Data centre automation sounds like it ought to be simple enough to discuss, but first we have to decide on what we mean by a data centre. When I was a lad(!) it was obviously a mainframe sitting there with lots of DASD around it and some sort of front end for the communications. Nowadays, we could be talking mainframe, a mixture of mid-range boxes, and an always-up network allowing users to work from their browsers on the data. Although that makes things a bit more complicated, luckily, mainframe automation really got going as long ago as the late 1980s.
Back in 1992 I had a book published called, "ASO – Automated Systems Operations for MVS". And by then most organizations knew they needed to automate and were well on the way to doing so. Sites were using MPF (Message Processing Facility) to suppress messages, automated tape libraries were used to eliminate tape mounts – or the files were stored on disk. Suites of jobs no longer needed an operator to reply "yes" if some hash totals were correct so the next job in the sequence could start. In fact, the aim was to have the computer suite run by a man and his dog rather than the large number of operators previously employed. And the only answerable message that would come up on the screen would say, "Now feed the dog"!
As well as the mainframe, it was necessary to automate the network – starting, stopping, recovering, and monitoring. On the mainframe, back-ups and restores could be automated, and files could be migrated automatically. It even became possible to monitor the automation from a PC at home.
And then everything changed. It became necessary to look after files that were on Unix boxes or PCs. The world of distributed computing then became the responsibility of the IT department. And all the things that had been learned on the mainframe had to be relearned by users of these distributed systems. Everyone knew back-ups were a good thing, but no-one bothered until after they’d actually lost all their work, etc, etc.
And now, where are we with automation? Well we have autonomic computing – IBM’s term for self-fixing software. The software will manage the amount of a resource that is available depending on the current and the anticipated workload. It will manage the system based on policies that have been given to it. Asset management and capacity management are clearly understood concepts and are built into the software. Even change management is now automated, although with compliance issues and regulatory changes, it can be important to ensure the policies the software is working to are up-to-date and legal.
Recently announced was IBM’s new Tivoli Service Management Center for System z – part of the Service Management portfolio – which automates the management of mainframes and distributed environments. Using policies, it provides incident, problem, change, release, discovery, and business service management. The use of policies means that IT performance is linked to business goals, with the added benefits of lowering costs, and ensuring the system is secure and compliant with regulations.
The software includes IBM Tivoli Change and Configuration Management Database, IBM Tivoli Application Dependency Discovery Manager, IBM Tivoli Business Service Manager, IBM Tivoli Service Request Manager and IBM Tivoli Enterprise Portal. This software is combined with process automation best practices, based on the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL).
Users get a single view of critical applications hosted on their mainframes, discovering, controlling, and showing the linkages between IT assets and business applications, then enabling them to monitor the overall service delivery provided by IT in support of business objectives. The views can be customized for application mapping, relationship discovery, business services, services requests, finance, security, IT production, support, and operational control.
Last summer, HP bought Opsware to beef up its data centre automation products, and is now talking about "Data Center as a service". More recently, BMC, which has MAINVIEW AutoOperator and other products in its automation suite, bought Bladelogic, which specializes in automating data centres.
It seems data centre automation is still an exciting space to be in.