Why ~50% of VMware runs on HP

January 31, 2014

Interview at HP Discover in Barcelona with Jeff Carlat.  We discussed the launch of HP ConvergedSystem for Virtualization, the history of the alliance between HP and VMware, and we gave some teasers about the future



Cloud – Automation Buzz

November 9, 2009

Like the old saying “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” automation has a lot of buzz because it is solving IT problems, lowering costs and improving business outcomes.  Kris Alcantara’s article “Is Automation the Next Buzz Word?” provides a synopsis of a panel discussion at the 4th International Cloud Computing Expo.  In that panel, participants said,

• the term “virtualization” will likely fade into the background as automation becomes a higher priority

• automation by nature carries “tremendous amounts of power and efficiency” and enables businesses to do all the right things, including implementing security

• “The funds to do things the old way is not there,” German (CEO & CTO of Stoneware, Inc.) said. “It’s going to spur a lot of innovation and new ways of delivering IT resources.”

Let’s discuss each of these in a bit more depth.

Automation becomes a higher priority in cloud implementation than virtualization.  Let’s call virtualization a victim of its own success in this case.  We really can’t think about cloud without thinking about virtual servers, storage and networks, all accessible via API’s.  What will be important is the ability to work with the virtualization ‘flavor’ used by the cloud client and cloud provider.  Automation steps forward here because it can abstract away the differences in technology and let the process execute.  This means you don’t have to add skills or technology, you can leverage the skills you have and technologies you already use.  The key to automation succeeding in this role is for it to be truly independent and meet the requirements of RBA 2.0 as described by Gartner analyst David Williams.  Intelligent execution and technology abstraction are the keys.

One of the big problems in Cloud security is simply the ability to work with the security schemes of each of the toolsets you have to work with.  Think about it, to execute and document all of the work associated with a cloud bursting action, how many tools will you have to log into internally and with your cloud vendor.  We’re all waiting for some standards to develop, but for many of us the time to adopt cloud is now and we have to do the best we can with what we have.  That means working with the security infrastructure of each of the task tools that will support the process of adding capacity in the cloud.  Automation can handle both the negotiation of each tool’s security system today and add in support for standards as they develop.

In the end it always comes down to the money, doesn’t it?  You’re spending 70-80% of IT resources on routine tasks that just keep you treading water.  Automation is an innovative way to execute the routine process that deliver the services you offer today, while freeing up your sharpest people to innovate the services you will deliver tomorrow.

Increasingly, IT vendors are adding automation to their product lines, but this serves more to tie together their acquisitions than it does to do what you need done—integration, orchestration and automation of IT processes that cross the IT silos that exist in your production environment.

Opalis works with market leader VMware Vcenter to provide true end to end process automation and to connect Vcenter to your service desk, change management, and configuration tools.  We also work with Microsoft (but don’t trust everything you read on the internet).  Links to more information on both of the solution sets are at the bottom of this article.

Automation is more than buzz.  Whether your cloud plans call for VMware, Microsoft, Amazon, or any one of hundreds of others, Opalis can keep Cloud from being the next way your scarce IT resources are wasted.  Opalis will make cloud the dynamic, low cost road to business success.

Have a look at these resources for more information:

Webcast: Control Virtual Sprawl

Webcast: Controlling the Cloud from the Cloud

Webcast: Opalis and Microsoft Present Automating the Dynamic Data Center

Case Study: Global Financial Institution Automates VM Lifecycle Management

Whitepaper: Virtualization Meets Automation

Whitepaper: Extend Management Tools to Virtual Services

Opalis delivers 104% new license revenue growth

October 5, 2009
Opalis Software Reports 104% Increase in New License Bookings Market Leadership Fueled By Superior Technology and Strong Execution

TORONTO, Oct 05, 2009 (BUSINESS WIRE) — Opalis Software Inc., the privately held market leader in IT process automation, today announced it has achieved its highest license revenue in a single quarter. New license bookings for the quarter ended September 30, 2009 increased by 104% compared to the same quarter the previous year. Over the course of the quarter, both enterprise and managed service provider customers licensed Opalis solutions for the first time, while several existing global customers placed substantial follow on license orders.

In addition, Opalis reinforced its industry leadership position with the release of Opalis v6.2 which meets RBA 2.0, the vision for NextGen IT Process Automation from Gartner.

