Racing Toward Cloud Automation

Cloud computing is coming on so quickly and it represents such a vast expansion of data center resources and capabilities that traditional data center management firms are scrambling over themselves to upgrade their automation platforms for the new environment.

A case in point is CA, which this week bought out 3Tera to get hold of the AppLogic cloud management system and a small but growing base of cloud service providers. CA already has a fairly advanced set of cloud automation systems, including the home-grown Spectrum Automation Manager and various tools from other recent acquisitions such as Cassatt and Oblicore. But with 3Tera on board, the company is getting awfully close to a soup-to-nuts management stack — one that would guide users through the initial phases of cloud computing and then become a full-service management suite as resources grow and the overall data center environment becomes much more complex.

At the moment, it appears the AppLogic system will remain largely intact, although it will likely be folded into the larger Spectrum platform. Word is that CA also intends to expand hypervisor support beyond the Xen platform where it has comfortably resided and into VMware and Hyper-V environments. Not only would that broaden the customer base, it also gives CA an edge for the next phase of cloud deployments in which data centers are likely to experiment with mixed environments.

Naturally, CA is not alone in its pursuit of cloud automation. Smaller companies like LineSider Technologies see the cloud as an opportunity to gain headway in a field long dominated by larger organizations. This week, the company unveiled the OverDrive Virtual Cloud Orchestration Management (vCom) platform tailored toward private clouds. The system features a simplified GUI that offers automation and coordination tools designed to align logical and physical resources into a single dynamic environment.

Of course, it’s not like the big guys are sitting this one out either. One of the biggest, IBM, just laid out an entirely new products and services strategy aimed at tightening the coordination between physical and virtual assets and bringing them all under the realm of a single integrated service management portfolio. Much of it will center around the Tivoli Open Process Automation Library (OPAL), with various modules tailored to specific industries like aerospace and health care. IBM’s GM of system software, Helene Armitage, pegs automation and integration as the key support service as data center environments become more complex.

The irony in all this is that, in many ways, virtualization and cloud have actually improved management capabilities at most enterprises. As anyone who has spent a lifetime overseeing physical resources and manually provisioning servers, storage and network components will tell you, the shift to abstract logical environments is like a dream.

But this is only the beginning of cloud computing. As more and more users start to take advantage of the new environment, managing those ethereal devices to ensure demand does not begin to hamper availability will be the primary challenge. And that will require a whole new level of management sophistication than we’ve had in the past.

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