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Data Center Automation: Benefits, Types, and Best Practices

Alon Berger

Product Marketing Manager, Intel Granulate

What Is Data Center Automation?

Data center automation is the process of managing and executing tasks within a data center without human intervention. This extends from server provisioning and configuration to workload management and monitoring. It’s about utilizing technology to automate tasks that are repetitive, routine, or prone to error, and make data center operations more efficient.

Data center automation is a part of a broader field known as IT process automation (ITPA), which is about eliminating manual processes across the IT landscape. ITPA includes everything from automating the creation of virtual machines, to orchestrating complex workflows involving multiple systems and applications.

Effective data center automation requires identifying which tasks are suitable for automation, and then using the appropriate tools and technologies to automate those tasks. It’s also important to continuously improve and adapt these automation processes as the data center’s needs evolve.

This is part of a series of articles about data center costs.

In this article:

What Are the Benefits of Data Center Automation?

Improved Workflow and Productivity

Data center automation can significantly improve workflow and productivity. By automating repetitive and routine tasks, it frees up IT staff to focus on more strategic activities. It also reduces the risk of errors that can lead to downtime or security breaches.

Automated workflows are also more efficient. They eliminate the need for manual hand-offs and approvals, which can slow down processes. They also ensure that tasks are executed in a consistent and standardized manner, regardless of who is executing them.

Data center automation can also facilitate self-service. This allows end users to provision their own resources, without having to wait for IT staff to do it for them. This not only speeds up the provisioning process, but also reduces the workload on the IT staff.

Increased Utilization of Existing Resources

Data center automation can help increase the utilization of existing resources. It makes it easier to identify underutilized resources and to reallocate them where they are needed.

Automated workflows also make it easier to manage and optimize resource allocation. They can automate the provisioning and de-provisioning of resources, ensuring that resources are used efficiently and that they are released when they are no longer needed, which can significantly reduce costs.

Moreover, data center automation can help reduce energy consumption. It can automate the management of power and cooling systems, ensuring that they are used efficiently and that energy is not wasted.

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A Single Source of Truth

Data center automation commonly relies on a central repository where all data center information is stored and managed. This includes data about servers, storage, networks, applications, services, and even users. This central repository becomes a single source of truth, which ensures that everyone in the organization has access to the same, up-to-date information about data center infrastructure.

Moreover, a single source of truth makes it easier to monitor and manage the data center’s performance. It provides a holistic view of the data center, making it easier to identify issues and bottlenecks, and to make informed decisions about resource allocation and optimization.

Improved Collaboration Across Functional Teams

Automated workflows make it easier to coordinate and collaborate on tasks. They clearly define the roles and responsibilities of each team member, and ensure that tasks are executed in the right order, by the right people.

Moreover, data center automation can also facilitate cross-functional collaboration. It can automate the integration of different systems and applications, making it easier for teams to share data and work together.

Related content: Read our guide to data center optimization

What are the Most Common Automation Categories?

Infrastructure Automation

Infrastructure automation refers to the use of technology to manage and control the elements of a data center’s physical and virtual infrastructure. This includes servers, storage systems, networking devices, and other hardware components. Automation in this area helps in configuring, managing, and scaling these resources efficiently.

The key advantage of infrastructure automation lies in its ability to rapidly provision and configure hardware resources. For example, when a new server is needed, automation tools can quickly deploy it with the required operating system and applications, based on predefined templates. This reduces the time and effort required for manual setup. Additionally, infrastructure automation tools can monitor the health and performance of physical resources, enabling proactive maintenance and reducing downtime.

Service Orchestration and Automation Platforms (SOAP)

Service Orchestration and Automation Platforms (SOAP) are systems designed to automate and coordinate complex processes across various IT services. They help in managing the lifecycle of IT services, from creation and deployment to maintenance and decommissioning. These platforms often utilize workflows and policies to automate tasks and ensure compliance with organizational standards.

SOAPs are particularly useful in environments with a mix of on-premises and cloud-based resources. They can orchestrate services across different cloud platforms and integrate them with on-premises infrastructure, providing a unified management interface. This helps in ensuring consistency in service delivery and enables more agile responses to changing business needs.

Network Automation and Management

Network automation and management involves using software to automate the processes of configuring, managing, testing, deploying, and operating network devices and services. This category of automation helps in reducing manual configuration errors, improving network reliability and efficiency, and speeding up the deployment of network services.