“Strong demand for Opalis validates the strategy we developed three years ago, to be the solution that orchestrates management and infrastructure vendors including HP, IBM, CA, Microsoft, VMware, Cisco, BMC, EMC and others, to deliver true end to end process automation.” said Todd DeLaughter, President and CEO of Opalis Software. “With Opalis, customers are prepared to take advantage of cloud computing, which requires automation to dynamically allocate and consume cloud resources. Opalis is uniquely positioned as the provider that unites existing investments in technology and leverages them for re-use, while embracing new capabilities as third parties bring them to the market.

Key Q309 Deals — The largest U.S. municipal hospital and health care system serving over 1.3 million people, licensed Opalis to automate the self healing process by integrating IBM Tivoli Netcool, Microsoft Operations Manager, BMC Event Manager and BMC Remedy.

— U.S. based global outsourcer with revenue over $16 billion placed significant follow on orders with Opalis to integrate CA Service Desk and EMC Infra and automate change, configuration and incident processes across their systems.

— Europe’s leading provider of IT infrastructure services with revenues over GBP 2.5 billion placed follow on orders with Opalis for several enterprise customers to automate user provisioning, virtual lifecycle management, and incident management by integrating Microsoft Active Directory and BMC Remedy service desk.

Case Studies – Opalis customers continue to celebrate success with Opalis, click here for more information.

— Global Bank Improves Virtual Service Delivery From Hours To Minutes With over 35,000 employees and $320 billion of assets, this highly diversified financial service provider uses Opalis to eliminate the cost associated with virtual server sprawl and improved service delivery from 2 hours to 2 minutes. Using Opalis, the bank created a VM management portal that automates five critical processes associated with requests, provisioning, decommissioning, backup, and lease expiry of VMware virtual machines. Opalis is used to track the machines assigned to various projects and the storage consumption of the virtual server.

This enables IT staff to determine where storage is being used and identify which virtual machines are no longer needed. The automated lease expiry also allows the IT staff to notify users when their VMs will be decommissioned.

Automating these processes removed the need to perform manual audits.

— The largest provider of driver and vehicle assistance services in North America This industry leading automotive services organization uses Opalis to connect and discover information within target systems, share that information across a publish and subscribe data bus and take action based on complex triggers and conditions. This allows the IT team to drive new business and innovation through automation. Opalis was selected over the competition because of its intelligent decision making capability and flexible process branching, as well as its ability for non-developers to design and implement process automation.

— Global Managed Service Provider Standardizes & Automates Best Practices This U.S. based consulting, technology services and outsourcing firm is a Fortune Global 500 company with more than 100,000 employees operating around the world.

To retain market leadership and strong competitive position, they standardized best practices using Opalis. They increased revenue through delivery of new services, reduced level 1, 2 and 3 support costs and were able to improve customer experience and satisfaction. Data center costs are reduced between 20-40%, while 70% of level 1 incidents are solved automatically. There is also a 50% reduction of level 2 incidents. In addition to the superior ROI capabilities, Opalis was chosen over HP, BMC, IBM because Opalis can dynamically adapt to run context specific processes across multiple locations. Opalis also automatically detects changes such as new fields or assets in the environment, initiate multiple workflow branches and monitor for events in systems without adding agents.

— Online Phonebook Company Improves Customer Satisfaction & Time to Revenue The U.S. based publisher has been a customer of Opalis for several years. With Opalis, they integrate IT tools like Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM), Tivoli Storage Manager, and BMC Service Desk Express. In addition to reducing cost and risk while improving IT operational outcomes, they also use Opalis to automate critical business processes. Automation directly improves their revenue stream and customer satisfaction. “We cut down the time it took to post new content from days to minutes, significantly improving our revenue stream with Opalis. What’s more, we redeployed a number of people to new roles. “We did reduce costs via outsourcing but nothing like the way we reduced costs with this latest use of Opalis,” Steve J., Director of IT Operations.

About Opalis Software Inc.

Opalis Software Inc. is the market leader in IT process automation software with some of the largest customers in the world, including Accenture, VMware, Fujitsu Services, Computacenter, Toyota, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Dow Chemical, Yellowbook, Chico’s, British Telecom, Bank of New York, and Woolworths. Opalis provides comprehensive IT process automation solutions for global managed service providers and large enterprises. With Opalis customers integrate, orchestrate, and automate IT processes across physical, virtual and cloud infrastructure and improve service delivery while reducing costs.

