Bats aren’t blind. They just can’t see. The term “blind as a bat” could just as well be “blind as a person driving in the dark without headlights.” The reason bats are “blind” is that they hunt at night and no creature can see in complete darkness. They’re not blind; they can’t see because it’s dark. That’s why they use something we call echolocation, or bisonar, to find the object of the hunt: insects. They also use it to locate each other so they don’t run into each other.
Data management software that often runs at night needs to find what it’s looking for, do what it came to do, and the different processes need to not run into each other while they’re doing their job. And when everything is over, the IT operations team needs to know what happened. That can only happen with data orchestration, control, and automation.
The reason why this is important is that there are many ways to accomplish the many tasks that one must perform when managing a modern IT organization that includes virtualized infrastructure, private cloud equipment and public cloud services. The most common way to handle many of these tasks is to use the native capabilities of each platform or software or services written just for that platform.
But there’s always more than one way to do it. More specifically, there is almost always a cheaper way to do it. For example, instead of buying backup software that fully integrates with vSphere, you could just write your own scripts to create VMware snapshots at the appropriate time, which would create VSS snapshots inside your Windows VMs. This would give you a stable, while momentary, point-in-time snapshot you can backup via whatever mechanism you prefer. Perhaps you will run another script to create a snapshot on the storage array where the VMs reside.
The same is true of services running in the cloud. Most public cloud vendors offer some method of backing up their data. It may only back it up to their system, and it may be a perfectly fine way to back it up. The question is, how do you manage those backups and your onsite backups of vSphere at the same time? Do you learn and manage two completely different products?
Commercial orchestration and automation software is designed to handle myriad problems from failed snapshots to down VMs or mismatched credentials. When these things happen, the orchestration software has a predefined escalation system that it can follow to notify those that can fix the problem. When your management system consists of 100 scripts, how many different places will you need to change things when something as simple as a credential change happens? What about being able to handle multiple levels of escalation?
The other challenge when doing things without commercial orchestration software is what happens when parts of the infrastructure are upgraded. How much effort will your scripts require when you need to upgrade to the latest version of Oracle, vSphere, Hyper-V or SQL Server? The more things you script for, the more scripts you will need to maintain. This is why “free” is never free.
Finally, providing centralized reporting of what happens when dozens to hundreds of scripts run is near impossible without significantly advanced coding. In contrast, a typical commercial solution includes this as basic functionality.
IT infrastructure teams should spend their time figuring out how to make things better, not how to make things. This blog post has touched on a few of the reasons why commercial data orchestration software is a good idea. Consider using such products wherever possible, and move on to tackling other problems. That’ll make sure your various IT tools — both onsite and in the cloud — get what they need and don’t run into each other in the middle of the night like a bunch of blind bats.
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