When Henry Ford installed the first conveyor belt-based assembly line in 1913, the car industry was forever changed. Enabled by this streamlined process, Ford workers could assemble the famous Model T in just 93 minutes - a dramatic improvement over previous production methods, which took almost 3 days to assemble one car. In addition, Ford only offered the Model T in one color - black, invoking a theme of consistency and standardization very early on in the industrial era.
Nearly 100 years later, enterprise data centers are on the verge of experiencing their own version of the automotive revolution. IT managers are tasked with effectively managing the infrastructure while addressing several operational challenges that contribute to inefficiencies in the data center. Many of these challenges can be traced to the following three factors confronting IT today:
Stringent availability requirements overlaid with always-on expectations. The bulk of the business world is carrying around a BlackBerry, Treo or some other handheld device that gives them the ability to respond to requests instantaneously. This created an expectation that everything must be available all the time, and that expectation has been passed on to IT infrastructure availability requirements. Its the pace of the world that we live in today. More importantly, the value of information to the business has increased dramatically, as well as the sheer number of transactions processed. Consequently, the cost of downtime has skyrocketed and service level agreements (SLAs) have risen in stride to keep pace. This has further pressured IT to minimize downtime and drive efficiency wherever possible.
An increase in data center complexity. Over the years, the IT environment has become more complex due to the growing number of multitier applications, heterogeneous platform environments and the introduction of virtualization. Simply put, there are more moving parts in the data center, and its become increasingly difficult for IT managers to get their arms around the complexity and manage it effectively. They lack the visibility of what is running in the environment and how its all tied together. This lack of visibility has also increased change-related downtime and overall business risk and has decreased ITs ability to implement changes rapidly and respond to the business.
Tight resource constraints that hold IT budgets and headcount flat. Large-scale enterprises have demanded that IT evolve from a traditional cost center to a source of strategic and competitive advantage that is cost-efficient and dynamic. This do more with less mandate has forced IT to rethink its approach to management and look to methods for optimizing its operations across the infrastructure.
Within these facts lies the challenge of managing todays enterprise data centers, which is driving IT organizations to look to the assembly lines of traditional manufacturing to apply three key principles: first, keep the assembly line running at all costs; second, identify and automate high-volume repetitive tasks; and third, leverage the resulting innovation to increase productivity. In short, drive higher availability, automate IT processes, and leverage the staff and infrastructure utilization. Data center automation enables IT management to automate labor-intensive data center tasks, with the goal to enhance visibility and control, reduce errors, increase service levels and drive down cost. IT departments that do not take advantage of innovative data center automation (DCA) solutions will continue to struggle with operational inefficiency and find themselves on a collision course with chaos.
Strategic Challenges in Addressing Data Center Complexity
As data centers have coped with intensifying pressure to manage more infrastructure with less resources, a number of potential, nonautomated strategies have arisen delivering some significant benefits, but they are not without costs.