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Realizing the Self-Healing Data Center: Artificial Intelligence’s Role in Automation

There’s an old joke that IT is about keeping the lights on. Have you ventured into The Home Depot lately? Lighting isn’t what it used to be! With a diversity of choices—LED, CFL, Halogen, Fluorescent and, for now, the old incandescent bulb Thomas Edison would recognize, the simplicity of yesteryear is gone. The same could be said for the data center, only in our industry, it’s yesterday—or even yesterminute!

With rising application diversity, public and hybrid clouds, modern architectures and “function as a service,” keeping the lights on is the least of it. Today managing workloads for optimal resource consumption and user experience—to keep the whole business on—requires automation. The more complex it all gets, the more critical it becomes to keep it simple through a single point of control and management.

I wrote recently about the self-healing data center and the role of automation in remediating problems, to the point of “healing” downed services before they require escalation.  The foundation of any self-healing data center is the management control plane. vRealize Operations 6.x brought automated remediation and predictive resource scheduling into reality. Today I’d like to look ahead what “v.2” of the self-healing data center from VMware could look like.

The next generation of the self-healing data center stool will have these 3 legs: artificial intelligence, strategic partnerships with public cloud vendors to ensure tight, seamless interactivity, and a state of the art management backbone. VMware’s overarching principle remains the same: to give customers flexibility and choice while delivering a single point of management for any cloud.

Automation has long been key to doing more with less

As IT focuses more in innovation, offloading as much of the routine administration of the data center and cloud seems like an obvious choice. But the bar keeps moving up; most companies today are on their journey to the cloud, so much so that it’s changing the role of the data center to that of a hub for cloud operations. As with all challenges this brings opportunity: the self-healing data center is becoming a reality.

VMware’s relationship with Amazon Web Services, announced last year, allows public and private clouds to co-exist on the same infrastructure. This provides incredible efficiency and resource consolidation while offering flexibility in where to run your workloads. VMware Cloud on AWS provides a single point of visibility and control to manage your clouds. A big step in itself, this partnership also helps VMware more fully realize the self-healing data center as it builds out delivery of tools to automate dynamic workload shifting.

Artificial Intelligence is the next piece

First, what do we mean by the term Artificial Intelligence, or AI? People think of AI as allowing machines to make decisions for people—but at VMware we think of AI as powerful enabling technology that helps people make better decisions (see Ray O’Farrell’s related piece here).

VMware wants to use AI to help our customers make sense of big data: AI will help to surface what you need to know when you need to know it. AI that can “connect the dots” will become an increasingly important aspect of our cloud management platform and the automation that helps our customers drive digital transformation. Our goal, over time, is to make cloud infrastructure itself more intelligent. This means that AI-enabled infrastructure could deliver degrees of self-regulation well beyond today’s policy-based capabilities: power usage, elasticity, redundancy and security are among the critical data center functions that, like capacity planning, can be effectively lifted from the IT admin’s plate. The term adaptive infrastructure is emerging to describe this almost sentient state, and intelligent reporting can drive a human-machine relationship that approaches collaboration.

VMware’s AI initiatives are growing up, gaining resource and momentum internally.  Teams are charged with innovation in the AI space and granted the freedom to run. The guiding principle for pursuing AI at VMware is simply to help customers solve complex problems more quickly. vRealize Log Insight was the first fruit, using big data and machine learning to deliver operational intelligence. We’ve also been working to leverage advanced analytics across software-defined infrastructure to improve resource allocation and hybrid cloud operations.

The next generation of cloud automation will assume AI as part of its DNA

Expect to see more “function-as-a-service” offerings as that model matures, as well as the incorporation of next-gen micro-services and distributed state architectures for container deployments and serverless environments respectively. VMware’s Mike Wookey, VMware Cloud Management CTO, did a spotlight session at VMworld on the role of AI in these roadmap features; for more on that go here.

The big takeaway here is: VMware is delivering the self-healing data center in a way that keeps you in control. Our extensible cloud management platform will continue to adapt to your existing cloud strategy today and tomorrow. Hybrid cloud is a reality and we continue our significant investment in automation because we believe it is the critical bridge between cloud and data center. vRealize Operations can handle it all, and thereby protect your investment in the Software-Defined Data Center, but if third party tools are a reality in your shop, you can keep those constituents happy. One of our customers at VMworld recently put it this way:

“vRealize Automation (Orchestrator) allows you to connect to a huge ecosystem with a huge number of third-party systems to automate any and every IT process that you can think of. It makes it very flexible and adaptable.”

VMware’s guiding mantra remains the same: let you do more with less, automate everything, and provide a comprehensive multi-cloud management platform that eliminates the need for point solutions all on an open platform that reduces your risk and cost.  That lets you focus on innovation for your business, deliver brand-making customer experiences and advance your journey to the cloud.


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