IT process automation and automated performance monitoring

IT process automation is the foundation of an automated virtual infrastructure. You can improve server automation by linking simple tasks such as VM provisioning and configuration.

Virtualization automation and workflow orchestration begin with basic IT process automation.

For starters, you can automate virtual machine (VM) startup, failover, configuration and provisioning with a variety of server automation tools. From there, you should also invest in automated performance monitoring tools. And if you have an automated virtual infrastructure that’s ready for self-provisioning features, cloud automation provides advanced benefits.

The resources in this section of our task automation and workflow orchestration guide explain how IT process automation can make performance monitoring more efficient and effective.

IT process automation and performance monitoring
Virtualization is a big step for many data centers, and admins may find themselves in over their heads with manual management tasks. Tools for automating IT processes can help by connecting individual tasks together and orchestrating them into a complete workflow. Automating VM provisioning is one of the easiest ways to cut down on manual management.

Server automation: Nice to have or need to have?
Server automation tools, such as Cisco’s Unified Computing System Manager and Hewlett-Packard’s Server Automation software, allow administrators to automate provisioning, patching and configuration management. Creating templates and service profiles are especially helpful for server automation, including configuration and cluster management. But first, you need to decide whether your infrastructure needs virtualization automation, depending on its size and maturity.

Automating virtual performance monitoring
Automating performance monitoring is a great way to ensure that your VMs are up to snuff. But monitoring availability can be particularly tricky, especially if you try to use homegrown scripts or manual monitoring. But with automated virtual performance monitoring tools, you can locate, identify and get insight into physical servers, virtual hosts, VMs and applications.

Performance monitoring tools can also provide server and application metrics and real-time analytics. Most importantly, your automation tools should use workflow orchestration to bring all these tasks into a single view that integrates visualization, event correlation, detailed reporting and predictive alerting.

Automating Windows OS deployment in virtual infrastructures
Yes, you can even apply IT process automation to your operating system deployments in a virtual infrastructure. Some common methods involve templates or open source deployment software, but you can also try the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit. This Windows OS deployment tool provides a fully automated or partially automated deployment, depending on your preference. Plus, you can easily add drivers or applications to the deployment on the fly -- with flexible option selections and scripting -- for any install you want. It’s also fairly easy to create your own scripting sequences for automatic physical and virtual OS deployment.

Practical steps for building an internal cloud
Workflow orchestration tools provide server automation for provisioning and decommissioning, change control enforcement, VM startup or failover following an outage, VM workload rebalancing or VM resizing, and powering down unneeded physical resources. These workflow orchestration tools tie numerous processes together to automate tasks -- an important step for building an internal cloud.

Automation integration hurdles from virtualization to the cloud
Creating a virtual infrastructure that’s suitable for automation is problematic for many enterprises. Implementing cloud automation often isn’t any easier. Server automation tools are still maturing, and it’s especially difficult to find a solid automated data-collection tool that can also automate data coordination for faster troubleshooting. Chargeback can also be difficult to fit into existing corporate policies, so all specialized IT and business groups need to work together.

This was first published in August 2011

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