Opsware Injects Automation into Data Center

Opsware expands offerings three days before Hewlett-Packard plans to close the deal to buy the company.

Data center provisioning provider Opsware is adding a much needed level of automation into the next major version of its server, network and now storage provisioning suite.

Three days before Hewlett-Packard closes the deal to buy the company, Opsware at its Opsworld user conference in San Diego on Sept. 18 completed its data center provisioning suite with full infrastructure coverage, an application level view on top and the ability to report and show historical trending across all infrastructure elements thanks to its OMDB (operational management database).

The new Opsware System 7 suite integrates the run book automation technology Opsware acquired with its iConclude purchase, and it completes the mix of infrastructure technologies the company supports with the addition of multivendor storage provisioning acquired with Creekpath Systems.

With the integration of the iConclude Process Automation System into the suite, Opsware has "made every product we have process aware," said Opsware Chief Technology Officer Tim Howes. Opsware System 7 includes sample workflows for complex IT workflows.

For example, one sample workflow includes the steps involved in provisioning a virtual machine, where the physical server is provisioned, virtualization software installed, virtual machines created, operating system and required patches installed, application installed, server added into the load balancing rotation, and monitoring set up for the new virtualized environment.


Read more here about HPs planned acquisition of Opsware.

"As the infrastructure gets more complex and diverse, making any single change is more complicated," said Howes.

The process automation reduces that complexity, as well as the complexity of working with the core Opsware product, said Jean Pierre Garbani, an analyst with Forrester Research.

"The core products werent easy to use and that has been an obstacle for many clients. So automation is a welcome element there," Garbani said.

"[Beyond that,] some form of automation is needed in IT. Were spending 70 percent of the IT budget maintaining and supporting [applications and infrastructure] and most of it is human costs. Were throwing more human resources at the problem than we are hardware or software resources. Automation will make the world more accurate and precise and relieve the burden on IT administrators."

The sample workflows are based on IT Infrastructure Library Version 3 processes. They take the guesswork out of how to map ITIL process recommendations into actual workflows, said Jason Rosenthal, senior vice president and general manager of server automation products for Opsware, in Sunnyvale, Calif.

"ITIL has a nice framework for what a process should be, but there is lot left unsaid. We encoded the steps needed to achieve ITIL compliance into workflows we ship with the system," he said.

Opsware System 7s new storage automation system, built on top of technologies acquired with Creekpath and integrated with Opswares server and network provisioning technologies, rounds out the infrastructure elements the software manages.

With the new storage automation component, Opsware is claiming a couple of firsts, including the first product to provide "application-to-spindle visibility into storage and the first product to provide a global view of storage, no matter where it is located," said Howes.

"If youre responsible for a set of servers in a given business application, never before was it possible to know where the files live that those servers are accessing for applications. The trick in the storage business is that people have one of everything, so you have to talk to a lot of [the different vendors devices]. Creekpath invested a lot in the underlying infrastructure to communicate with a broad library of storage devices."

The enhanced Application Visualization Manager in the Opsware System 7 suite allows users to model and view a complete business application, spanning the application, physical and virtual servers, storage and network equipment.

"You can visualize the change and interdependencies and make changes where needed," said Howes, who added that the Application Visualization Manager is "a logical place for us to work together [with the HP Mercury Interactive Business Availability Centers business service views]. So you can have closed loop monitoring and configuration management around an entire business service."

The Application Visualization Manager also allows users to launch automation tasks in context and visualize configuration changes across saved snapshots.

The suite, which also simplifies compliance across all infrastructure elements and includes a new scripting interface, is made up of Server Automation System 7, Network Automation System 7, Process Automation System 7, the new Application Storage Automation System, Visual Application Manager 7 and the OMDB.

It is due early in the fourth quarter of 2007.


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