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6 Processes You Should Automate to Provide IT-as-a-Service

kai_holthaus-cropBy Kai Holthaus

IT-as-a-Service (ITaaS) is one of the current paradigm shifts in managing IT organizations and service delivery. It represents an “always-on” approach to services, where IT services are available to customers and users almost instantly, allowing unprecedented flexibility on the business side with regards to using IT services to enable business processes.

This brave new world requires a higher degree of automation and orchestration than is common in today’s IT organizations. This blog post describes some of the new areas of automation IT managers need to think about.

1&2) Event Management and Incident Management

This is the area where automation and orchestration got their start – automated tools and workflow to monitor whether servers, networks, storage—even applications—are still available and performing the way they should be. An analysis should be performed to study whether events, when detected, could be handled in an automated fashion, ideally before the condition causes an actual incident.

If an incident already happened, incident models can be defined and automated, implementing self-healing techniques to resolve the incident. In this case, an incident record must be created and updated as part of executing the incident model. Also, it may be advisable to review the number of incident models executed within a given time period, to determine if a problem investigation should be started.

It is important to note that when a workflow makes these kinds of changes in an automatic fashion, at the very least the configuration management system must be updated per the organization’s policies.

3) Request Fulfillment

Automation and orchestration tools are removing the manual element from request fulfillment. Examples include:

  • Requests for new virtual machines, databases, additional storage space or other infrastructure
  • Requests for end-user devices and accessories
  • Requests for end-user software
  • Request for access to a virtual desktop image (VDI) or delivery of an application to a VDI

Fulfillment workflows can be automated to minimize human interaction. Such human interaction can often be reduced to the approval step, as required.

Again, it is important that the configuration management system gets updated per the organization’s policies since it is part of the workflows.

4&5) Change and Configuration Management

Technology today already allows the automation of IT processes that usually require change requests, as well as approvals, implementation plans, and change reviews. For instance, virtual machine hypervisors and management software such—such as vSphere—can automatically move virtual machines from one physical host to another in a way that is completely transparent to the user.

Besides automating change, the configuration management system should be automatically updated so that support personnel always have accurate information available when incidents need to be resolved.

6) Continuous Deployment

The examples provided so far for automating activities in an IT organization were operations-focused. However, automation should also be considered in other areas, such as DevOps.

Automation and orchestration tools can define, manage, and automate existing release processes, configuring workflow tasks and governance policies used to build, test, and deploy software at each stage of the delivery processes. The automation can also model existing gating rules between the different stages of the process. In addition, automation ensures the correct version of the software is being deployed in the correct environments. This includes integrating with existing code management systems, such as version control, testing, or bug tracking solutions, as well as change management and configuration management procedures.

In an ITaaS model, automation is no longer optional. To fulfill the promise of an always-on IT service provider—and remain the preferred service-provider of your customers—consider automating these and other processes.


Kai Holthaus is a delivery manager with VMware Operations Transformation Services and is based in Oregon.