Strategic Automation in the Data Center

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2008-12-17 Print this article Print

Bryan Doerr, CTO of Savvis, a hosted IT service provider, explained to eWEEK that his company has been all about automated data center infrastructure.

"Underpinning all cloud [storage and computing] delivery is automation," Doerr said. "If you don't have the automation associated with delivery of the infrastructure, there is no way you can keep up with the move/add changes associated with clouds. Furthering this thought, enterprises have no business trying to develop all that automation. Why? Why are you investing in that, buying the software, messing around with all that stuff?

"And by the way, the only way we get dynamic infrastructure-infrastructure that is totally responsive to changes in the way the application is performing in real time, if you get the feedback loop, the transaction rate, the provisioning environment-the only way you're going to get that is with automation," Doerr said. "That's nirvana."

Savvis provides services to about 4,000 enterprises that include managed hosting, co-location and network connectivity, supported by the company's global data center and network infrastructure. The company says it delivers "IT infrastructure as a service" by combining cloud technology, a global network and 29 data centers in the United States, Europe and Asia. It also has automated management and provisioning systems and a best practices operations model.

Some specific examples of how automation is becoming more strategic in the data center:

-Earlier in 2008, Compellent Storage Center 4.0 became the first networked storage system to manage data inside the storage volume, so that it can automate tiered storage within every drive.

-Sun Microsystems' open-source-based Lustre storage automation software, a major part of Sun's Open Storage approach for enterprise customers, is gaining a reputation as being among the speediest storage backup and management packages available, since it works alongside the super-fast Zettabyte File System.

-Onaro, now a division of NetApp, makes SANscreen Capacity Manager 1.0 and SANscreen Provisioning Manager 1.0, which enable enterprises to obtain an automated view of networked storage and provisioning.

-Symantec's CommandCentral 5.1, announced Dec. 16, became the first storage optimization suite to integrate traditional storage resource management with automated storage change management.

-IBM has used autonomic computing practices for years. Autonomic, or self-healing computing, enables systems to self-diagnose components on a regular basis and troubleshoot problems with little or no human intervention.

Autonomic computing is a self-management mechanism for a system or systems. Autonomic IT systems can make pre-programmed "decisions" for themselves to solve problems-then solve them very quickly-in order to keep the data center operational. At its optimum, the process actually prevents problems from happening in the first place through a combination of business and operational intelligence, gained by a constant collection of data.

IBM is now including many of these features in its new z System mainframes as well as its WebSphere servers.

-Intel is testing low-power, self-sustaining sensors that can gather and record data on weather and other environmental conditions and larger sensors with transmitting devices that can help monitor and run data centers. This type of automation will help IT managers control conditions in their data centers and let them handle pressing issues other than power and cooling.

Chris Preimesberger Chris Preimesberger was named Editor-in-Chief of Features & Analysis at eWEEK in November 2011. Previously he served eWEEK as Senior Writer, covering a range of IT sectors that include data center systems, cloud computing, storage, virtualization, green IT, e-discovery and IT governance. His blog, Storage Station, is considered a go-to information source. Chris won a national Folio Award for magazine writing in November 2011 for a cover story on and CEO-founder Marc Benioff, and he has served as a judge for the SIIA Codie Awards since 2005. In previous IT journalism, Chris was a founding editor of both IT Manager's Journal and and was managing editor of Software Development magazine. His diverse resume also includes: sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News, covering NCAA and NBA basketball, television critic for the Palo Alto Times Tribune, and Sports Information Director at Stanford University. He has served as a correspondent for The Associated Press, covering Stanford and NCAA tournament basketball, since 1983. He has covered a number of major events, including the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a Presidential press conference at the White House in 1993, the Emmy Awards (three times), two Rose Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl, several NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, a Formula One Grand Prix auto race, a heavyweight boxing championship bout (Ali vs. Spinks, 1978), and the 1985 Super Bowl. A 1975 graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., Chris has won more than a dozen regional and national awards for his work. He and his wife, Rebecca, have four children and reside in Redwood City, Calif.Follow on Twitter: editingwhiz

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