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2003: The year of software automation (we hope)

Jan 23, 20033 mins
Data Center

* Lightening the load with automated software tools

Last week, we reviewed the continuing trend of large storage companies acquiring smaller storage resource management firms.  Today we will look at what to expect from all this corporate shuffling.

For many of you, 2002 was a year when budgets were slashed, long-planned projects were put on hold (sometimes, indefinitely), and jobs were lost.  In some instances, the paring down of IT staff had long ago reached a critical point, and what was being trimmed now was muscle rather than fat.  Those still on the job had to live up to increasingly demanding service-level agreements (SLA) with smaller teams, and often, few additional tools.

A major survival criterion for many of you in the New Year will be how well you can contend with two conflicting demands: the need to do more and the necessity of living with essentially flat budgets. 

Is this the year the vendors will finally help in a substantial way?  The signs are beginning to point to “yes.”

I credit the industry’s ability to do this for us to the increasing level of automated response functions that can be found in many leading software packages.  Don’t let the word “response” fool you however; in the best cases these responses are not in the least reactive.  They will anticipate problems and will react proactively to head off impending difficulties.

Automated software is complex on the inside, but comes with a simple to use interface.  Good automated software will rely on a set of IT-defined policies to determine how to respond to specific situations. Better automated software will be able to take those policies and intelligently respond to a more generalized set of conditions.

And the best of the automated software will, eventually, be able to look at entire systems rather than discrete events, and will be able to build its own policies based on its understanding of the constantly changing needs of the IT and business environment it supports.

Most vendors have, for the past year or so, realized the importance of letting the software – rather than the people – do the work and built or acquired technology to that aim. Now those tools are beginning to roll off the assembly line.

Of course some companies have had extremely useful automated software out there for a while now, but haven’t had the good sense to market this capability.  I think particularly of Tivoli and Legato, but there are others.  It is a rare case of engineering providing, and marketing ignoring.  While this is certainly preferable to companies that hype vaporware, it does not do any of us much good to hide much-needed technologies under a bush. 

One thing is certain: this sort of advanced software capability lies at the heart of enabling any technology user to do more with less.  If we are lucky, 2003 will be remembered as the year of software automation.