Data Center Automation Overview

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While reading about current web hosting technologies, you have likely seen mention of automation being used in data center operations. Data center automation is becoming increasingly popular for large-scale data centers and offers clear benefits for both hosting providers and end users. By automating the deployment of operating systems, software packages, and server configurations you can increase productivity, reduce overhead, and provide a more reliable experience overall. In this article we will explore the concept of data center automation and discuss some of the benefits of automating data center operations.

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How Data Center Automation Works

To explain how data center automation works, it might help to start small. Let’s say you have 6 computers that you want to install Ubuntu onto, as well as a suite of other programs for word processing and photo editing. You could install these things manually, one computer at a time, but that would take a considerable amount of time and effort. So let’s say you decide that you would prefer to automate this process instead. To do this, you would network the computers together, and then use a separate computer with automation software to install and configure the desired software onto all of the computers simultaneously. 

Generally speaking, automation software uses instruction files, known as playbooks, to carry out tasks according to specifications laid out by the author of the playbook. These playbooks can include instructions to perform a wide variety of server operations. Using technologies such as IPMI, data center automation can even be used to automate the installation of whole operating systems on dedicated servers. Essentially, the work of a crew of data center technicians can be replaced by the correct application of data center automation technologies. 

Benefits of Data Center Automation

The most obvious benefit of data center automation is that it reduces the amount of work that must be performed by on-site data center technicians. By automating the installation of operating systems, there is no need for a technician to physically insert a USB drive or CD to install the desired software. This allows users to rapidly change operating systems as needed or set up entirely new installations as need demands it. 

Another benefit of data center automation is consistency. Since all automation is dependent on instruction files, the deployment of software will be identical across all servers. Manual installation of software is prone to human error and configurations may differ slightly from one deployment to another. By automating this process you can provide greater consistency and reliability. 

In addition to being more consistent, data center automation also provides more transparency in the data center process. As the automation depends on the playbook, the playbook can be easily referred to for troubleshooting purposes. Without a playbook it can be difficult to pinpoint what precisely was done during the deployment of software, thus prolonging troubleshooting efforts. If you automate the process, all you need to do is check the playbook to see what went wrong during a failed deployment.

It is clear that data center automation provides a number of benefits for providers looking to increase reliability, reduce overhead, and provide flexibility for end users.

Want to learn more about automation? Check out our Getting Started with Ansible guide for practical steps to automate your workflow!

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