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In previous blogs we looked at how Hitachi Automation Director (HAD) reduces the effort the and risk required to execute IT operational tasks. In this blog, we will explore some of the advanced features of HAD that deliver greater value to IT Organizations; features which include: Smart Provisioning of storage, Hitachi Infrastructure Analytics Advisor (HIAA) integration and HAD integration with 3rd party IT Service Management (ITSM) tools from vendors such as Service Now.

Smart Provisioning. Provisioning is a time consuming and tedious task, which is made more complex when different classes of storage are deployed within a datacenter. By not storing all data onto the highest performance class of storage, costs can be dramatically reduced. Less critical applications can store their data onto less costly, tier two or tier three storage. HAD smart provisioning intelligently matches application storage requirements against specific storage tiers. Aside from significantly reducing the number of steps to provision storage, smart provisioning assures that the storage is provisioned for an application based on performance and availability needs. Hitachi Vantara customers have reduced the amount of time to provision storage by as much as 90% reducing what took over a day to under one hour. Also, since the provisioning process is fully automated, the chance for human error that can result in an outage for an already running application is reduced to zero.       

With smart provisioning, a storage request is matched against a service catalog that identifies, based on best practices, the best allocation of storage for a specific application. To accomplish this, HAD includes default storage profiles that range from bronze (internal and external SATA) up to ultimate (SSD and Flash Module Device) and pre-set these for major application types within HAD out of the box. For instance, Oracle database data is assigned to Gold/Write (SAS 15K) whereas an Oracle database archive is assigned to Bronze.    

And smart provisioning extends beyond storage into the SAN network. HAD will identify the network paths that are available, and the availability characteristics for each zone. This assures that the correct network zoning is chosen during the provisioning process to meet application requirements.

The result of smart provisioning is the most cost-efficient provisioning of storage that also meets specific application needs.

HAD is fully integrated with Hitachi’s Infrastructure Analytics Advisor (HIAA) a powerful tool that collects telemetric across the entire IT stack, determining root cause and a prescribed solution to a potential or existing problem.

This integration simplifies and unifies the monitoring of telemetric data and solution completion, freeing up IT staff from manually monitoring infrastructure and correcting problems. The automated approach is accomplished by HIAA using the REST API to call services created in HAD that are developed to solve specific issues. Here is a use case of this integration in action.

  • Automated VM Datastore Expansion: In this use case example, HIAA provides the monitoring of VM datastores. In the event a datastore reaches a pre-defined limit, say 90% full, HIAA calls HAD and additional capacity is automatically added before any issues arise. Storage Administrators do not have to constantly monitor storage consumption and worry about running out of capacity.

HAD can also be integrated with ServiceNow, a popular ticketing service that optimizes business workflows and creating a more stable IT environment. Daily operations and actions for incidents or tasks are open and tracked as a ticket under ServiceNow, with the ticket being assigned and tracked until the ticket is closed. ServiceNow increases the effectiveness of managing tickets, but the separation of infrastructure operations from IT service management can actually increase effort and provide another opportunity for error. A task such as a storage provisioning still requires multiple tools, with many steps that can also translate into errors.

Once HAD is integrated with ServiceNow, the number of steps for a task such as allocating volumes is reduced to just six.

  1. IT / application administrator logs in to the ServiceNow request provisioning of new storage.
  2. ServiceNow administrator logs into the ServiceNow portal to review requests.
  3. ServiceNow administrator identifies and approves request.
  4. IT / application administrator receives notice that the request has been approved and is underway. In this image, it is a provisioning of a new VMware environment protected by GAD.
  5. From the HAD interface you can see (at right) that provisioning processes are running. Check marks indicate completed workflow steps.
  6. User gets email notification on completion of the Service Request

All the steps for LUN creation, mapping host settings, switch zoning, and host allocation, mounting the LUN and creating a filesystem can all happen automatically, with a significant reduction in time, effort and risk of errors.    

