The VCE User Group’s Best Practices for IT Automation

Last month at VMworld, the VCE User Group (VUG) relaunched as an independent organization – for users, by users. I was thrilled by the tremendous turnout, where over 60 VCE customers, partners and employees gathered to discuss IT automation on Vblock Systems.

The VUG meeting included a panel of customer peers to discuss their automation best practices. We all agreed that, when it comes to IT, most people would never understand how much work goes into sustaining and maintaining mission-critical workload applications like Microsoft Exchange, SAP and Blackboard.

With the help of our moderator, Michael Leeper from Denali, who I first met at another VUG event when he was with Columbia Sportwear, I started off the conversation discussing my own automation story. As the Chief Cloud Evangelist of the University of San Diego (USD), my users include students, faculty and staff, who log-on at all hours of the day, in large numbers, and many times on the same day (and sometimes at the same minute) to submit projects or homework, check grades or register for housing.

My users demand and expect “always-on” access. With a staff of seven IT professionals, we don’t have the same luxuries as much larger institutions, so we turned to the Vblock System converged infrastructure to better optimize our time and IT systems. Allowing me to champion the 100% perceived uptime culture I’ve designed with my staff.

USD discovered first-hand how VCE can transform an IT organization into a well-oiled machine. It allows us to spin up new virtual machines in 75% less time and reduce costs by over 50%. But I didn’t want to stop there. We decided to work with VCE to further optimize our systems through automation, enabling my IT rock-stars to focus on new, business-critical deliverables, rather than maintenance; to focus on innovation vs. just keeping the lights on.

This last point really seemed to resonate with customers around the room. Let’s face it, mundane and repetitive tasks can burn out employees. I frequently ask my staff how we can do our jobs better. We utilize automation technologies to improve our quality of service and quality of life.

System and procedure automation has made my employees happier and more productive. I’d rather have one really engaged employee than 10 mildly engaged people on my team. Those truly engaged employees are often the innovators in an organization, where they can add more value to the university.

The VUG also agreed that IT can’t “do it all.” While some organizations surely experience shrinking budgets, the more important thing to focus on is our customer(s) high expectations, so we need to automate workloads whenever possible to help maintain a sustainable business momentum for any company. If a mission-critical workload fails, it can drag down the rest of the organization. For the University of San Diego, our payment processing MUST be working on the first day of school, our class registration system needs to be working the minute classes open and our email systems need to be up 100% of the time. Automation technologies enable IT to keep up with growing business needs, which, quite frankly, is essential for every type of organization.

Although one IT organization can’t “do it all,” together we are much stronger. As a “for users, by users” organization, the VUG helps members build upon one another’s knowledge and skills to better serve our businesses. Visit to learn more about the VUG and sign up for the next meeting.

About the Author: Mike Somerville