IT Process Automation for Microsoft System Center – a guest post from Opalis expert, Greg Charman
Greg Charman is an ex-Opalis expert who now works for Microsoft. Read Greg’s thoughts about how Opalis works with System Center and other similar tools in the systems management space.
In December 2009 Microsoft acquired Opalis, a specialist provider of IT Process Automation (ITPA) software. The Opalis product is the process of being fully integrated into the System Center family of datacenter management products.
IT Process Automation, formally known as Run Book Automation (RBA) software provides a platform to design and run IT processes. Standardizing the IT processes that underpin IT services means best practices can be deployed across the environment, regardless of the underlying management infrastructure. This is achieved by orchestrating and integrating the existing IT tools.
Traditional IT tools support the functions of one particular IT Silo, sometimes offering automation of tasks within that Silo function. Unfortunately IT Business Processes cross multiple IT Silos and today these bridges are provided by human beings, inducing delay, error and rekeying of data.
Opalis allows you to now integrate and orchestrate the tools in each of the Silos to now support your end to end IT Business Process, rather than have these tools define what your Business Process will be.
Microsoft recognizes that companies run heterogeneous data centers. As a part of the System Center portfolio, Opalis workflow processes orchestrate System Center products and integrate them with non-Microsoft systems to enable interoperability across the entire datacenter. Opalis provides solutions that address the systems management needs of complex heterogeneous datacenter environments. Opalis has developed productized integrations to management software from Microsoft, IBM, BMC, CA, VMware, EMC, and Symantec. This enables users to automate best practices such as incident triage and remediation, service provisioning and change management process, and achieve interoperability across tools.
The combined offering of Opalis and System Center provides the ability to orchestrate and integrate IT management through workflow and simplifies routine systems management tasks in complex heterogeneous environments by:
- Defining and orchestrating processes across all System Center products
- Integrating and orchestrating non-Microsoft tools as part of a complete workflow
- Engaging with System Center Service Manager to automate the human workflow elements
With the new capabilities from System Center in 2010, namely Service Manager and Opalis and the rest of System Center suite Microsoft can provide the tools to truly achieve the “Infrastructure on Demand” requirements being placed on IT executives.
Imagine a user has a requirement for a new virtual server which will host a business application.
First they go to a Web Front End and select a virtual machine template from the available options and request which application must be installed on the machine and how much data storage is required
- Opalis picks up this request and following the appropriate ITIL process, Creates a New Change Request Ticket in Service Manager to record this new provision request.
- Opalis then queries Virtual Machine Manager to confirm if sufficient capacity is available to service this request. If insufficient capacity exists Opalis goes to the blade server infrastructure in the Data Centre and turns on some spare blades in the Blade Rack and informs Virtual Machine Manager it has new Physical Servers as part of its cluster.
- Opalis the checks the Storage infrastructure and determines that capacity is available and allocates a new storage area to service this provision request.
- Opalis then orchestrates Virtual Machine Manager to create a new virtual machine for this request.
- Opalis then adds this Virtual Machine to the Operations Manager estate so the machine is immediately under management.
- Opalis then orchestrates Configuration Manager to deploy the Patches, Antivirus and Business App requested to this new virtual machine.
- Opalis orchestrates DPM to backup the new virtual machine.
- Opalis then populates the CMDB in Service Manager with the details of the new machine, and closes the Change Request.
- Opalis then updates the Web Front End to inform the user their request has been full filled and machine is now ready for use.
A fully automated request for provision of new infrastructure has been achieved with no human intervention required.
To illustrate the powerful systems management orchestration capabilities, here are a few examples of typical systems management processes that Opalis + System Center simplifies:
Opalis works with event management and monitoring tools to run automated diagnostics, triage and remediation actions to lower the amount of level 1 and level 2 tickets staff have to manage. In this example, Opalis monitors Operations Manager for a critical performance alert, running on a virtual machine. To triage the cause, it retrieves the host name and checks performance on the host and virtual machines. If the host is the issue, it initiates Virtual Machines Manager to migrate the VM. Once complete it verifies performance and updates/closes the originating alert. If the VM is the issue, it creates and populates a ticket in Service Manager, initiates VMM to start a standby VM and updates the Service Manager incident with new VM details.
in the above workflow Opalis monitors Operations Manager, runs triage and then takes appropriate action.
Opalis works with change management systems to automate request and enforce best practices. Using Opalis, users can authorize, deploy and test change such as adding new services, patching systems, or running audits to detect configurations that are out of compliance. In this use case, Opalis coordinates a patching process during the maintenance window. It opens a service desk ticket, so all activity is tracked. It then queries VMM to get a list of off line VMs running Windows 7, it starts those machines. Opalis then reaches out to Active Directory for a list of computers running Window 7 and initiates Data Protection Manager to run a backup. Once that is complete, Configuration manager is initiated to update all machines with the patch. Upon completion VM’s are returned to their offline state.
There is more information on Opalis + System Center at the links below and a technology roadmap fully integrating Opalis as part of the Microsoft System Center portfolio will be available shortly to clarify how System Center is becoming an increasingly powerful systems management platform for heterogeneous data centre environments