ITIL, automation provide recipe for data center management

ESG surveyed 602 global IT decision makers to learn how data centers are transforming and how IT managers are keeping up with the change

Enterprise IT managers expect to deploy more automation technologies and adopt best practice frameworks in an effort to better keep virtualization, service-oriented architecture and Web 2.0 technologies under control and operating efficiently, two recent surveys suggest.

"Effective IT management in today's complex data centers requires timely, accurate views of how servers, storage, networks, software and end-user systems are interacting," writes Mary Johnston Turner, senior market research analyst and primary author of the Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) report "2008 IT Service & Infrastructure Management Survey." "Our research shows that it is virtually impossible to accomplish these objectives without help from IT management automation."

ESG surveyed 602 global IT decision makers to learn how data centers are transforming and how IT managers are keeping up with the change. More than three-quarters of the respondents said they expect virtualization to extensively or moderately impact their IT management requirements over the next 24 months, with SOA and Web 2.0 expected to have a "similar impact," according to ESG.

The research revealed that 36 per cent of those polled considered "highly effective IT organizations" are deploying IT management workflow automation across multiple technology layers, such as servers, storage, applications and user devices. Six per cent of those less effective organizations have currently invested in this type of IT management automation, ESG finds.

"ESG also found that IT service management best practices, such as ITIL -- as well as automated IT asset management tools and automated event monitoring, correlation and root-cause analysis tools -- contribute to highly effective IT environments," Turner writes.

Separately, management software maker CA sponsored an independent study that surveyed 300 CIOs worldwide to learn how they are using data center automation and what their plans are for the technology going forward. Sixty-five per cent of those polled by CA said many of their data center tasks are automated, 31 per cent of which are under centralized governance. On average, CIOs reported they are automating 48 per cent of tasks in their data centers today and they plan to increase that number to 56 per cent in the next 18 months. Initiatives such as server consolidation, virtualization, performance management and uptime and business continuity are driving the need for more automation, the survey shows.

"CIOs believe that by using policy and demand-driven automation they can meet these challenges and better respond to changing business needs," says Ben Scheerer, director of solutions marketing at CA.

CA also found that the use of automation depended directly on IT process adoption. Close to half said they are using the ITIL best practice framework, 30 per cent are engaging in business service management efforts and 23 per cent are implementing the standard laid out in COBIT. CA says adopting best practices prior to deploying automation ensures greater success.

"A lot of companies before they even automate a process they look to see that it is one that is repeatable and mature, such as patch management or server provisioning," says Sam Somashekar, a director of product management at CA. "The survey shows that if the process is not in place and it is not a repeatable process that can be mapped and measured, it would be very tough to put effective automation in place. A fool with a tool is still a fool."

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