IT Automation: The Need for a New Architectural Approach

In today's fluid 24/7 world where business demands are real-time and IT resources are a mix of both physical and virtual, someone -- or something -- is needed to manage it all. In response, many job scheduling applications have evolved into advanced workload automation solutions that can direct the execution of tasks across any number of heterogeneous environments.

This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter's approach.

In today's fluid 24/7 world where business demands are real-time and IT resources are a mix of both physical and virtual, someone -- or something -- is needed to manage it all. In response, many job scheduling applications have evolved into advanced workload automation solutions that can direct the execution of tasks across any number of heterogeneous environments.

These automation solutions promise dramatic change for those willing to use them strategically. When administrators evolve their thinking about what can be achieved with these new applications, they can reduce cost and gain a far more flexible IT infrastructure in the process.

[ BACKGROUND: Where network and systems management are headed next ]

Rethinking the issue starts with the way processing tasks are currently handled. In most IT shops when a task needs to be automated the traditional answer is to bolt on a solution to the existing system. For example, if someone needs a backup or ETL done on a specific system, a script is written or a job is scheduled for that task, usually on a platform-specific tool.

This "elemental approach," involving some combination of coding, a new application, hardware, or simply one more addition to the processing schedule, is understandable.

But it's outdated.

While point solutions for point problems are expedient in the short term, over time they create significant cost and complexity. Within a few years the IT organization's landscape is a mix of patched-together automation solutions that are unwieldy, outmoded and insufficient for the current environment.

The modern alternative to the elemental approach is the "architectural approach." This notion, which crosses the boundaries of physical assets, technologies, geographies and work methods, puts processes and systems first. Nimbly responding to business requirements, policies, SLAs and standards, the architectural approach goes beyond point solutions by placing individual tasks in the context of the broader computing landscape.

For example, in the world of big data, processes require advanced resource management. Rather than be limited to finite internal resources available to execute these processes, IT instead considers how infinite internal, virtual and cloud resources can be assembled on the fly in a flexible, cost-efficient manner. The holistic approach saves time, reduces cost, and simplifies management versus the dozens, perhaps hundreds, of point solutions that have been bolted on over time.

This fresh mindset allows the strengths of intelligent workload automation to really shine. Instead of simply automating tasks, which tacitly sets resource boundaries, intelligent workload and IT process automation platforms can provision internal/external (or on-premises/off-premises) resources as needed, in real time, to execute those processes. Rules and strategic priorities, rather than schedules and structure, govern how resources are assigned, tasked and then deassigned.

As a single solution, intelligent workload automation can dynamically manage any number of point solutions plus handle policies and service level objectives. Moreover, IT becomes more proficient at responding to, and reporting on, the value of services it provides. Visibility and control improves across the organization -- and better overall governance is the result.

With all that is impacting IT today -- real-time/near real-time, self-service computing, mobile device proliferation and more -- process automation requires a dramatic shift in mindset. It's time to stop allowing personnel to think in silos, or tasks and workflows to be ruled by point solutions. It's time for the elemental approach to be replaced by the broader, architectural approach. Intelligent workload automation can make it happen.

Rosenberg is president and founder of Advanced Systems Concepts Inc. An expert in enterprise-class IT automation and system utilization solutions, Ben has nearly 40 years of experience in engineering and marketing system software products across Microsoft Windows, UNIX, OpenVMS and mainframe platforms. Advanced Systems Concepts products are now used in over 40 countries by many of the world's largest financial, retail and online companies. Ben can be reached at BRosenberg@advsyscon.com.

Read more about infrastructure management in Network World's Infrastructure Management section.

This story, "IT Automation: The Need for a New Architectural Approach" was originally published by Network World.

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