Automated network management tools can dynamically adjust network configurations based on current needs. For example, they can automatically reroute traffic in case of congestion or network failure, and scale network resources up or down based on demand. These capabilities are essential for maintaining the performance and availability of a data center’s network infrastructure.

Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM)

Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) tools provide an integrated view of a data center’s physical infrastructure. They help in optimizing the performance, efficiency, and space utilization of data centers. DCIM tools combine information technology (IT) and facility management to enable seamless operation of systems across the data center.

A key function of DCIM is to monitor environmental variables like temperature, humidity, and power usage. This information is crucial for optimizing cooling systems and power consumption, leading to significant energy savings. DCIM tools also provide real-time insights into the data center’s operations, enabling better decision-making and planning for future capacity needs.

Remote Monitoring and Management

Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) is focused on overseeing and controlling IT infrastructure remotely. It includes monitoring the health and performance of servers, storage, networks, and other devices from a central location. RMM tools can detect and alert IT staff to potential issues before they escalate into serious problems.

RMM is especially valuable for data centers that manage resources distributed across multiple locations. It enables centralized management of all assets, regardless of their physical location. These tools can also automate routine maintenance tasks, such as patch management and software updates, ensuring that all systems are current and secure.

Transition from Traditional Data Centers to Private and Hybrid Clouds

The transition from traditional data centers to private and hybrid cloud environments represents a significant shift in how organizations manage and operate their IT infrastructure. This shift is driven by the need for greater flexibility, scalability, and efficiency in managing data and applications.

Private clouds offer organizations the benefits of cloud computing—such as self-service, scalability, and elasticity—within the confines of their own data center. This allows for greater control and security over data and applications. Hybrid clouds combine the use of private clouds with public clouds, enabling organizations to keep sensitive data in-house while leveraging the vast resources of public cloud providers for less critical applications.

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This transition involves not just a technological shift but also requires changes in processes and mindsets. Organizations must adopt new tools and technologies for cloud management and orchestration, as well as retrain their staff to manage cloud-based environments. Automation plays a crucial role in this transition, as it helps streamline operations, reduce manual errors, and increase the overall agility of the IT infrastructure.

In this transition, data center automation tools must evolve to handle more complex, distributed environments. This includes automating the deployment and management of virtual machines and containers, managing hybrid cloud environments, and ensuring seamless integration between on-premises and cloud-based resources. Additionally, the automation solutions must provide robust security and compliance features to protect data across different environments.

5 Best Practices for Data Center Automation

1. Use APIs to Connect Disparate Applications Quickly

APIs, or Application Programming Interfaces, are a powerful tool for connecting disparate applications and systems quickly and efficiently. They allow different software systems to communicate with each other, enabling them to work together seamlessly.

By using APIs, you can significantly speed up the process of integrating your automation tools with your existing systems and applications. This can reduce the complexity and cost of the integration process, and enable you to start benefiting from automation much sooner.

2. Centrally Monitor and Manage Processes

It is possible to implement automation using multiple separate systems, but there are significant benefits to monitoring and managing data center operations from a centralized control panel. This can provide a comprehensive view of your data center operations, making it easier to identify issues, manage processes, and make informed decisions.

By centralizing your control, you can significantly reduce the complexity and effort required to manage your data center operations. This can free up valuable time and resources, allowing you to focus on more strategic tasks.

3. Manage Workloads with Event-Based Automation

Event-based automation is a powerful approach to managing workloads in a data center. It involves setting up automation rules that are triggered by specific events or conditions, enabling the system to respond quickly and efficiently to changes in the data center environment.

By using event-based automation, you can significantly improve the responsiveness and efficiency of your data center operations. This can help to ensure that your data center is always operating at optimal performance, even in the face of rapidly changing conditions.

4. Automated Compliance Management

Compliance management is a critical aspect of data center operations, and it can be significantly enhanced through automation. Automated compliance management involves setting up automated processes to check compliance with various regulations and standards, and to generate compliance reports.

By automating your compliance management processes, you can significantly reduce the time and effort required to ensure compliance, and improve the accuracy of your compliance checks. This can help to reduce the risk of compliance breaches, and ensure that your data center operations are always in line with the latest regulations and standards.

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