Biz can only optimize for one of 3 things

October 1, 2009




Think about the last few business cycles and where the emphasis was.  In the 80’s and early 90’s it was all about Quality.  TQM and the threat from Japan were big drivers for action.  As we moved into the mid 90’s and the internet boom we all talked about time to market and first mover advantage (I’m more a believer that the early bird may get the worm, but the second rat gets the cheese…).  For the last year or so the emphasis has all been about cost.  Most businesses can only focus on one of these at a time.  It’s the businesses who manage for nail 2 or more at the same time that break away from the pack.

I’m also reminded of my first Product Management job.  My Engineering counterpart, a more experienced guy, sat me down and said “This is how it works.  Your job is to tell me that you want a certain list of features by a certain date at a certain level of quality.  My job is to tell you to pick any 2”.  

The reason I’m so excited by the IT Process Automation market is that it truly lets you have your cake and eat it too (and eat if first).

Cost – Automating routine actions and complex sequences takes labor out of that equation, making it less expensive.  ROI is generally well under a year.  The other side of this equation is that you can now do the things on your “to do” list that you couldn’t get to before because you were busy keeping the ship afloat.  Now you can do those things the business values.

Quality – You’ve pursued ITIL or COBIT or ISO20000 or 6-Sigma.  How do you ensure that processes are followed every time?  Automation is the best way, particularly if your automation solution also documents all of its work (in your Service Desk and Configuration Management System) and reports on its own execution.  This last part is critical.  Once your processes are automated and you have data on their execution, you can now improve the process based on data.  Dr. Deming would be so proud.

Speed – with people bridging your tool and organizational silos there’s always lag time in processes.  This lag time may be 90% of the total process time.  It creeps into process execution time because the completion of one step of the task often become just an (unprioritized?) inbox item for the person who handles the next step of the process.  This lag time is eliminated by automation.




You can have them all.

Can IT align with the business?

September 25, 2009

All of the vendor hype around Business Service Management assumes IT can align itself with the business, but can it?

The PC revolution was started by the business and it is that revolution that triggered everything in our industry that has come after.  Since that day when somebody brought in a PC with a spreadsheet or word processor, though DOS sharing, NetWare, Client/Server, internet, mobile computing and social networking, IT has been trying to catch up.  Problem is we haven’t been trying to catch up with the business–IT’s been struggling just to keep up with the technology.

In a conversation with a well-known analyst a couple weeks ago, she told me her research shows that 30% of “IT spending” is done by the business, not IT, and that amount is growing.  In other words, IT is being by-passed 30% of the time.  Do you think you have credibility with the business?

You have to let go of what you are to be what you can become.  The problem is IT can’t completely let go because we can’t hit the off switch on legacy systems.  Another problem is that IT is stuck at the task level of automation even though we’ve pursued ITIL and other process methodologies.  There’s also the problem described in the Sloan Management report on the IT Alignment Trap.  What can we do?

We can start by aligning our efforts with the things that are valued by eliminating work we do that the business places no value in.  Here’s a (generous) view of how our effort in support of the business stacks up.  Typical IT workload in support of the BusinessThe overwhelming amount of effort in IT is spent on tasks, most of which are repeatable and many of which have been defined via your efforts around ITIL or other process development/definition work. 

Look how far away those tasks are from anything that directly delivers business value.  You know that 70+% of your efforts are spent here and you know that the business does not value this.  Do you want to be outsourced?  If these tasks are repeatable you should automate them and spend the time higher up in the pyramid.

To get your workload to look more like the chart below, you’ll have to make fundamental changes.  Better IT workload in support of the businessBecause so much of the routine tasks and process work your team does is related to existing systems that can’t simply be turned off you have to automate them. 

Run Book automation can automate routine tasks in IT that live within your IT silos.  Limited purpose automation is being offered by the Big 4 vendors to tie their suites of acquired products together to support a more process focused IT infrastructure.  The risks of pursuing this strategy are outlined here, here,  and in a report from Gartner “Will Vendor Initiatives Deplete the Value of RBA?”.  Start talking to the vendors.  Make end to end process automation your focus because that gets you closest to business value.  If you find a vendor who can automate tasks within silos and the end to end processes, so much the better.

With the IT processes well in hand you can turn to presenting your services to the business.  One way to do this is via a Service Request Management system and Service Catalog.  These can be really powerful when those tools leverage the process automations you’ve built—now you’re automating IT Service request and delivery, now you’re directly in contact with the business.

