HP Enhances Automation Tools for Virtualization Projects

HP is adding new features to its Business Service Automation software suite to give IT departments more tools for managing their virtualization technologies. HP officials said virtualization and automation technologies are key tools for IT staffs that are under pressure to improve performance while cutting budgets. The benefits of virtualization can't be realized without better automation tools, HP officials said. A survey of CIOs by Unisys backed up that point of view, and other vendors, including Network Automation, are coming out with similar functionalities in their automation offerings.

Hewlett-Packard is enhancing its business automation software suite in hopes of making it easier for enterprises to manage their virtualized environments.

HP on April 8 unveiled new features to its BSA (Business Service Automation) suite that touch upon the vendor-s Storage Essentials and Operations Orchestration offerings.

In addition, HP also launched BSA Essentials, which is an online community and subscription services designed to help customers get the most out of the BSA software and to be able to talk with other BSA users.

The software enhancements focus around virtualization and come at a time when the technology is migrating its way from test and development projects and into production environments.

While virtualization offers such benefits as enabling businesses to reduce hardware acquisition, power, cooling and space costs, it also adds a layer of complexity in areas such as management and security, John Bennett, worldwide lead for HP's Data Center Transformation Solutions group, said April 7 during a three-hour meeting between HP executives and journalists.

As IT departments feel increased pressure to reduce costs and streamline operations, more are turning to virtualization, Bennett said. However, the added complexity of managing rapidly growing virtual environments is increasing the need for better automation tools, he said.

"The economic crisis has forced organizations around the world [to look] at ways to cut costs very, very quickly," Bennett said.

Virtualization and automation technologies will be key to helping IT departments cut those costs while still delivering results to the business, he said.

Glenn O'Donnell, an analyst with Forrester Research, agreed. Clients are telling him they need to find ways fast to meet the demand of doing more with less, O'Donnell said at the HP meeting. Virtualization is an obvious technology choice, but it won't work well if automation isn't included.

"Automation is not just technology," he said. "It's applied technology, applied to the process. ... We need to maximize the productivity of our technology because that is the mandate of 2009. What's happening is that we're being forced to do things that we should've been doing all the time."

Better use of virtualization and automation technology will force IT departments to become more efficient, O'Donnell said. High-priced talent should not be used to do mundane, routine tasks. Instead they should be focused on innovation, which is what automation software will enable them to do, he said.

Automation technology is getting its share of attention in the IT space. According to a survey if IT executives released April 7 by Unisys, CIOs are looking to invest more in ways to manage IT and to help IT align itself with the business side of their company, a trend driven primarily by the demand to reduce operating costs and increase business agility.

In companies where IT has a leading role, 56 percent of those surveyed said virtualization was the top area targeted for innovation, followed closely by business process automation, at 52 percent.

Also on April 8, Network Automation announced a series of enhancements to its AutoMate BPA (Business Process Automation) Server that will enable users to use Web services in automation routines without having to script. In addition, the enhancements to AutoMate BPA Server 7.0.8 will automatically create, modify or delete Microsoft Outlook objects-including calendar and contact entries-bases on pre-set event triggers, and will build automation workflows for groups of agent machines, which will speed up workflow assembly for systems that do the same tasks.

For HP, the upgrades to HP Storage Essentials will enable IT departments to discover and map VMware hosts to storage and SAN (storage area network) dependencies, letting administrators remove storage from virtual machines that aren't being fully utilized and making that storage capacity available somewhere else. In addition, the software will now automatically provision storage to a VMware hypervisor or guest OS, and-through greater integration with Operations Orchestration and across the entire HP BSA suite-will offer automated change execution across application, server and storage domains.

The enhancements to HP Operations Orchestration software includes the ability to provision or repurpose additional servers and storage capacity without any downtime, cut down virtual server deployment time from hours to minutes, and-though new integration with VMware Virtual Infrastructure, Citrix Systems' XenServer and Microsoft Hyper-V technology-manage heterogeneous virtualization technologies.

The HP BSA Essentials offering includes a subscription service that will give users access to security alerts and updates to regulation policy templates for compliance auditing, and-through the BSA Essentials Community-enable customers to communicate with HP and each other to find updated product information, share best practices and get new information from the vendor, HP officials said.