Intelligent Automation in Real-time Enterprises: The Year Past, The Year Ahead

As demands on IT continue to grow, so does the importance of workload automation. We examine three trends from 2012 and what's ahead in 2013 for this resource-saving technology.

By Ben Rosenberg

Fluidity is the new mantra in workload automation. Management demands, data sources, SLA requirements, computing infrastructure -- everything attached to IT is turning more flexible, more diverse, and more nimble in order to satisfy the accelerating pace of business. At the center of it all, job scheduling and workload automation is becoming more important than at any time in the last 30 years.

In the past 12 months we've witnessed the continued evolution of business IT into something faster, bigger, and more adaptable than we could have imagined even a few years ago. Workload automation technology is responding with new solutions that will be increasingly visible in 2013 and beyond. These are the key trends we've identified that are re-shaping the segment:

A Look Back: Top Workload Automation Trends of 2012

2012 Trend #1: Workload management was driven by SLAs

BI has matured IT by setting business policies and requiring service-level agreements (SLAs) for workloads and runbook automation. As a result, more advanced monitoring and alerting is being developed, as is critical path analysis tied to business priority. This will be essential to ensure that resources are provisioned quickly for high-priority jobs and workflows.

2012 Trend #2: Size, sources, and complexity of data exploded

Big data no longer resides only within the enterprise. The democratization of BI is causing the death of the single data warehousing model; organizations are pulling data from multiple third-party sources to integrate with internal stores. Moreover, we've also seen a rise in self-serve data marts that enable BI users to choose the data sets needed for specific tasks.

The need to automate the integration and movement of data between these disparate sources is creating what many are calling "agile BI," or the ability to update integration processes quickly and efficiently.

2012 Trend #3: IT reduced IT operation costs with dynamic provisioning

Cloud computing is transforming just about every facet of enterprise IT, but perhaps the biggest change is its ability to turn data processing infrastructure into a pay-as-you-go proposition, drawing upon resources of virtually limitless size exactly at the time they're needed.

By allowing workload automation to provision resources on demand, whether internal, virtual, or cloud-based, IT organizations can ensure that the capacity curve tracks to the workload demand curve. This has the added benefit of effectively eliminating costs associated with idle assets between workload bursts.

A Look Ahead: Workload Automation Trends to Watch in 2013

2013 Trend #1: The reactive automation model will shift to a predictive model

In response to the diverse array of systems and resources both inside and outside the enterprise, workload automation is becoming "intelligent"; that is, it is combining predictive and reactive forms of resource management to schedule workflows and proactively provision, schedule, and distribute the necessary internal, virtual, and cloud resources on the fly, all based on historical analysis, to ensure SLAs are met and bottlenecks eliminated.

In particular, new "what-if" capabilities are coming that will enable workflow forecasting across different platforms. IT managers will be able to predict when spikes may overload servers or systems upon which workloads are executing, then distribute those workloads across servers prior to the spike. The improvement will help provide better alignment between IT organizations and the businesses they support.

2013 Trend #2: Democratization of BI will drive driving the need for real-time data

Because business intelligence is now something used by managers at all levels and in all areas of specialization, there is an increasing need for real-time or near-real-time data updates to support on-demand decision-making. This is putting huge demands on workload automation solutions to react quickly by reliably executing the complex workflows needed.

2013 Trend #3: Self-serve automation will expand

Managers outside the IT department -- those with BI needs -- will soon be able to choose from a workload automation service catalog to initiate processes or workflows themselves. Intelligent workload automation will move to support this trend, enabling the system to self-provision the necessary resources and then execute the process automatically.

Conclusion

Not so long ago, many people thought that job scheduling and workload automation solutions were becoming less relevant as mainframe systems gave way to distributed forms of processing. Nothing could be further from the truth. With IT becoming more complex, more diverse, and more often performed in real time, coordination and efficiency move to the forefront.

For example, as businesses become increasingly dependent on the digital experience, from Web sites to mobile platforms to social media, it's critical to ensure that the underlying processes and technologies empowering this experience are running efficiently. With business processes, applications, and computing infrastructures intertwined and interdependent inside and outside the enterprise, small glitches can spiral into major outages. To maintain IT continuity, expect workload automation solutions to become a focal point of IT architecture to better manage this fluid new era of 24/7 processing.

Ben Rosenberg is president and founder of Advanced Systems Concepts, Inc.. An expert in enterprise-class IT automation and system utilization solutions, Ben has nearly 40 years of experience in engineering and marketing system software products across Microsoft Windows, UNIX, OpenVMS, and mainframe platforms. Ben can be reached at brosenberg@advsyscon.com.
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