Organizations are increasingly ready to invest in IT process automation (ITPA) technology, software that
- an orchestration engine (with process templates and role-based access);
- workflow (rule-based workflow in which actions are automatically carried out in accordance with IT process requirements); and
- integration (out-of-the-box integration with IT management systems, applications and operating systems).
The market for ITPA, meanwhile, is still in flux. "The space evolved at the beginning of 2006 with a number of small vendors coming to the market," Williams said. "Over the last two years, the market has consolidated to a degree -- BMC [Software] purchased RealOps and HP acquired Opsware -- but there are still niche vendors."
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While major vendors have products in the data center automation arena -- most notably BMC, EMC Corp., and HP -- analysts say independent vendors are leading the way in innovation because they tend to focus exclusively on IT process automation rather than offer such functionality as part of a suite of service automation products. "Generally the niche players have development timelines that are shorter, they are more nimble, and they tend to integrate better across more environments," said Andi Mann, research director of systems management at Enterprise Management Associates Inc., a Boulder, Colo.-based analyst and consulting firm.ITPA saves on staffing
James Hankey, vice president of IT and the director of operations at financial investment firm John G. Ullman & Associates Inc., is an ITPA veteran and uses Opalis Software Inc.'s offering. In 2000, the company needed to streamline the processes needed to produce client reports -- typically an intensive exercise that involves around 40 processes. Hankey turned to Opalis because it was the only vendor at the time that could help Ullman implement run book automation at a reasonable cost.
"We were an early adopter of the software because we really had to fix our processes," Hankey said.
Since then, Ullman has stayed with Opalis, upgrading its ITPA software regularly. Since Ullman is a small shop with 28 Windows-based servers, Hankey said that ITPA software enables the company to compete more effectively by enabling the IT department to work on more strategic projects such as mobile access and server virtualization without hiring additional IT staff. Since implementing the Opalis software, Hankey estimates that his company has saved $75,000 simply by eliminating the overtime needed to produce client reports in a timely manner. Ullman has also maintained its low IT numbers because of the reduced staff involvement in day-to-day process control.The ITPA product boom
Three of the most visible independent IT process automation vendors are NetIQ Corp., Opalis, and Optinuity Inc., and all have recently announced new IT process automation products. In October 2007, NetIQ introduced a software platform called Aegis that automates predefined workflows for such processes as patch management, virtual machine provisioning and incident management and integrates with existing service automation tools from third-party vendors. In November 2007, Opalis launched a new version of its Opalis Integration Server that enables IT process automation within service-oriented architecture and provides a testing environment for IT process workflow prior to deployment. Also in November, Optinuity introduced its Oasis, a system that integrates and automates policy management, monitoring and job scheduling for IT operations. What's the reason for all this vendor activity? Both Williams and Mann say that the time is finally right for automation due to the complexity of IT infrastructures and taxing workloads of IT staff. "IT process automation has been around as a concept for a long time," said Mann. "Because of the growing complexity of IT, data centers are looking to either simplify their environments or fill gaps with automation tools that enable half the staff to manage the same workload." Williams points to other specific drivers of the IT process automation market. "High availability, disaster recovery and ITIL are all pushing data centers to seek operational efficiency gains," he said. "Using IT process automation tools to eliminate repetitive, manual processes is a good way to achieve that."
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