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The “Last Mile” of IT Process Automation

You can roughly approximate the health of the economic climate by a CIO's list of priorities

You can roughly approximate the health of the economic climate by a CIO's list of priorities. In times of prosperity, his or her priorities are optimized for revenue growth. In more challenging times-like today-cost reduction tops the agenda.

Of course, this is no great surprise. This is the pattern we expect with the ebbs and flows of the business cycle. We saw it in 2002, and we're seeing it again today.

But this time is different. The last recession was characterized by deep wholesale cuts in IT spending-in part, because so many organizations had spent heavily on promises of e-everything during the preceding period of economic expansion.

This time, analysts are projecting flat to incremental growth in IT spending, with an emphasis on "smart spending"-where every dollar spent is paid back on a short horizon and where investments contribute to an overall transformation of IT models that are buckling under the weight of cost, complexity and demand.

That is why we're seeing so much excitement and growth in three key areas of IT:

Infrastructure consolidation. The phenomenal growth of VMware is not a new story, but the juggernaut continues on the very real promise of infrastructure consolidation. 500 percent compression in server infrastructure means lower capital expense, lower operating costs (think management overhead, energy consumption, real estate, etc.) and an elegantly appealing cost-based ROI.

Cloud computing. While it's still in its infancy, cloud computing has captured the imagination of IT because it promises compute capacity as a liquid currency that can be shared and made available on demand. This - and the self-service aspects of cloud - speaks directly to a more cost-effective, flexible and adaptive IT model.

IT Process Automation. It may lack the headline-grabbing appeal of virtualization and cloud, but IT process automation is the steady hand of IT cost containment. IT process automation begins with a deep scrutiny of existing IT tasks and activities and ends with automated processes that promise:

1.   Reduced cost - by reducing the human cost of performing a function and allowing resources to focus on higher-value, more differentiated activities.

2.   Mitigated risk - by eliminating the opportunity for human error, subjective variability and enabling consistently enforceable controls and audit trails.

3.   Increased velocity - making processes "multithreaded" by removing the classic bottlenecks of manual processes and increasing speed dramatically.

While IT groups are often like the cobbler's kids, there is no doubt that progress has been made in automating process-from testing cycles to service desks to infrastructure provisioning. But one area that remains untenably manual is the process of system configuration, deployment and maintenance-the functions behind application delivery. Think of this as "the last mile of IT process automation."

The reality is today's manual approach to application delivery is the buggy whip of IT processes. To deploy an application, IT personnel must manually configure all of the layers in the stack and tweak and tune until, finally, ... the application works. And when each layer in the stack changes, it creates a cascade of conflicts and collisions that make maintaining applications an ugly process, indeed.

rPath automates the ugliness, taking time, cost and risk out of application delivery. To learn more about this approach to automation-and maybe have a few laughs-watch this short cartoon: http://www.rpath.com/corp/rethinking.

We'll be taking on this topic in depth on Thursday, April 30th, with "Tackling the Last Mile of IT Process Automation," a webinar rPath is hosting with Forrester Research, Novell and BlueLock. You'll learn how this approach to automation can take the cost, risk and delay out of application delivery today, while setting you on the path for virtualization and cloud, which both require a new approach to application delivery and management. Join us for what will certainly be a great discussion.

More Stories By Jake Sorofman

Jake Sorofman is chief marketing officer of rPath, an innovator in system automation software for physical, virtual and cloud environments. Contact Jake at [email protected]

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