There is an effort required upfront in the integration of ServiceNow and HAD, with a need to create the desired service templates. Once this initial work is done, the process for allocating volumes (or other desired workflows) is greatly reduced, and the templates may be leveraged as often as required. Hitachi professional services has extensive experience with this integration and can help with the initial service templates that are required.

Stay tuned for additional blogs on how Hitachi Vantara can help achieve tactical and strategic IT initiatives.

In previous blogs we looked at the challenges of data center operations and how Hitachi Automation Director can reduce the overall effort required. In this blog, we will look at how HAD simplifies and reduces risk in one of most frequent operational tasks that data center staff are required to perform. The provisioning of storage.

A storage provisioning request typically originates from a business unit that needs to deploy a new application. The provisioning of storage is a long and complicated process that consists of many steps, requiring significant time and the consumption of multiple IT staff. These provisioning steps are also tedious, leaving the process open to human error that can result in everything from application performance issues to costly data loss.

The number of steps in manually provisioning storage can exceed twenty in a VMware environment when new Datastores are required. It is not unusual for the entire process to take up to twenty-five hours. Depending on the number of provisioning requests per month, IT’s need to meet storage requests can consume a significant portion of administrative resources.

The situation leaves IT with a choice, fall behind on delivering capacity needed to roll out new business applications or take skilled staff away from focusing on strategic data center objectives. The Hitachi Automation Director software (HAD) significantly reduces the number of steps required to provision storage, saving time, reducing risk and enabling IT to also focus on the future. A customer leveraging HAD for provisioning reduced the time required from twenty hours to under an hour. The number of steps were reduced from twenty to six, also lowering the risk of keystroke mistakes.

HAD comes with pre-packaged workflow templates to cover basic provisioning tasks. A list of these HAD built in service templates can be found at https://community.hitachivantara.com/docs/DOC-1011786-list-of-hitachi-automation-director-built-in-service-templatesdocx. New or customized services will need to be setup to meet individual data center best practices. For instance, there can be separate services created for the core database versus database logs. Once this initial setup is complete, the number of steps required to run the service and provision storage is greatly reduced.

  • Log onto Hitachi Automation Director.
  • Confirm connectivity to server.
  • Select the pre-defined service that matches your need.
  • Review service parameters such as when to run the task.
  • Submit service

Following submission, one can choose to be notified when the task has been completed.

HAD services can also consolidate multiple tasks. Provisioning can be linked to data protection, network zoning and VM creation into a single service to further reduce time and the risk of errors.

Stay tuned for additional blogs on how Hitachi Automation Director frees IT staff to drive the tactical and strategic initiatives to grow the business. In the next blog, we will look at the advanced for features of HAD. 

IT Automation for Data Center Modernization

With the continued shift towards digital transformation, businesses are no longer viewing IT as a cost center, but as a strategic component that focuses on initiatives geared towards increasing market share and competitive differentiation. As I speak with IT professionals, they share a similar and significant challenge. Data center IT operations seem to be stuck in the past, subject to the same lengthy, tedious tasks and exposure to risk.

IT operations consist of the continuous management and maintenance of the data center and according to IDC survey data, consume up to 45% of IT administrative resources. How can an organization meet the necessary but arduous task of IT operations yet still drive business growth and strategize on innovation?      

In my first blog, I explored the benefits of IT automation, and how it could benefit IT organizations by reducing effort and lowering risk. A true IT automation solution reduces the human touch required to gain insight and execute essential but repetitive storage management tasks.

There was a list of requirements in that blog that are mentioned that an IT automation product should meet if it is going to be effective across the data center. Hitachi Vantara has been a pioneer in intelligent IT operations and has a history of complimenting excellent storage solutions with cutting edge analytics and automation software. Hitachi Automation Director (HAD) is Hitachi Vantara’s current IT automation software. Let’s revisit those blog requirements and see how HAD stacks up.

