Opalis Brings Automation to Cloud Computing

Opalis Software is rolling out Version 6 of its namesake Opalis IT automation platform, complete with upgrades designed to automate such tasks as configuration, provisioning, orchestration and decommissioning in cloud computing environments. Opalis officials say while virtualization has fueled the development of cloud computing, the combination with event-based automation capabilities will help drive adoption. The move by Opalis comes at a time when major players such as Cisco and HP are making pushes into the space.

Opalis Software is bringing cloud computing capabilities to its namesake IT automation platform.

In Opalis v6.0, announced March 24, Opalis is offering IT integration, orchestration and automation for heterogeneous cloud computing environments and both private and public clouds. In addition, the new capabilities integrate with what Opalis already offers in its traditional process automation space.

Having such automated processes is a key step forward in the growth of cloud computing environments, said Opalis CTO Charles Crouchman. The industry has been talking about the idea of utility computing for more than a decade, and the first major step in that direction was virtualization technology, Crouchman said.

IT automation for cloud computing environments is the next key development.

"Automation is what takes virtualization and turns it into a cloud," Crouchman said. "Take the base of virtualization and layer automation on it, and now you've got something."

HP and Dell respond to Cisco's data center ambitions.

If you look at cloud computing as essentially infrastructure as a service-in which businesses can carve out chunks of computing capacity as needed, based on demand-then that needs to be done in a dynamic environment where such tasks as configuration, reconfiguration, provisioning, orchestration and decommissioning can be automated and event-driven, Crouchman said. Opalis is offering that capability in Opalis v6, he said.

Opalis' move comes as the buzz about cloud computing continues to grow. In a statement released March 6, research company IDC said cloud computing is more than hype, and that global spending on cloud services will grow to $42 billion by 2012, with a key driver being the need to cut IT costs.

Crouchman agreed.

"The thing about cloud computing is that it's not just the vendors who are getting excited," he said. "It has the potential to be an economic game-changer for enterprises and service providers."

Crouchman also sees the adoption of cloud computing following the same arc as that of virtualization: with midsized enterprises first adopting it to help cut costs, and then with larger enterprises using the technology in test and development environments. Wider adoption will follow, he said.

However, research company Gartner warned in September 2008 that cloud computing was being defined in myriad ways by vendors and the contrasting views were causing some confusion among potential customers. One primary definition centered on a SAAS (software as a service) perspective, and another on infrastructure and virtualization, although Gartner analysts said both definitions are essentially related.

Cloud features in Opalis v6 include Cloud Objects, which is a collection of prepackaged, out-of-the-box objects for creating, provisioning, decommissioning, backing up and restoring services offered from the cloud. In addition, the Quick Integration Kit offers a way to integrate, orchestrate and automate an application in the cloud and in the enterprise.

Using Cloud Release Management, businesses can migrate workflows across physical, virtual and cloud infrastructures, and from test to development. Dynamic provisioning enables businesses to automatically determine cloud capacity based on demand or other triggering events. In addition, using Opalis v6 gives businesses a script-free way to integrate processes, which speeds up the time needed to implement cloud environments.

The enhanced capabilities also let enterprises easily move between public and private clouds, Opalis said, which is important as enterprises create private clouds within their own data centers. The platform enables businesses to run key applications in the data center, but automatically tap into public clouds, such as those of Amazon.com and Google, to handle peak demands. It also lets businesses run their applications in the data center but automatically fail over to public or private clouds in the case of a disaster.

Crouchman said Opalis in some ways is competing with those vendors that it always has competed with, such as Hewlett-Packard and BMC Software. However, it wasn't until Cisco Systems unveiled its Unified Computing System March 16 that another vendor first broached the idea of deeply involving IT automation in the process, he said.