A rationale for server automation

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Automation leaves more scope for innovation

The scale and diversity of the IT estates are placing increasing demands on how even relatively small businesses use their servers. They also have to be able to respond quickly to changes in their markets, aim to make operations efficient and comply with regulations on security and legal directives.

All of this has led many companies to increase the number of servers that they run, and their administration is largely a manual process that can create a lot of inconsistency in the way the machines are configured.

In addition, as companies take on new applications, including those provided through cloud platforms, they have to manage the process carefully. As software vendors release improvements their deployment can be slowed down if it requires a reconfiguration of the servers. This can also apply to security updates and bug fixes.

Using server automation software can do a lot to relieve the pressures. It can create standards and workflows to automate tasks such as provisioning, patching, configuration management and compliance management. In doing this it's possible to draw on what the IT team has learned from its experiences and industry best practice.

This can help to reduce the errors that are sometimes made in configuration and manual hand-offs, and ensure that a company's IT infrastructure conforms to a defined standard.

A number of benefits can be obtained through this approach. For a start, there are significant economies of scale in managing the estate, as administrators spend much less time on time on configuration and managing servers and other devices.

It can help to provide a big improvement in 'uptime' by reducing the risk and cost of service outages, many of which are caused by human error. Companies providing server automation software often claim that they can produce uptime within a whisker of 100%.

It can also make companies more confident in distributing software releases and updates internally, as they are not so worried about the potential for errors. This can speed up such moves, helping them to get more out of their software and pull in the business benefits.

There is also a less tangible but potentially important benefit in giving IT teams more time and confidence to work on innovation, finding new ways of using applications and hardware to increase efficiency and make the company more responsive to its market. The less time they spend on server management, the more time they have to investigate the potential of new software or equipment.

This can all be combined with deploying public and private cloud services, especially if the company is developing a hybrid model that combines these with its own servers.

The overall benefit is increased reliability, which in turn will improve efficiency and produce more flexibility within a company.

Some will have good reasons to carry on managing their servers manually, but any firm that doesn't at least look carefully at server automation is in danger of missing out on a valuable option.