Paula Phipps

Infrastructure Automation: A Piece of Cake

Blog Post created by Paula Phipps Employee on Apr 28, 2015

In a recent post I blogged about Software-Defined Infrastructure and suggested there are three major themes when designing a Software-Defined Infrastructure: Automation for simplicity, Access to more data for insight and Abstraction for agility. Today, as Hitachi announces advancements in Software-Defined infrastructure, I’m blogging about infrastructure automation.


In a new IDC White Paper, sponsored by Hitachi Data Systems, Research Director, Storage, Eric Burgener writes, “Increased automation is required to enable administrators to simultaneously deal with data growth, SLOs, and continuing just to "keep the lights on" in a massively scalable data center environment that is becoming increasingly heterogeneous.”*


I have a cake analogy that I like to use. I’m an expert baker (ok, maybe pretty good is a better description) and every year at the holidays, I bake my family their favorite cake from scratch; they love it, and I enjoy doing it. But most of the time, I’m busy with life’s responsibilities. So, when my family craves cake, I go to the grocery store and choose a cake mix and a container of icing in the flavor we want (the right kit for the right “application”). Then, there are those situations where it makes the most sense to go online and simply order a cake from the bakery and I’m done (i.e. self-service).


Automation does two things well; it reduces risk and repetition. The business value is in saving both time and money, compelling to any business. It reduces risk by eliminating the opportunity for human error. Even the most fastidious of administrators are human (although given the criticality of their role, super-human might be a better description), and given the number of hours they spend managing infrastructure, the occasional errant command is inevitable. According to a survey by 451 Research, 39% of storage outages are caused by human error. If automation can reduce this statistic, savings can be realized. A survey from the Ponemon Institute in 2013, puts the average cost of data center downtime across industries at approximately $7,900 per minute. (A 41 percent increase from the $5,600 in 2010.)  You can do the math; the costs are staggering.


The same 451 Research survey found that 29% of time is spent on lower-value administration and provisioning. Repetition can be all but eliminated using time-based or event-based automation, reducing time spent on lower-value infrastructure details and tedious tasks.


Infrastructure automation can be segmented into several “categories.“ Guided workflows provide recommendations based on known best practices. Policy-based automation uses settings and scripts to react to events or anomalies and APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) allow programmatic control over your environment. Pre-defined templates for provisioning based on specific workload types is yet another form of automation. Read this post from my colleague Richard Jew to learn how Hitachi is delivering service catalog for storage provisioning.with Hitachi Automation Director.


My colleague @paulpmeehan has written an informative blog about Software-Defined Infrastructure, including VMware VVols, which offer simplified VM-centric storage and policy-based management. And finally, the ultimate in automation is to outsource infrastructure management altogether.


Automation can be a boon for those without a deep knowledge of the underlying infrastructure details. Other candidates include IT generalists, who are increasingly being asked to manage across server, storage and network, as well as virtualization admins who are stretching to manage across the entire range of infrastructure resources.


Expert infrastructure administrators with deep domain expertise appreciate automation because they understand the monumental effort that goes into infrastructure design, development and maintenance, making the decision to offload management details an easy one.


Hitachi has offerings for infrastructure automation that fit each of the categories I’ve described, so explore today’s announcements via @bmadaio's blog and put some automation in your life. It’ll be a piece of cake.


*Source: IDC White Paper, sponsored by HDS, Hitachi Data Systems Introduces Its Software-Defined Infrastructure Play, April 2015