to think clearly. Nothing new there; it’s still a story about trees and forest. A few years ago, this was clearly the case when I met with one of the first vendors of run book automation. My first thought was that it was very similar to workload automation, but I let myself be convinced that it was so different that it was obviously another product family. Taking a step back last year, I started thinking that in fact these two forms of automation complemented each other. In “Market Overview: Workload Automation, Q3 2009,” I wrote that “executing complex asynchronous applications requires server capacity. The availability of virtualization and server provisioning, one of the key features of today’s IT process [run book] automation, can join forces with workload automation to deliver a seamless execution of tasks, without taxing IT administrators with complex modifications of pre-established plans.”In June of this year, UC4 announced a new feature of its workload automation solution, by which virtual machines or extension to virtual machines can be provisioned automatically when the scheduler detects a performance issue (see my June 30 blog post “Just-In-Time Capacity”). This was a first sign of convergence. But there is more.

Automation is about processes. As soon as we can describe a process using a workflow diagram and a description of the operation to be performed by each step of the diagram, we can implement the software to automate it (as we do in any application or other forms of software development). Automation is but a variation of software that uses pre-developed operations adapted to specific process implementations.

A complete converged automation solution is thus an extension of this predeveloped operation portfolio, not the development of a specific product category. There is fundamentally no difference between workload automation and any other form of IT automation; it is just a matter of details. If we extend the reasoning a step further, business process models (basically process workflow diagrams) issued from business process management (BPM) solutions could be imported — at least partially — into an automation solution to provide instant gratification.

I had conversations with two automation vendors: Network Automation and Redwood Software. They come from different horizons but have reached the same conclusion and are working toward complete automation solutions: Network Automation by providing a broad portfolio of automation operations that can be used to solve workload automation, run book automation, and business automation problems, and Redwood software by integrating systems, applications, and business processes under the same umbrella. Redwood also provides vertical and horizontal solutions “in a box” for typical business processes.

Workload automation has been with us for a long time. The idea initially was to automate the work of the console operator running batches of punched cards. Let’s think ahead and expand the concept.