Is there an option other than automation?  Sure.  Your other big option for freeing your team’s time up to focus on things the business cares about is to outsource the lower level tasks and process automation work. 

The question you need to ask is which path—outsourcing or automating—will better build your credibility with the business?  Follow the timeless wisdom of Caddy Shack, “Be the ball Danny”.

News from itSMF Fusion

September 24, 2009

I was only able to attend yesterday but Glen O’Donnell of Forrester gave a great presentation after lunch.

If he said it once he must have said it 5 times “If it is repeatable automate it” and “if it’s not a competitive differentiator, why are you doing it?  Outsource it, or better yet automate it”.

IT has no automated processes—most shops have only automated tasks.  We all know that >70% of the average IT shop’s effort is simply to keep the lights on.  And we know that the business doesn’t value the status quo (unless something’s down).  The business values new capabilities that drive revenue or cost control.  And yet, IT is mostly stuck in a rut.  What to do?

Become a hero.

Not the kind that current incentive structures encourage (I was a bit flattered that he riffed on the firefighters by day; arsonists by night theme I discussed here).  Here’s Glenn’s advice on being a hero:

  • Be pragmatic
  • Innovate
  • Automate the automatable
  • Become a metrics junkie (measure what matters to the business, not speeds & feeds)
  • Tie incentives to the metrics
  • Change; don’t be changed

He emphasized that automating end to end processes enforces ITIL discipline, reduces errors, accelerates process execution, and frees your people to innovate. Glenn recently did a paper making the case for why NOW is the time to start automating processes. It’s available here.

Signs are out there that the economy has bottomed out.  What are you doing to prepare for the next uptick in your business.  Automation cuts costs so you can weather weak economic times and allows you to focus on what matters to the business as things improve.

Top 2 IT Priorities

September 2, 2009

According to Gartner, Service Desk Tools and RBA should be IT Ops top priorities for implementation. Service Desk Tools are largely a replacement market, with more than half of all IT shops having already implemented one (or more). RBA is early mainstream and is only just now getting onto many IT shops radar. Here’s a chart from the Gartner Article “Hype Cycle for IT Operations Management”:

Top IT Priorities

IT Service Desk Tools are ranked highly because they are the focal point of process definition and process improvement in IT–particularly for people:people processes. Run Book Automation, also known as IT Process Automation is ranked so highly because it helps run IT as a business. With RBA, outcomes are more consistent and accomplished at the lowest possible cost. What’s more, all outcomes are measurable and documented to make compliance tasks simpler and less costly too.

Another way of thinking of RBA is as a way to supercharge the value of the investments you’ve already made it IT tools. You’ve chased inefficiency out of the tasks in IT Ops and with RBA you can chase inefficiency out of the way you link tasks together into processes. With virtualization projects, compliance concerns and headcount caps all squeezing your capabilities, isn’t it nice that there’s a way to take what you already have and make it even more efficient and effective?

Product Automation, Workflow Automation and Process Automation

August 24, 2009

It’s “official”.  The limited purpose automation bundled by the big 4 vendors IS NOT IT Process Automation.  So says David Williams of the Gartner Group in his August 14 paper entitled Will Vendor Initiatives Deplete the Value of RBA?   He draws a distinction between vendors using the RBA capabilities they’ve purchased to solve integration problems within their suites and end to end IT operations process automation, or RBA.  In this post I’ll dive into the distinctions between those, and between ITPA and the workflow contained within the Service Desk tools you likely already own.

IT Process Automation has two key subcategories.  The first is end to end IT process automation in support of a business process.  In most shops, this means integrating, orchestrating and automating existing task tool silos like service desks, change management, configuration tools, event management and the like.  The second is automating repetitive tasks within those silos.  Let’s take automation within a silo first.

