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A few more Opalis tidbits before MMS 2011

For a recent article on Opalis and third-party integration, I spoke with Microsoft director Robert Reynolds to learn about the company’s strategy for the automation technology going forward. The story included a few choice details from Reynolds regarding Microsoft’s reliance on the IT community for the development of Opalis integration packs and how the new Opalis branding will be unveiled at Microsoft Management Summit (MMS) 2011.

Those quotes were just a sampling from a much longer conversation, however, so I thought I’d pull out a few interesting notes that didn’t make it into the original article here.

Microsoft categorizes Opalis integration packs (IPs) into three categories. These are System Center, interoperability and data center automation. The first is obviously the Microsoft-approved IPs for the System Center suite (Configuration Manager, Service Manager, etc.). The company brought the Opalis IPs up-to-date with all the latest System Center product versions with Opalis 6.3 in November to help admins “use automations and workflows between the different system center products they have in the suite,” said Reynolds.

The second category is for improving System Center integration among other third-party management platforms (IBM, CA, etc.). The third and final IP type is what Reynolds described as a way to use automation to take a “direct action” on specific components within a data center, like VMware or storage components.

Reynolds: “Opalis is first a workflow and automation engine. But it’s also really to allow customers to orchestrate IT processes within the System Center suite, between the System Center suite and in the existing management environment they might have.”

Opalis is great for everything! … right? I asked Reynolds if he thought there was one System Center product that Opalis was a particularly great fit for. Not surprisingly, he said that the main draw for Microsoft was that the Opalis technology should be ideal for the entire suite. He even described Opalis as the “universal glue” that connects the System Center suite “to make it an even more powerful data center and private cloud management solution.”

We did talk about a few specific products, however. He said he expects Opalis to help with preprocessing and automating requests for new VMs with System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM), while adding flexibility in regards to patching and other processes for System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM).

Of course, Opalis will play a major part in the private cloud. As you’d expect, no conversation about a new Microsoft management product would be complete without the inevitable cloud question. Reynolds talked about how automation is a key component of a private cloud environment, specifically regarding a more self-service Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) + app delivery model.

He said the whole thing comes down to agility – allowing businesses to respond more quickly to business requirements while at the same time driving down the cost of operations. Yes, that sounds like more of the usual cloud speak, but he did add one other interesting tidbit in regards to how all this might affect the actual jobs of IT people (a topic we’ve explored before).

“It’s not like the infrastructure doesn’t still need to be managed, and there aren’t still peoples whose jobs are to think about things like, ‘How do I provide this service and how do I connect those infrastructure pieces together?’” he said. “But once that is built, the business can come in and consume that as quickly as they need to. And the infrastructure owners can be developing new services to go along with that, to more rapidly increase that business outcome.”

OK, so maybe that seems like more cloud speak too. But while many IT pros were reluctant to hear the message last year, it seems more of them are listening now. We’ll see what happens at MMS.

For more information on Opalis and Microsoft’s System Center suite, visit

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