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Special Issue--IT Automation: IT Process Automation

The Jetsons provided a utopian image of future automation--George's workday encompassed pressing a single button, then relaxing in his comfy chair. Although automation has made strides over the years, we're far from one-button technology when it comes to automating enterprise IT processes. Most process-automation tools have required massive development efforts and custom-built software adapters, but the vendors whose three products we tested--Opalis, Opsware and RealOps--are ushering in new tools that offer prebuilt automation and can be rapidly deployed.

In our last special report on this topic (see "Autonomic Computing: Vision vs. Reality"), we said dynamic functions, such as configuring services, continual optimization, self-monitoring and interaction with the rest of the environment, were critical for transformational autonomic computing. This is the ideal vision, and though many vendors are working to meet those expectations by offering prebuilt workflow and integration, none of their products can dynamically adapt as the environment changes.

However, the products we tested--Opalis Integration Server, Opsware Process Automation System and RealOps AMP--are valuable for consolidating process workflow, as well as integrating and automating routine tasks. All contain prebuilt automation for repetitive tasks and don't require much effort to build processes using those automations. Some customization capabilities are complex, but the prices are reasonable considering the significant value these tools provide.

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