Task tools have made IT efficient within silos allowing fewer people to do more work with fewer errors.  This is all obviously goodness, but it hasn’t eliminated routine, time robbing tasks.  Two good examples come from Event Management and Database management.  When events are first captured, some of the first activities include filtering, correlation and triage.  Some Service Desk products offer these capabilities as part of the product or as add-on tools.  If you haven’t already purchased those capabilities, those are tasks IT Process Automation can tackle, but aren’t the focus of this post.  What those tools don’t offer is initial investigation that’s where I’ll focus.  In most shops, valid events are routed to the operator most skilled with that type of incident/problem.  Invariably, that black belt will have a sequence of things that she checks and scripts she runs to collect information before doing anything that is specific to the reported symptoms.  This sequence is ideal for automation.  IT Process Automation can listen for valid events (and may also be the software that determines the event is valid) and run the diagnostics prior to opening up the ticket.  In this way, the first time a person sees the ticket, all of the basics are done and it is time for a person to do what only a person can do—exercise judgment and creative problem solving.

In database management there are routine sequences of actions in CDL and ETL jobs.  In many organizations the run book for this job takes 40 man hours per week and looks like this:

  1. Accept Request – The input for the process.
  2. Validate – Check readiness for the process.  This includes checking for available disk space, etc.
  3. Dump – Create a backup image of the database.
  4. Copy – Transfer the backup image to the target.
  5. Load – Restore the backup .
  6. Cleanup – Delete all temp files and dumped DB images.
  7. Verify – Check to make sure the new database is the same as the original database.  Close process (notify end-user).

These routine actions can all be automated, freeing a significant amount of time for work the business places a higher value on.  See the Opalis case study HERE (National Building Supply) that goes into greater detail about these types of processes.

End to end IT Process Automation in support of a business process integrates, orchestrates and automates overarching processes that are supported by multiple task tool silos.  The more evolved IT Process Automation products can also discover the information within the task tool silos, share that information with other task tools involved in the process, and take actions based on that information—like triggering a process, completing fields in a form to document the process, or changing the execution of the process based on context.  Compliance and Change Management is a good example.  The trigger could be a change request or an event.  The tools that are orchestrated could include event management systems, Service Desks, CMDBs, configuration tools and compliance scanners.  This is the “big bang” area for IT process automation and why Gartner now rates it as high in priority for IT Ops implementation as the Service Desk itself.  Ensuring consistently accurate, low cost execution of these complex chains of tasks is a big opportunity for improving service to the business while lowering IT operational expenses.

Product Automation is the solving of a vendor problem, not a customer problem.  Vendors like HP, CA and BMC are offering what at first looks fairly attractive—the bundling of their acquired RBA capabilities with tools such as server configuration and service desk.  This may include templates for limited purpose automation of tasks executed between the tools.  This clearly solves the vendor’s problem of integrating their acquired RBA, Service Desk and server configuration tools.  The limited purpose automation they’re offering may solve a limited problem within customer IT shops but it ignores the larger opportunity for IT Process Automation and may lead to vendor lock in and higher costs.  If your shop is like most shops, you have tools from HP, BMC, CA, IBM, Microsoft, EMC, VMware, and others.  The larger opportunity for IT Process Automation is to span all of these tools so that your automation mirrors your processes.  With all of these vendors in your shop, if you took advantage of the limited purpose automation now being offered, you’d then have to integrate your automations and have automation experts to do that.  That’s just trading one problem for another.  Gartner’s advice?  “Purchase a stand-alone RBA tool and use it as the primary automation integration engine, if process automation is what you seek.”  This is from the same document referenced earlier—read the whole thing (requires subscription or purchase of this document).

Workflow Automation contained within Service Desks is sometimes confused with ITPA and RBA.  Folks often say “I already have automation—it’s built into the Service Desk tool I use”.  Service Desk tools often do have great workflow automation for people to people processes—approvals, escalations, and the creation of task lists and the monitoring of the task list’s execution.  What ITPA and RBA excel at are the system to system or people to system processes.  How does the task list in your Change Management system get executed?  People either work with the target systems directly or people use a configuration tool to make the changes.  ITPA can execute the task list and update the Change Management system. 

ITPA, vendor bundled limited purpose automation, and workflow are 3 different things.  Being clear on the differences is one key to successful outcomes.

Taking some time off to fly

August 7, 2009

Competing in a weeklong series of sailplane races.  Check results daily here http://budurl.com/myVac

Flat the new up? No, Up is still Up

August 6, 2009

Opalis released Q2 results and the customer use cases that drove 97% license revenue growth.  Market momentum in IT Process Automation / Run Book Automation seems to be decidedly in favor of the Opalis Automation Fabric vs. the limited use automation the ITSM suite vendors are trying to sell with their Service Desk and Config products.  Link to Opalis PR http://budurl.com/OpalisUp97