Guest Column | June 14, 2021

IT Services Firms Boost Productivity With A Bare Metal Automation Platform

By Bernie Wu, MetalSoft

Continuous Improvement For Maintenance With Robust Reporting And Analytics

The demand for cloud-based services continues to grow, as illustrated by the fact cloud infrastructure environments accounted for $69 billion almost half of the $130 billion spent on tech infrastructures in 2020. The remaining $61 billion was spent on traditional IT infrastructure. The continued investment in traditional IT is primarily driven by the lack of portability, legacy applications, and security and privacy considerations.

Because of these separate use-cases, IT services and outsourcing firms need to consider delivering private clouds as well as higher levels of automation for traditional IT as part of their offerings. This effort requires a well-considered strategy focused on efficiency, as bare-metal infrastructures don’t enjoy the same automation features as with the cloud. Or do they? Enter bare metal automation.

In fact, IT services firms now enjoy higher productivity, provide better customer service, and ultimately improve their profit margin by leveraging bare metal automation. In short, this approach offers many of the automated management and administrative features enjoyed by virtual cloud-based environments. Let’s take a closer look at how bare metal automation can make a significant operational improvement for your company.

Benefits Of Bare Metal Automation For The IT Services Company

Again, IT services firms trying to thrive in a competitive market should consider using bare metal automation to boost their service offerings and ability to support customers remotely. Notably, it offers a similar boost in productivity when compared to automating the process of cloud-based virtual server management. Some of the other significant benefits of bare metal automation include:

  • Adopting bare metal automation provides IT services companies with many of the advantages of a cloud environment. These include fewer human errors, more efficient ITOps, and enhanced technical infrastructure utilization. Expect higher productivity, happier customers, and a more robust bottom line as a result.
  • Some Bare Metal Automation Platforms (BMAPs) now support Infrastructure as Code (such as Terraform and Ansible) as well as customized templating and workflows.
  • Some BMAPs help IT service organizations successfully manage both private cloud-based and legacy data center infrastructures simultaneously across multiple clients.
  • Outsourcers provide customers with more consistent performance and higher utilization when leveraging BMAPs.
  • The top BMAPs can automate and be deployed incrementally into a customer’s current hardware-based data center infrastructures. They are also designed to support edge or micro data center use cases.
  • There is a higher need for BMAPs that can remotely orchestrate the management of the entire infrastructure including a more dynamic, coordinated management of the network in conjunction with application workload platforms such as Kubernetes. Leveraging this approach ensures network provisioning and deployment happens as quickly as possible. Customer workloads now need to become more agile and operational faster than ever before.

Additionally, adopting bare metal automation frees up valuable IT personnel to be deployed on more critical projects. Leveraging this approach provides a significant opportunity to transform the delivery of certain low-value ITOps activities.

Related to that last point, a recent survey of network administrators noted nearly half preferred to spend less time addressing low-level network, storage, server, and OS/platform software life cycle management issues and outages. Implementing bare metal automation frees the staff up from these more mundane tasks, allowing them to work on higher-value projects.

Considerations Before Offering Data Center-Wide Bare Metal Automation

Easy deployment and seamless scalability remain two of the major reasons companies look at cloud adoption. Businesses with significant investments in legacy server hardware that rely on their bare-metal approach need not abandon their hopes for seamless scalability. Fully automating bare metal infrastructure provides organizations with the flexibility they need to thrive in the modern marketplace.

Other bare metal automation features to look for include self-service provisioning in a multi-tenant architecture. This includes the automation of many critical tasks, including deployment, updating, as well as cleaning of servers and data storage before re-assignment. BMAP also can support customized deployment templates, workflows, and “infrastructure as code” automation. This functionality allows ITOps staff to focus on more high-value tasks, as noted earlier.

Detailed reporting with operational analytics and billing/usage metering is another useful feature to look for in a BMAP. The ability to seamlessly integrate with other cloud-native tools and container orchestration systems such as Kubernetes and Terraform is critical. This is why a BMAP with a robust API and support for other third-party management tools used by the IT services provider is an important consideration.

Bare metal automation also helps detect inadvertent configuration drift, which hampers the efficacy of any data center’s infrastructure. A BMAP should be architected to detect and prevent drift from happening in the first place. Again, these automated features free up system administrators for more important tasks.

Lastly, BMAP should be committed to supporting an expanding list of third-party network switches, data storage components, and hardware servers through the proper abstractions. This reduces HW vendor lock-in issues while allowing for the support of vendor-specific features.

In summary, the use of a bare-metal automation platform can assist an IT service company in automating managed services for data center operations to a higher degree while improving agility and client self-service capabilities. It also can be used to help clients manage their native, container, and VM-based workloads within the four walls of their own data centers or at a colocation facility.

About The Author

A technology executive leader, Bernie Wu is currently Head of Business Development for MetalSoft. He has 25+ years of experience as a senior executive at data center hardware and software infrastructure companies including companies such as Conner/Seagate, Cheyenne Software, Trend Micro, FalconStor, and Levyx. He has a BS/MS Eng. from UC Berkeley and an MBA from UCLA.