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Virtualization: Article

The Critical Role of Automation in a Virtualized World

What living in a virtualized world is supposed to be about

Virtualization is today's "green" knight in shining armor, drastically slashing power, hardware and real estate costs. However, with all this efficiency comes a vast increase in complexity that threatens mission-critical business processing. Is there a way to slay that dragon as well? Enterprise schedulers provide automation capabilities that provide a solution.

Service-oriented architectures (SOA) now encompass more than just composite applications comprised of loosely coupled business functions. Whereas "software as a service" receives a lot of attention, virtualization has necessitated looking at "hardware as a service" as well. SOA now includes the computing resources as service components. This has added management challenges similar to managing software services, but together has generated exponentially greater complexity.

By definition, SOA-based deployments are fluid, dynamic, and transparent (perhaps too transparent!). This makes it very difficult to track and manage the business processes that depend on that environment. Add to that the complexity of managing the virtual infrastructure that supports these applications, and you have a nightmare that starts to diminish the cutting-edge advantages promised by the eco-friendly (go green!) virtual data center.

It's not just the fluid and dynamic aspect of today's virtualized environment that makes manageability so difficult. Understanding both the power and performance states of host servers and their virtual machine guests in real-time is critical. It's the only way to ensure that the right resources are available in the right place at the right time to service the business requirement of the moment. This process is complicated because it's not at all unusual for a virtualized environment to consist of hundreds or thousands of virtual servers spread out over vast farms of physical servers. Even though they are much reduced from a non-virtual world, they are still vast. The power states of each virtual entity need to be managed as do their machine states, which may need to be preserved, restored, and/or duplicated through snapshots and templates. Many servers throughout the landscape also may need to be re-configured on demand to support specific tasks.

Typically, a virtualized environment is managed by a dedicated team of IT professionals through a lot of manual intervention, known as "swivel-chair integration." This time-consuming manual work slows down process flow - sometimes to a crawl. Human errors in this scenario are very high, and it takes - guess what - more human intervention to sort out the errors and make things right again. What's worse is that the infrastructure group responsible for managing the virtual machines is usually separate from the operations group responsible for managing schedules of the business processes that run on them. This can result in a back-and-forth that defeats efficient throughput and is further prone to error.

More Stories By Derek Evan

With over 25 years of software development experience, Derek Evan has served as chief product architect and software developer for Tidal Software (formerly OCS) since 1986. He is one of the original authors of the Tidal Enterprise Scheduler (formerly sys*ADMIRAL), Tidal Software’s flagship enterprise job scheduling product, and is currently Tidal’s only distinguished engineer, specializing in solutions architecture. Derek holds two BA degrees with distinction in psychology and linguistics from Stanford University. He subsequently earned his MS in clinical psychology from the University of Oregon.

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Most Recent Comments
Anindo Banerjea 07/31/08 05:25:44 PM EDT

Interesting article. Networking makes it more interesting, both in terms of possible efficiency gains and in terms of the necessity to automate.