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Business Drives IT – Literally – Says HP of OpenView Automation Manager Debut

HP will ship this month a new addition to the company’s lineup of OpenView Server Change and Management products.

HP OpenView Automation Manager is designed to automate change and configuration management of customers’ data centers. It aims to provide IT with the ability to automatically configure and reconfigure existing infrastructure as business needs change.

Automation Manager does this by monitoring and analyzing real-time data on the performance of networks, severs, applications, databases, storage, workflows and other IT infrastructure components and reconfiguring them as business demands change.

Instead of being simply reactive, however, Automation Manager aims to enable IT shops to get ahead of the game and become more proactive about planning and deploying solutions.

HP also showed off version 5.0 of both its OpenView Service Desk and OpenView Service Level Manager products. All three are part of HP’s continued delivery of its “adaptive enterprise” vision.

Automation Manager is based on a concept that HP officials call “desired-state automation.” The product lets IT managers create a model of the enterprise's IT services and the resources they depend on as well as service level agreements (SLA) and transaction loads. This “service model” drives a workflow automation engine which, in turn, feeds a configuration automation engine that creates the configuration and propagates changes throughout the IT infrastructure, while also providing ongoing monitoring and adjustment.

“Automation Manager … determines when the desired state needs to be changed to satisfy business priorities and automatically provisions based on capacity and demand,” the company says in a published statement. “IT operations staff has the power and flexibility to control capacity through either administrator-directed, scheduled or fully automated actions based on service level objectives and demand sensed by network resource monitors that track the performance of applications,” it adds.

That sounds good to Judith Hurwitz, president of Hurwitz & Associates, a research firm in Waltham, Massachusetts. “If you are managing a highly distributed environment, if you can’t track what’s running and how they’re interrelated, then you can’t manage it,” she says, adding that it’s an area where competitors are stirring up a lot of activity.

But HP has something of an advantage because, under the OpenView banner, it has a comprehensive and integrated family of products all designed to work together in a modular, “plug and play” fashion. “A lot of their competitors are ‘point’ players,” Hurwitz says.

One important differentiator for HP, the company claims, is that Automation Manager is flexible, able to dynamically change configurations to meet new needs, rather than locked into rigid rules.

Automation Manager analyzes patterns of business demands and takes stock of the available computing resources, modeling infrastructure and applications. Based on specified IT policies, it judges how to best use the infrastructure to meet demands.

Automation Manager determines the best IT workflow, optimized for speed, service continuity, reliability, risk management and cost. It then performs the tasks needed to implement the workflow, directing automated processes to adjust services, reallocate servers and storage, when necessary to install or reconfigure software, and even completely reprovision systems, according to HP.

As a highly simplified example, for instance, a financial services firm might experience a rush of demand for fund transfers late on a Friday afternoon, causing serious bottlenecks. The incident would trigger Automation Manager to examine the configuration that supports funds transfer and existing SLAs as well as recent historical performance data on the application.

Taking that information into account, Automation Manager might allocate a new server to help handle the increased load while it was needed. When the situation eased, Automation Manager could reallocate the server and any other infrastructure it had configured to support it.

HP OpenView Automation Manager is the first product to result from the combination of technologies the company acquired from Novadigm and Consera Software earlier this year. HP Labs engineers also contributed internally-developed technologies.

Automation Manager will ship to selected customers this month and will be generally available in the second quarter of 2005. It starts at $1,000 per server for rack mount or blade-type servers. A combined package that includes OpenView Server Change and Configuration Management solution starts at $1,800 per server. The initial release will manage Windows and Linux blade servers and similar data center configurations. Support for HP/UX will be added in a later release.

About the Author

Stuart J. Johnston has covered technology, especially Microsoft, since February 1988 for InfoWorld, Computerworld, Information Week, and PC World, as well as for Enterprise Developer, XML & Web Services, and .NET magazines.

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