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Aligning Goals with Reality

Time for a reality check. While the goals you've just stated are admirable—and would certainly go a long way toward making the storage component of the data center more efficient—they may be farfetched, depending on your current situation. Understanding this reality before deploying automation technologies is critically important to the project's ultimate success and acceptance. In this example, some of the goals listed above are realistic, but others may not be. For example, while automating space allocation is achievable with the right technologies and processes, automatically notifying staff of hardware needs might prove to be tricky.

Once the goals have been listed—and given a good reality check—it's time to assess the complexity involved in automating those technical components. Going back to our storage-management example, we can determine that the complexity level of automating those functions will be in the medium-to-high category; medium because many tools exist today to address these automation requirements, but high because the complexity increases with the number of platforms under consideration. These days, most data centers include a number of platforms, so you must expect the level of complexity to be quite high.

Knowing in advance what level of complexity you're facing can not only help you plan for the attendant process changes, but help you to prepare senior management for the road ahead and effectively sell your automation project to the finance department. Budget and time constraints may very well be a factor in your choice of some platforms and subsequent configurations over others.

Now that you've developed a working list of the components of your data center that seem suitable for automation, reality-checked your goals for these components, and identified the complexities involved, the next step is to analyze the current level of automation versus the realistic automation goals. As with complexity assessment, this "gap analysis" will provide valuable assistance in financial planning and selling the initiative to management.

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