Merriam Webster defines automation as the automatically controlled operation of an apparatus, process or system by mechanical or electronic devices that take the place of human labor. But what does automation mean for cloud service providers?
What organizations need, now more than ever, are automated tools aimed at improving the administration, operation and governance of their physical, virtual, and cloud data center environments.
Research firm Gartner summed up just how important cloud automation has become by identifying it as a top trend. They predict that cloud computing will increase the use of tools and automation in IT services as a new paradigm brings with it self-service, automated provisioning and metering and more. Gartner also predicts that these automation tools will transform the industry from a high-touch custom environment into one that is characterized by the automated delivery of IT services.
Below are four necessary cloud automation tools in order for service providers to increase their productivity levels and reduce their costs of delivery.
1. Automated Provisioning
Compute and storage resources should be readily available without the need of a systems administrator. Automated provisioning tools allow users to specify the number and types of resources needed and then create those virtual resources and make them available for use. Provisioning may be done in response to a user-specified command, “Launch a WordPress server” or in response to a change in demand for an application that is configured to automatically scale up or down as demand dictates.
2. Cloud management dashboard
A cloud management dashboard is an essential part of any cloud automation strategy. Many aspects of automated provisioning are carried out behind the scenes by automated scripts but cloud users should not have to trek their way through command lines and scripts. A cloud management dashboard provides users with an easy to use interface that allows them to provision and de-provision resources, track resource usage, modify access and view services that are readily available. In addition to making these tasks more streamlined, a cloud management dashboard should also be able to support task scheduling, like automatic backups of data.
The ideal cloud management dashboard is a single point of management for cloud users. It should display information on accounts, charges and provide users with easy access to your support team.
3. Cloud monitoring operations
Monitoring tools allow for real-time assessment of the state of the cloud and include resource allocation and usage details. Cloud automation monitoring tools are useful for real-time monitoring and long-term planning. Policy-driven alerts can help cloud administrators know if there are potential problematic conditions such as hardware failures or disrupted services. Long-term planning requires cumulative data about the use of cloud resources, growth in demand for specific types of resources and the costs of providing those particular resources.
4. Metering and billing
One of the defining characteristics of cloud is that users are charged only for the resources they utilize. A cloud automation platform should include tools for tracking resource usage by accounts as well as individual users. These tools may include support for budget controls that would alert users when they approach the limits of their budgets or block provisioning when a pre-defined budget is exhausted.
Automation is a key component in cloud computing and helps make otherwise complex cloud management systems easy to understand, monitor and manage. To put it simply: cloud automation is important because the cloud is too big and complex for a set of legacy tools to react in the amount of time that consumers of this age expect and demand. It is this automation component that allows you to gain a full understanding of all the moving parts within your cloud environment, enabling you to make decisions based upon real time data and analytics.
With such a strong case for cloud automation tools, IDC expects sales of cloud management software — including both automation and analytics — to grow from $1.2 billion worldwide last year to more than $4.4 billion in 2017.
How accurate these projections are is still to be seen, but one thing is certain: Cloud usage will only continue to grow, and with it, the need for cloud automation software.
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