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Archive for the ‘Application Automation’ Category

People like to think in “either-or”solutions, trying to make their lives easier, and maybe unconsciously trusting the paradox that more choices may lead to a poorer decision (Paradox of Choice). This is in spite of a reality which often proves to follow a more fuzzy and compromising “both-and” logic.

Take the hype about cloud computing. Although the world is full of cloud apologists nowadays one should bear in mind that the cloud market is still nascent – with, so far, only 4 percent of small and enterprise companies from the United States and Europe taking advantage of it, which means, from a management point of view, that in the nearer future we will have to deal with the reality of hybrid environments and even more processes connecting physical, virtual and/or cloud-based platforms.

Bob Muglia, president of Microsoft’s Server and Tools Business, proves that serious cloud providers like Microsoft share this view: “There’s more than one flavor of cloud computing, including private clouds that run on a business’s on-site servers. And it needn’t be an all-or-nothing proposition; we expect customers to want to integrate on-premises datacenters with an external cloud”.

This reality one needs to have in mind when it comes to evaluate the new “Agent for Web Services” UC4 unveiled some weeks ago. In a conversation I had with Vincent Stueger, Chief Technology Officer, UC4 Software last week, he told me why this Agent is “a really big and promising step. Because it’s much more than offering a simple web interface to remotely start a job or change a parameter. With this agent you can seamlessly monitor and control a process from the ground to the cloud and back.”

If Milind Govekar, Research Vice President, Gartner, is to be believed, this bridging capability will not just decide on the future of automation, but also on the future of the cloud: “The ability of the technology platform to manage a hybrid environment consisting of legacy and cloud applications with a single automation platform will be needed for clearing the way for greater adoption of cloud-based models.”

The cloud is not our destiny, but it brings a big choice – if we are able to provide the bridges.

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My last post dealt with monitoring and insight, reacting and optimizing as the two sides of the automation coin. Because monitoring and reacting are not enough when you are dealing with events, you also have to analyze and predict them as far as possible.

Especially if the event occurs in the shape of an error. Thinking about application assurance is thinking about how to handle change. And not necessarily about how to deal with alerts or trouble tickets which pop-up in your IT monitoring or business service management solution. Because when the problem occurs you are already on the reaction side of the automation coin trying to reduce the time it takes to fix a problem. The better and more sustainable approach to change would be to think about how we can turn this coin and prevent errors before they occur.

Of course, there is no perfect situation, and unforeseeable events happen all the time. Therefore, you will never get rid of the monitoring and reaction side. But talking seriously about application assurance you should at least be able to have an eye on both – what currently is going on and what is upcoming too.

Proper alert reaction needs insight
Take for example a job which is scheduled to start in 5 minutes. And then, suddenly, the alert comes from your monitoring tool that the database load is too high at the moment and the service aligned with the job will fail or at least slow down. Starting a manual investigation of the case is a kamikaze mission. But if you have pattern based-rules you can define options which can be automatically run through. Note you that you need a lot of insight into the whole system to answer the question of whether to reschedule the job when the database load is under 50% or to immediately allocate additional resources on a virtual basis. 1) You have to know the latest possible time to start the job without causing subsequent errors. And 2) you have to evaluate this job and know all the job-related SLAs (Service Level Agreements) to know if it’s even worth the effort to allocate additional resources.

Don’t forget: This insight must be available and automatically lead to a decision when the alert happens. And even then you may be running out of time. Take the same job scheduled not in 5 minutes but in two seconds – which in daily operations is often the remaining time after you have reached the threshold (e.g. 80% CPU usage) and the service is down.

That’s why the UC4´s Application Assurance solution incorporates real-time data, insight into the complete end-to-end business or IT processes, and intelligent decision making. And that’s why real-time monitoring encompasses business indicators AND infrastructure heart beat to allocate resources predictively.

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When talking about automation, people easily ignore the power of change and consider the contemplated processes as engraved in stone. In spite of the fact that “change is not new and change is natural“, as Thomas L. Friedman (The World is Flat) pointed out in his thought-provoking book:“Change is hard. Change is hardest on those caught by surprise. Change is hardest on those who have difficulty changing too.”

Talking about change means talking about events – the secret currency of change counting any single change of state. This is worth emphasizing because events are not only the drivers of today’s businesses and operations, but they can occur everywhere – crossing platform, departmental and even enterprise borders.

Today you´re managing dynamic IT environments which are complex blends of physical, virtual, or cloud-based resources. In such environments transparency is key to staying agile and responsive. But even being reactive is not enough to keep your business situationally aware. To ensure that the processes are up-to-date and the engine is not automating errors and detours, any automation effort must be accompanied by an ongoing optimization effort.

