Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Are IT Automation Initiatives Here to Stay?

A few weeks ago, I was one of the lucky few (well, relatively speaking!) speakers at the Dow Jones DataCenter Ventures 2006 conference in San Jose (http://datacenterventures.dowjones.com/Default.aspx?pageid=111). The event reviewed emerging technologies related to the data center space and provided innovative companies a platform to present their solutions especially around virtualization, automation and methods to block things that are generally considered nasty such as viruses, worms, spam and other such elements causing loss in productivity and revenue.

Ben Horowitz, CEO of Opsware, one of the bigger success stories in the conference, was a keynote speaker and shared how his team was able to get their company on the map, the IT automation map that is. Several venture capitalists, industry analysts, trade journalists and large company technology scouts were present there. But what made the trip worthwhile was the presence of many technology leaders, including CIOs, CTOs and other real-world end-users with assorted titles).

Just about 18 months ago, a similar presentation from me at a CIO round-table resulted in barely 6 attendees showing up (about 18 were expected). It just seemed like CIOs had more pressing stuff to attend to, than being at a boring “ping, power and pipe” event learning about ways to keep the crown jewels of the business accessible and secure. But now, things seem to have take a turn for the better. Optimal data center management is beginning to be seen as sexy and glamorous, almost like business intelligence was, 5 years ago. So much so that popular publications like eWeek are increasingly running articles around this topic (see “Five Biggest Data Center Concerns” at: http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1895,2034035,00.asp?kc=EWEWKEMLP102306STR2).

So what triggered this behavioral change? Data center management has always been one of the more costly items in IT due to the hosting space, power, and cost of human capital (not necessarily in this order). So why change perceptions now? Mind you, I’m not complaining. This obviously bodes well for the IT industry in general and the database industry in particular - since databases are ubiquitous in any data center. However I’m fairly curious about evolutions in the IT landscape, and understanding their short-term and long-term impact on business. Is the current IT optimization movement a mere swerve or is it here to stay?

My personal opinion (and hope) is that this is for keeps. CIOs are beginning to realize just how much they are truly spending on IT administration. Worse still, they are tying their smartest resources to mundane problems rather than the biggest opportunities. Current popular press and word of mouth is causing them to take a hard look at emerging alternatives rather than treating the toll merely as a cost of running a business. If innovative technology can bring around even a 15% efficiency improvement (half of what many of these vendors promise) to these more expensive administrative areas, it would tremendously impact the bottomline, free up IT budgets and ripple through to positively effect the priority of relevant IT projects, which will be greatly appreciated by the users and shareholders.

Besides my optimism, another indicator that this renewed focus on IT optimization is here to stay is the advancement in several sub-technologies that make it possible. For instance, key areas such as agent architecture, push/pull models, network and server security, autonomic computing, server virtualization and grid management, decision automation and expert systems have matured significantly over the last 10 years allowing vendors to apply these solutions to specific niche areas thereby culminating in the beneficial situation prevailing in the industry today.

So what does all this mean for the business besides just reducing costs? Well, such optimization results in lowered downtime, higher scalability and more predictable performance. But more than anything, it affords businesses the opportunity to align their smartest people towards solving their business’s biggest challenges and leveraging the best opportunities rather than merely being the best command-line junkie. And that, is the biggest win-win for the business and all stakeholders, including the employee.


Anonymous said...

Good point you bring up about companies not being able to tie their best people to the biggest opportunities. Instead they are stuck in the quagmire of keeping IT running day-to-day.

Manikandan said...

Hey venkat, i read both ur blog posts on IT automation..thought that u might be interested in our IT Automation product RoboIQ for Data Centers. I wouldnt really say that we have grown really large to the extent of Opsware, Opalis or Automate. As a marketing analyst of RoboIQ, I would like to have your view on RoboIQ.

you may want to visit www.roboiq.com
a demo is available at http://demo.roboiq.com
RoboIQ Blogs can be found at http://blogs.roboiq.com

RoboIQ Team

Anonymous said...

What database tools do you use? I really need to improve application availability throughout my network but I’m not sure what tools I can use to make the improvement. I’ve seen several new automation solutions that interest me but I’d like to find out what other people think.

Today’s business software applications rely heavily on whether or not a network can address smaller issues itself and run smoothly. The network I work on now is kind of outdated which is why I’m looking for some guidance here. Since we rely pretty heavily on IT automation I have my guys on the lookout for me too but what say you all? Where should I start looking?