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Identifying Automation Components

Identifying the number and types of operating environments under consideration is an important part of preliminary planning. For example, does your business have data centers spread throughout the world or a variety of co-location installations? Once you've identified all the different geographies under consideration, you can start breaking down those environments by the following components:

  • Physically distributed geographic environments

  • Hardware

  • Operating systems (platforms)

  • Network platforms (backbone, wide area network, Internet, and so on)

  • Interfaces (I/O paths)

  • Databases

  • Storage (subsystems)

Automating each of these technical components requires unique considerations and technologies, but the same evaluation process holds for all: Develop a clear-cut and realistic list of goals for each component, analyze the complexity of the automation required to meet those goals, and understand the gap between your business' current level of automation and the targeted level. In addition to ensuring that your automation project will meet your budgetary constraints and be in line with your business strategies, this honest evaluation will also help you with another critical part of the automation initiative: making sure that you address how you'll interface to existing "production" requirements, such as change-management issues.

To do this, let's go back to the storage example used earlier. You understand the definition of automation, you've identified the technical components suitable for automation, and you're now examining the technologies that will effect automatic provisioning of storage—one of the key technical components under consideration. Because storage management involves the managing of disk and tape archival requirements through backup/restore, catalog, and storage functions, the ultimate goal of automation would likely include the following:

  • Automatically provisioning new disk space within stripes, volumes, and hardware units available

  • Automatically notifying staff when hardware is to be dealt with

  • Automatically provisioning for backups to start at scheduled times on system-labeled tapes and for data files to be automatically restored for users

  • Automatically provisioning for robotic tape loading and archiving with built-in cataloguing, as well as organizing tapes for third-party vendor pickup and delivery

  • Automatically provisioning for offsite storage of archives

  • Automatically provisioning for third-party vendor contacts for return of tapes

  • Throughout all, automatically communicating with the appropriate members of the IT enterprise that changes are taking place, triggering associated processes (billing, charge-back, and so on).

These goals, you believe, will make the data center run more efficiently as well as offer benefits throughout the organization.

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