HP's Michel Feaster: Why automation is needed

Automation is where hardware and software meet in the enterprise, says HP - and you can remove major IT headaches by making it easier to deal with changes in both.

Virtualization is interesting. When most people say virtualization they think VMware. But the reality is there's VMware, there's Microsoft coming into the market with Hyper-V and changing everything. We're going to end up with three, four, five vendors all with market share and we're going to see the virtualisation market look much more like the OS market.

Virtualization is an OS, it's a new OS, it's a new platform. Especially with Hyper-V being free. Most customers will pay for VMware for mission critical applications but they are not going to pay for VMware for every single app if Microsoft could come in and save them three, four, five million dollars in fees to VMware, as long as it works for them. They're going to end up with multiple hypervisors. Customers are going to end up just as they have in every other technology shift with a heterogeneous environment. We don't believe physical environments are going to go away.

So the role for HP software is managing that as well as supplying the hardware to run it on?

Every customer wants two things: they want to manage all their hypervisors from one platform and they want to manage physical and virtual on the same platform. HP is the single largest reseller of VMware in the world, HP is one of the single largest resellers of Microsoft in the world, obviously we're one of the largest server vendors clearly we're a very big software company.

We think we have the opportunity to go to customers and capitalise on that IT management opportunity. If you look at people trying to capitalise on that, like Microsoft or VMware which is trying to figure out its manageability strategy both are coming from no background in being enterprise heterogeneous IT management providers whereas that's really what HP has been doing for the last ten years. OpenView is built on the fact that we manage everything. Windows, Linux, AIX you name it, OpenView manages any kind of technology from a combined consolidated console.

When we think about virtualized data centre, the lines really blur between virtualization and networks. There's virtual networks on servers, there's virtual storage, there's virtualizing clients: all the devices are now virtualized. If a customer wants to manage a dynamic virtual environment but keep their applications available, a point automation tool will not work. They need the ability to automate all those devices from a business service perspective.

We're using the ITIL word by choice because ITIL has driven people to think about the business services IT is trying to deliver. Whether you're thinking about SOA [service oriented architecture] or a full application, this is what we want to report back to the business that we're changing and moving and in compliance on.

If you automate the data centre and the business services, is that everything you'd need to do or are there further steps?

We think lockdown is potentially the next interesting idea. Today we're putting a platform in place and the focus is automating change - so patching, provisioning, changing applications, audit and compliance. ITIL says let's revolutionise change management', so we put a process around it in our service desk and we execute those changes in automation and we monitor them.

But people don't go along with that. Although you have an excellent process, how often do people just bypass that process? How often does some DBA [database administrator] just go into production makes the change and no-one knows and how often does that cause a massive business impact? In many cases, the DBA knows what's best for the database but he doesn't know the database is connected to the SAN or there's a relationship to storage and all of a sudden what he did is causing massive issues with mounted storage. People don't have full visibility. They don't want these point tools where no one has the common context for the service model. You want to know if I change A', what's connected to it, what could be impacted.

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