The use of so-called "software robots" to automate IT management tasks can provide cost savings and improve service delivery but will not eliminate the need for offshore outsourcing, a new report by analyst firm Ovum has found.
The growing adoption of cloud computing and spread of virtualisation beyond servers into networking and storage means that systems management tasks can automated more than ever before.
Some commentators have suggested that this poses a threat to the offshore IT outsourcing industry, whose business model is built on provide cheap labour to perform repetitive IT management tasks of the sort that are increasingly being automated.
Speaking to Information Age last month, ISG analyst Sid Pai said automation is "the real threat to the IT and business process outsourcing industry".
Pai belives that automation is one of the factors that explains the Indian IT industry's relatively slow growth in recent years. "There’s a lot of work that the Indian firms have not been getting because of automation," he said.
He pointed to Indian IT automation provider IPSoft, which is reportedly on track to reach $1 billion in revenue this year, as a leading light of the "software robot" automation market.
However, in what it says is the first ever comprehensive study on automation in systems management, Ovum argues that "robotic" automation will not ring "the death knell for offshoring.”
“Competition, fast-changing regulatory and compliance guidelines, customer demands, technology advancement, integration dependencies and multiple stakeholders / geographies, amongst other things, are pushing businesses to achieve more in less time," wrote Ovum analyst Tom Reuner.
"Thus automation is always playing catch up with standardisation of ever-new technologies and concepts.”
Automation certainly has its benefits, Ovum said. It is likely to hasten the adoption of cloud computing and remove the risk of human error in IT managment tasks, and has particular uses in scaling IT systems and load balancing.
But Reuner predicts that take-up of "robotic" automation will be slow, given the immaturity of the technology and a lack of industry standards.
He advised that the technology should be seen as “an additional instrument in sourcing strategies rather than a panacea for process efficiency.”
“As was the case for SOA and cloud services, there are no simple answers to how industrialised services will change the way IT services and business processes are delivered”, Reuner said.