RealTime IT News

Startups Seize Automation Market

So you're a CIO of a large trading firm. Your head IT administrator comes to you and tells you that he doesn't have the staff to manage alerts, security warnings and patches.

Trading firms and telecommunications companies process millions of transactions on computing systems that execute thousands of different tasks. And when problems arise, or when it's simply time for routine system maintenance, it can present a huge drain on IT resources because they eat up IT staffers' time.

Who can keep up? And more importantly, how? You, the CIO, can. With run-book automation.

Turning the pain into gain

Gartner coined the term "run-book automation," which is slang for what other research firms call IT management process automation. That is, software that automates processes and applies the correct resources to changes that arise in computer systems.

Run-book automation can trigger a configuration management database (CMDB), a software tool many companies are adding to store configuration data and gauge real-time views of changes, the risks and impacts of planned changes, and how those changes will affect other resources on a network.

In practical terms, a CMDB will let an administrator see a change to a database in near real time, understand the possible outcomes and note how that change affected an application, for example. The admin could effect a change accordingly.

Theoretically, run-book automation will take a lot of the redundant, manual work out of the equation for the admins, allowing them to focus on other tasks to help the business efficiently run.

Gartner analyst David Williams said run-book automation had almost no traction when he started tracking it in February. But it's gaining steam with the emergence of new software products to trigger and corral IT processes.

Williams said run-book automation was brought to the market to address and gain greater control and accountability on who's doing what, when, how -- essentially to make sense of the murkiness of IT management point products that can proliferate in support of an IT operations management process on a computer network.

This includes anything from getting a help desk to talk to event systems or getting information from performance systems that may indicate additional changes to a server configuration. These are basic things that require machines to communicate with multiple tools and potentially across networks.

"Run-book automation tools orchestrate the automation of IT operations management processes, unifying the communication of the underlying, supporting, IT management tools in support of the process. By looking at the process that you're managing and providing visibility and reporting on that process so you've got better IT operations efficiency," Williams said.

The Players

Williams divides run-book automation players into two camps: generic process and specific process providers. Generic providers, such as startups RealOps, Opalis and iConclude, aim to automate pretty much anything in a computer system.

Specific run-book automation providers include LanDesk, Enigmatic, BladeLogic and Opsware, all using run-book automation for a singular task. For example, BladeLogic and Opsware offer IT orchestration for server provisioning. However, they don't rely on their own technology.

BladeLogic licenses RealOps' Automation Management Platform as part of its Orchestration Manager to automate incident, problem, change and configuration management; Opsware uses iConclude's OpsForce platform in its Orchestrator for the same tasks.

Together, the startups in the space offer hundreds of pre-configured templates for automating IT process management right out of the box.

RealOps CEO Sean McDermott, Opalis CEO Todd DeLaughter (recently a key member of HP's software unit) and iConclude CEO Sunny Gupta all say they are marketing similar things, but that they have better technology and more process-specific templates and cater to the biggest Fortune 200 or Fortune 500 companies.

In truth, they more or less have the same message: that the pain points associated with automating IT process management are many and excruciating at a time when CIOs handicap budgets.

Next page: What the players are saying