According to the 2013 Cost of Data Center Outages study of U.S.-based data centers, the cost of downtime has increased significantly in the last three years, with an unplanned data center outage jumping 41% to just over $7,900 per minute, and most every organization surveyed has suffered at least one such outage in the past 24 months with an average duration of 91 minutes. Human error (and accidents) was to blame in 48% of the cases, and 52% were believed to be preventable.
A newer study reported that 82% of the respondents experienced at least some network downtime as the result of human error made while configuring changes to the network core. Of that group, 80% reported having lost revenue as a result of such outages, to the tune of an average of $140,000 per incident. Other costs included employee productivity was hampered (49%), IT projects were interrupted or delayed (40%), and supply chain disruptions (30%). According to another new study, the potential savings on improvements in application support and maintenance at Global 2000 firms could top $6.8 billion per year, or $3.4 million per firm on average
According to a Cisco-sponsored IDC study, today’s data center operations teams need to adapt much more quickly to changing requirements. For many organizations, cloud deployments are serving as the catalyst for a broad-based review of data center management priorities and consolidation and simplification of the management, automation, and orchestration tools.
Throw in the Internet of Things (IoT) and the situation just gets more challenging. “IoT deployments will generate large quantities of data that need to be processed and analyzed in real time,” Fabrizio Biscotti, research director at Gartner, said in a statement. “Processing large quantities of IoT data in real time will increase as a proportion of workloads of data centers, leaving providers facing new security, capacity and analytics challenges.”
The conclusion from all these reports is that there is a growing need to eliminate human error by automating complex and/or mundane tasks. Many companies are investigating SDN, network virtualization and other approaches as they seek to automate as many elements of their IT infrastructures as possible, said Brad Casemore, research director at IDC. “Automation is a touchstone, from provisioning through to orchestration.”
Automation has emerged as a staple to manage today’s increasingly complex IT environments, becoming a critical component of managing next-generation infrastructure and driving better efficiency to reduced service delivery time, according to Tom Young, Executive Advisor, IPsoft. The managed services provider of autonomics-based services said autonomics is capable of automating up to 80% of a company’s low-level IT processes, without any human intervention or upfront scripting.
“There’s nothing new about automation,” he said. “People have been doing it for a long time. What’s happening now is autonomics.” In IPsoft’s case, autonomics is a cadre of virtual engineers that work together to resolve complex, dynamic problems, and have the ability to self-learn.
“There are lots of tools in the toolbox, what IPsoft is automating is the mechanic that uses the toolbox,” said Young. “It’s autonomics versus automation.”
The impact on the supply chain can be tremendous, he said. “We see costs come down 30, 40, 50%.”
At the end of February IPsoft announced a collaboration deal with Accenture to enhance the automation of infrastructure operations across compute, network and storage devices to help minimize manual intervention and improve service quality. The automation of IT services delivery will enable Accenture to offer clients business process transformation solutions beyond cost takeout, said TBR analyst Bozhidar Hristov.
“We believe this partnership is a logical evolution of Accenture’s IT services portfolio… (and) we expect Accenture to integrate IPsoft technologies into new and existing engagements to maximize the margin potential of the initial infrastructure services and deliver more immediate cost savings to clients.”
The benefits of automation and autonomics, via its IPcenter platform, for service providers is huge, according to IPsoft. With its”virtual, knowledge engineers,” it resolves an average of 56% of events without any human intervention and reduces mean time to resolution by 60%.
Automation comes with its own set of challenges, including cost and complexity. Or how about the battle between legacy and modern automation tools, the learning curve, the acceptance curve and the ever-popular you’re automating yourself out of a job.
“IT is being asked to do more things faster and in shorter windows,” said Ronni Colville, a Gartner vice president and distinguished analyst for IT operations management. “Automation is what everybody’s seeking right now, and we’re seeing a big increase in the number of projects.”
“To a certain extent, everything we do in IT is a form of automation,” said Glenn O’Donnell, principal analyst at Forrester Research. “And yet, we resist automation because we want to remain in control.”
We’re in the midst of an IT industrial revolution, and a lot of cherished roles in IT are going away, he said. “Who better than you to automate the job that you already do?” he asked. Because in the end, “It’s better to become the automator than to be automated,” he said.
At the end of the day, customers don’t care about how much they spend on IT, but how much IT enables them, said Young. Data center automation – and tools – is a crowded market, and 99% of the time this is just sustaining software.
“But 1% of the time it is not true.1% of the time it is disruptive technology, and disruptive technologies go viral. I see the disruption in this marketplace.”
IPsoft started off as a service provider, but its tool became so good, the company pivoted and became a wholesaler, selling to other service providers, said Young. Next up is analytics, and somewhere down the road “is the stuff that’s kind of mind blowing”, i.e. like the movie The Matrix and downloading intelligence. The initial concept, called Project Amelia, a virtual service agent that shifts the notion of robotic automation toward a combination of augmented reality and cognitive models.