The crux is that reaction and analysis are meshing. Take lunch break at school as real world example: the bell is ringing and 10 seconds later everyone stands in the line of the cafeteria waiting to be served. Following the classical monitoring way, cooking would start when the bell rings. Knowing more about the processes in the kitchen, the guys from UC4 start cooking 2 hours before – so everything is ready when the children come.

This kind of processing intelligence is key to avoiding overheads and running automated environments in a cost- and SLA-conscious way. Knowing the processes in school, the ringing bell is a foreseeable event. So you better not focus on reducing the reaction time and waste time and money. Otherwise it makes a lot of sense to monitor the cooking process as close to real-time as possible. It ensures that you have all the processing options available – before the bell rings!

Knowing that change is a constant not a variable and that automation can only be effective if it is combined with intelligence, UC4´s Application Assurance solution incorporates real-time data, insight into the complete end-to-end business or IT processes, and intelligent decision making.

Have a look. It’s worth it!

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Even if the concept of a Service Orientated Architecture (SOA) looks revolutionary compared with the antique appearance of a batch mode culture, it’s not drawing a line under background processing. The remaining dependency is illustrated by the fact, that over 50% of all applications still perform their processing in a background manner.

callisimportantThis is possible through the existence of Workload Automation tools bridging between SOA and legacy applications and ensuring that the user/client gets the needed information in time. Of course, batch is not real-time. But the automation engine that supports SOA processing initiation in background is establishing the required connection to process jobs under the SOA-umbrella.

You mean, “in-time” is a woolly concept? No way! Look at the user/client. He defines it – and not just in this cartoon.

You will find the details about how “Workload Automation works with SOA” in this Whitepaper. For more cartoons go to www.CartoonStock.com where we also downloaded and licensed this one.

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There was a time when everybody talked about ‘real-time’. You couldn’t speak highly of something without stressing that it was almost or close or already ‘real-time’. Do you remember the 70s in the car industry? I do. And I remember the similarities as well. It was a time when no kid could help looking at the speedometer when passing a car. It wasn’t just my childhood, but also the childhood of car industry. A time of immaturity – when technology was praising itself. Going back to my starting point: Looking at the speedometer is a bit like talking about ‘real-time’. What comes off badly, is the user (the driver).

Because the mature driver doesn’t care about 280 miles per hour on the speedometer as long as he is travelling on streets with a speed limit of 80 or 100 miles. But he does care about security, travelling comfort, fuel consumption etc. He is like the business user, who doesn’t care about real-time. What he wants is ‘just-in-time’: that he gets the information he needs at the time he needs it. No more, no less.

That’s also your company’s challenge, when it comes to automating across different people, platforms, systems and applications. You don’t want to over or under provision your IT infrastructure as there is a related cost to doing this. What you want is to effectively deliver the right business information at the right time at the lowest possible cost. Why deliver at real-time, when there is no need and nobody cares?

Take Amazon or other online selling companies: A consumer ordering a product finds it more than acceptable to receive an email order confirmation a few minutes after having placed their order. The consumer will get no added value if the email arrives within 1 millisecond, but will certainly be disappointed if the email arrives 24 hours later. Hence online buying and selling is a classic example of using ‘Just-In-Time’ processing to satisfy consumer needs and keep automation costs to a minimum.

In fact, there is a parallel to the manufacturing industry with the familiar technique of ‘Just-in-time’ manufacturing that revolutionized this industry. Why shouldn’t the same approach be able to revolutionize a business’ automation strategy – receiving maximum value from automating its processes at the most effective cost point?

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David Weinberger calls his unified theory of the web “Small pieces loosely joined”. Therewith he not just pinpoints his way of writing but also the secret of hyperlinked computing power. We live in a highly connected web wide world of functions and services. The value of things is their difference, the relation they have to others. But to connect such disparate things as computers, databases, tools and applications to seamless interaction one has to interrupt, to disconnect, to decouple – the form and the content (XML), the applications and the databases (SOA), the software and the devices (Unified Communications).

You will always need some kind of Middle Tier governing the communication between disparate things – like multiple applications which are dependent on each other and handle critical business processes. That’s the secret which was also be revealed by UC4. To cover the entire application spectrum – from tightly bound legacy applications to loosely coupled web services -, UC4 recognized that if it could decouple the base workload automation functionality with application, database, and tool integrations it could deliver new functionality in base workload automation and application, database, and tool integrations more rapidly.

Decoupling means freedom. Because a customer can decide which API best suits the tool or application he wishes to automate. But decoupling also means agility and acceleration. That’s how the “rapid automation train” gains momentum. Because the right thing is not the right thing anymore, if you can’t change it on demand. And automation is not bringing you further, if it’s at the price of flexibility.

In this sense I disagree with David Weinberger, who suggested: “We are more like the fish than the fisherman: we’re interested in what hooks us.”

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