Often times in the technology industry, vendors take actions one year that don't fully play out until the following year. That is the case with key management software makers and automation technology.

2007 found HP acquiring Opsware in a $1.6 billion deal and management heavyweight competitor BMC buying RealOps for what I can only assume is a lesser amount (the financial details of the deal were not disclosed at the time).

The two acquisitions mark a trend among management and other vendors who realise an inevitable overhaul to datacentres as we know them today will demand better management tools and more automation capabilities. Even vendors not best known for their software business like Cisco are pushing datacentre technologies such as virtualisation and automation.

"The noise I am hearing the most around datacentres involves managing virtual servers and automation. IT has got to the point where it absolutely needs to control the configurations of multiple systems and has no reasonable means to do so without considerable automation," says Jasmine Noel, a principal analyst at Ptak, Noel and Associates. "Anything to do with datacentre automation is extremely buzzy for 2008."

HP, BMC and others like CA, IBM, Optinuity, Opalis, NetIQ and more will be beating the automation drum hard this year and industry watchers say products could address significant pain points IT managers will face from managing virtual servers to simply keeping up with an increased rate of change.

"Management of virtual infrastructure will be hot and we will see a lot more around desktop and storage virtualisation. The network is not quite there yet," says Stephen Elliot, a research manager covering enterprise system management at IDC. "There is something like 30 vendors targeting the virtual management market and success will depend on who executes best, who gets acquired and who can tie the pieces together best."

Vendors will also work to couple datacentre and IT process automation technologies with best practice frames such as ITIL. The combination in 2008 will help IT managers streamline data centre operations, stay compliant and deliver better services to their customers, experts say.

"During the next 12 months, enterprise IT will be faced with the challenge of automating the measurement of IT effectiveness based on best-practice process objectives such as ITIL, Six Sigma, COBIT and CMMI," according to a recent statement from research firm Enterprise Management Associates.