Tight integration with a best in class analytic product determines root cause and prescribes action for the entire stack.

HAD is fully integrated with Hitachi’s Infrastructure Analytics Advisor (HIAA), a powerful tool that collects telemetric across the entire IT stack, determining root cause and a prescribed solution that HAD can automatically act upon. Tight integration of HAD and HIAA simplifies and unifies monitoring of telemetric data and the automation of task completion

Single automation product that works across the entire IT stack including storage, the hypervisor, data protection, and the network layer.

By reaching beyond storage, into the system stack, HAD delivers a homogeneous approach to automation, eliminating silos of different tools that must be used to orchestrate operational solutions. The result is consistent, reduced operational effort from storage to the hypervisor. ESG research shows that 64% of organizations would prefer to consolidate on a single overarching management suite from a single vendor.  

Pre-packaged workflow policies to get off the ground fast that can be customizable to meet individual data center needs.

The building blocks of HAD are pre-packaged automation workflows known as service templates that enable users to get value from HAD as quickly as possible. A list of these HAD built in service templates can be found at https://community.hitachivantara.com/docs/DOC-1011786-list-of-hitachi-automation-director-built-in-service-templatesdocx. Each data center is different with unique best practices and the HAD pre-packaged workflow templates are customizable you build your own to simplify tasks.

Robust REST API capabilities to extend the value of automation.

Hitachi Vantara’s HAD, HIAA, HDID (Hitachi Data Instance Director) and HAS (Hitachi Data Instance Director) have all aligned onto a common set of REST APIs. This enables a unified management framework that simplifies overall administration. These APIs can also enable HAD to integrate with 3rd party ITSM (IT Service management) platforms such as ServiceNow.

Stay tuned for additional blogs on how Hitachi Automation Director frees IT staff to drive the tactical and strategic initiatives to grow the business. Next, we will look at storage provisioning to see how using HAD can significantly reduce provisioning time and effort.  

Most companies consider data their most valuable asset. Data is now key in growing revenue, enabling businesses to differentiate themselves and to maintain a competitive advantage. With this rise of this data economy, companies are amassing tremendous volumes of data, while deploying ever more applications to leverage it. This keeps IT staff consumed by handling a growing number of business unit requests while developing data strategies to drive business growth. Legacy infrastructure can no longer address this new environment, and new solutions coupled with the increased growth is needed to maximize data value.  

IT is also responsible for infrastructure management and provisioning, commonly referred to as operations. Provisioning storage, configuring Virtual Machines, SAN orchestration and setting up and executing data protection services are just some of these operational tasks. The effort required for these task increases with the volume of data, consuming up to 45% of IT staff time. These are usually unplanned tasks, robbing IT of focus and the human resources needed on data center optimization.

Elements of operations such as provisioning consist of manual, repetitive tasks that are extremely labor intensive to accomplish. Being tedious, these tasks are vulnerable to human mistakes. These mistakes can result in critical outages, unsatisfactory performance, and increased cost, lowering customer satisfaction and potentially damaging the corporate brand.

Operations automation represent a significant opportunity to address these challenges. The number of steps and effort required to execute these tedious tasks can be drastically reduced, enabling IT staff to spend more time on achieving business objectives while lowering risk. However, all automation solutions are not created equal.

There are several requirements for an automation solution to be effective.

  • Tight integration with a best in class analytic product that monitors, determines root cause and prescribes action for the entire stack, converting insight into action.
  • A single automation product that works across the entire IT stack including storage, the hypervisor, applications, and the network layer.
  • Pre-packaged workflow policies to get off the ground fast that can be customizable to meet individual data center needs.
  • Robust REST API capabilities to extend the value of automation.

This is the first blog in a series relating to IT operations automation and where Hitachi Vantara can help. In future blogs, we will explore Hitachi Vantara’s Automation Director (HAD), and how it simplifies the end-to-end storage provisioning process for storage and data center administrators.