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What organizations are best-suited for VM automation?

Automating VMs isn't universally beneficial. Determine whether your organization needs mass production of VMs before deploying automation tools or platforms.

Evaluate the limitations and needs of your organization to decide whether VM automation is worth the investmen...

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Automation is generally beneficial, but it's not required for the proper operation of VMs or a virtual environment. VM automation typically shines when it adds the benefits of speed and consistency to VM creation and management. VM automation might be less useful or may be cost-ineffective when you can't readily realize those benefits, however.

The primary challenge with automation is that it's hardly automatic. Automation works because it maps tangible actions to meaningful workflows.

Consequently, successful automation depends on careful forethought. You must invest time and effort to establish policies and craft a suite of scripts, templates and other mechanics to actually implement those policies as automated actions.

Limitations of VM automation

As with any mass production effort, VM automation works best when it's churning out a lot of identical things. For example, a business that needs to quickly create and manage a large number of identical VMs will usually benefit from an investment in automation.

By comparison, a business that needs to create a small number of VMs every so often might not be able to justify the work necessary to set up automation. This has nothing to do with the size of the business; it's a matter of VM volume.

A business that expects to stipulate the precise resources and configuration of each unique VM will have a difficult time implementing VM automation.

Similarly, VM automation doesn't accommodate individual customization well. It's certainly possible to create multiple workflows to achieve a limited menu of selectable results. For example, a business can create three workflows to support a small, medium and large VM as desired.

A business that expects to stipulate the precise resources and configuration of each unique VM will have a difficult time implementing VM automation. Creating automation mechanics for various VM types and sizes can quickly become unmanageable.

VM automation isn't static, and organizations must make periodic investments in re-evaluating, updating and changing automation scripts, templates and other mechanics to reflect changes in business policies and technology requirements. For example, a business might adjust VM snapshots and retention policies to meet changing regulatory demands. This may require changes to existing automation mechanisms or the creation of new ones.

Even though automation can potentially create or support any VM, consider whether the benefits of VM automation outweigh the investment. Businesses that only use a few VMs or that tailor bespoke VMs might not reap the same rewards as businesses that create a lot of identical VMs.

This was last published in October 2018

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