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What are the benefits of automation in a private cloud?

No one likes repetitive, time-consuming tasks -- especially if they have to be done manually. Can private cloud automation free IT teams from this never-ending Groundhog's Day?

Unlike virtual environments, which require a substantial amount of manual work to provision, deploy and manage, private clouds require automation. Automating private cloud environments offers users a self-service model, while ensuring rapid and uniform provisioning with fewer errors. But to reap the benefits of automation in a private cloud, organizations need the right set of processes and tools.

Cloud computing, at its core, is a utility computing model in which computing resources are delivered on-demand in measured, billable increments -- much like water or electricity. Cloud resources include storage, virtual servers and network capabilities, along with services such as event-driven computing, encryption and performance monitoring. Users must be able to select, implement, use and pay for those resources and services without the intervention of IT staff. This is where automation comes in.

Organizations that adopt a private cloud must use automation tools to translate business and technical policies into tangible cloud actions. An automation framework defines and directs resource provisioning, monitors and manages the cloud environment and provides detailed reports to track usage, billing and lifecycles. Organizations will typically use more than one private cloud automation tool and integrate those tools into a broader automation framework. Common automation tools include Puppet, Chef, Dell Cloud Manager and RightScale.

There are various benefits of automation in a private cloud. When a user requests private cloud resources or services, automation tools and frameworks will identify the user and verify that the user is authorized to make that request. In most cases, the identified user can select from a menu of resources or services that are appropriate for their role in the enterprise. Once a request is made, a workflow engine implements the associated provisioning steps, such as obtaining authorization from supervisors, locating available resources, workload balancing for performance optimization and so on. Private cloud automation can also handle lifecycle management by tracking resource usage and reporting any underused or abandoned resources.

Another benefit of automation in a private cloud is improved adherence to business policies and regulatory compliance obligations. Automation provides a predictable and repeatable engine that ensures resources and services are provisioned the same way, every time, for each user or group. It also eliminates the human errors that can occur with manual provisioning. The monitoring and reporting provided through automation can also help during compliance audits.

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