One of the great revolutions in manufacturing of the past decades is just-in-time inventory management. The basic idea is to provision only what is needed for a certain level of operation and to put in place a number of management functions that will trigger the provisioning of inventory. This is one the key elements that allowed the manufacturing of goods to contain production costs. We have been trying to adapt the concept to IT for years with little success. But a combination of the latest technologies is finally bringing the concept to a working level. IT operations often faces unpredictable workloads or large variations of workloads during peak periods. Typically, the solution is to over-provision infrastructure capacity and use a number of potential corrective measures: load balancing, traffic shaping, fast reconfiguration and provisioning of servers, etc.
But the convergence of new techniques in monitoring, problem resolution analytics, automation, and virtualization all of a sudden makes the just-in-time capacity management concept more flexible and economical. In our “The IT Automation Imperative” report published in July 2009, we wrote that IT process automation could execute system-oriented tasks as a result of events generated by workload automation in the execution of jobs. On June 14, 2010, UC4, a leading vendor of workload automation solutions made that prediction true. UC4’s solution now has the capability to detect capacity shortages in the execution of jobs and to adjust the parameters of a virtual machine accordingly or to provision a new virtual machine. When the job has been executed, the environment is returned to its previous condition. This is a very important step forward in IT operation automation, as it is the first true closed-loop automation implementation. We hope that many IT management vendors will follow UC4’s example.