a guest post by Greg Charman, Technical Solutions Professional, Microsoft UK

In December 2009 Microsoft acquired Opalis, a specialist provider of IT Process Automation (ITPA) software.   The Opalis product is currently in the process of being fully integrated into the System Center family of datacenter management products.

IT Process Automation (ITPA), also known as Run Book Automation (RBA) software, provides a platform to design and run IT processes. Standardising 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. In reality, IT business processes cross multiple IT silos. Currently the bridge between process silos is provided by human intervention and this increases the propensity for delays, errors and incorrect rekeying of data. Opalis enables the integration and orchestration of different IT process automation tools in each of the silos to support an entire end-to-end IT business process.

Most organisations operate heterogeneous datacentres. As a part of the System Center portfolio, Opalis workflow processes orchestrate System Center products and integrates them with non-Microsoft systems to enable interoperability across an entire datacentre. Opalis provides solutions that address the systems management needs of complex heterogeneous datacentre environments and has developed integration packs to management software from Microsoft, IBM, BMC, CA, HP, 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

The combination of the new capabilities from System Center in 2010, such as Service Manager and Dynamic Infrastructure Toolkit for System Center (DIT-SC), with Opalis and the rest of System Center suite enables Microsoft to deliver a comprehensive suite of system management tools for “Infrastructure on Demand” requirements in heterogeneous environments.

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 datacentre environments

More information on Opalis and System Center:

Opalis + System Center IT Process Automation example procedure

Imagine a user has a requirement for a new virtual server which will host a business application:

  • First the user goes to the DIT-SC catalogue front end and selects a virtual machine template from the available options and requests which application must be installed on the machine and how much data storage is required.
  • Opalis picks up this request and follows the appropriate ITIL process to: Create 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 Datacentre and turns on spare blades in the Blade Rack and informs Virtual Machine Manager it has new Physical Servers as part of its cluster.
  • Opalis then checks the Storage infrastructure and determines that capacity is available and allocates a new storage area to service this provision request.
  • Opalis orchestrates Virtual Machine Manager to create a new virtual machine for this request.
  • Opalis adds this Virtual Machine to the Operations Manager estate so the machine is immediately under management.
  • Opalis orchestrates Configuration Manager to deploy the Patches, Antivirus and Business App requested to this new virtual machine.
  • Opalis orchestrates System Center Data Protection Manager 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 DIT-SC to inform the user their request has been fulfilled and machine is now ready for use.
  • A fully automated request for provision of new infrastructure has been achieved with no human intervention required.