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An Integrated Experience Connecting Application Automation Services to Platform Capabilities

Friday, January 11, 2019 in Cloud, Enterprise, SAP

Managing mission-critical applications is a daunting task, and using manual methods to do so often proves to be inefficient and error prone, as Peter Cutts, our SVP of Product Management, recently illustrated. That is why Virtustream recently announced a major update to our cloud management platform, featuring new automation capabilities that can help your organization better manage your mission-critical applications in the cloud. To help you better understand what these automation capabilities mean for your enterprise, let’s look at just one of the many ways in which Virtustream’s automation differentiates itself, start/stop operations. Specifically, how we use this automation to connect application services with platform services and provide an integrated experience for managing your application landscape.

Consumption Flexibility through Automation

One of the primary cloud advantages is the flexibility to consume services when you need them and switch them off when you don’t. This feature can often be taken for granted, but the benefit provided is one every enterprise desires. Huge cost savings.

Large organizations run a multitude of different projects, many of which are dev/test/validation cycles or sandboxes that may not need to run full time. This includes projects that may need to be turned off or power cycled on a regular basis. Being able to automate start/stop operations for these projects not only reduces cost, but eases the amount of manual effort needed from your team. In addition to running a variety of projects with different up-time needs, down-time is also required periodically for maintenance and life cycle management tasks like patching, recovery, remediation, demand scaling and other tasks on production systems.

The truth of the matter is these enterprise applications can’t simply be turned off like a light switch. These are complex ecosystems that require many independent steps, executed in a defined sequence. One way to remediate these intricacies is by providing stopping or terminating knobs at every resource level, letting you weave your own scripts to capture every system and dependency of your application landscape. This is common with traditional cloud platforms, but the main issue this solution faces is the amount of time it takes for enterprises to truly achieve automation, as each application is slightly different in composition and sequence.

Virtustream’s approach to addressing this automation challenge differentiates itself due to our heavy focus on delivering end-to-end solutions for enterprise applications. We’ve leveraged our deep application knowledge to build an end-to-end solution that enables “on-demand” automation as a single step, addressing the dependencies and operational challenges, improving your ability to be agile in managing your systems, reducing operational overhead, and enabling you to take full advantage of the on-demand economics of cloud.

Starting and Stopping at the Application Landscape Level

Our in-depth application expertise has allowed us to build a differentiated service that automatically starts and stops the entire application. That is, all application instances, database instances and dependent services. By starting and stopping these in a specified sequence, we can help maintain the dependencies between them while ensuring data consistency. Some of the salient features and benefits of this service are:

  • Users can group multiple application and DB instances into one landscape and govern the starting and stopping of the landscape through policies and schedules. For example: the dev/test landscape may require weekly downtimes, but a production landscape on the other hand may be subjected to ad-hoc user driven downtimes. This service allows shutdown or startup tasks to be scheduled based on user preferences or activated on an on-demand basis.
  • For non-production workloads, a force shutdown option can be selected to speed up the shutdown process
  • Once tasks are queued, they can be paused or resumed, allowing additional flexibility in changing schedules on the fly without the manual lift of creating new schedules
  • A detailed breakdown for each step during a startup or shutdown sequence. Having such details helps in optimizing the process for admins, as they can see how much time is taken in each step.
  • User can add notes when they schedule a task for auditing and communication

Integrated Experience

Fig 1: Integrated automation experience

Our unique approach to managing both the application and platform services allows the start/stop process to be integrated across both the application and platform services that support these virtual machines (VMs). This means that while these application environments are being started or stopped, the platform services like backup, monitoring and alerting, and security scanning/compliance services running on them would be enabled or disabled automatically, reducing the operational burden.

This integrated architecture provides the following benefits:

  • Backup schedules are aligned with start/stop of VMs, such that any file system backup scheduled to run when the VM is down would be scheduled after the VM comes back online
  • When VMs are brought back online, any scheduled security scans while the VMs were down are scheduled to run right away to ensure vulnerability compliance
  • The monitoring alerts are suppressed at the application, DB and VM levels automatically when the systems are stopped, and restarted when they are started back up again. This eliminates any unintended incident tickets, thus increasing operational efficiency.
API Access

A power-on/power-off capability is available through API and enables you to integrate this service within your own processes in combination with an appropriate startup/shutdown script executed by the VM. For example, some of our customers may start a downtime operation that involves a set of systems that are on-premises before starting to shut down the related systems in the cloud. APIs help trigger these operations programmatically. This can dramatically simplify operations, reduce errors and eliminate overhead. 

Something like application start/stop may feel like a very simple use case. However, due to the complexity of today’s enterprise application landscape, and the number of dependent operational support services, building it all yourself can be complex and time consuming. Virtustream understands the enterprise, and aspires to design our automation in a way that is not only different from other cloud providers, but is built to address enterprise-specific use cases. We strive to make our customers more agile, while simplifying operations and enabling them to realize the full benefits of cloud, even with traditionally architected enterprise applications.

Contact us today for a demo of this service or if you are interested to learn more about our automated services.

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