Here are a couple of fun buzzwords that have created all kinds of interesting headaches in IT of late: "rationalization" and "consolidation". I'm not talking about servers here...I've covered that somewhat earlier. Instead, I'm talking about datacenter rationalization and consolidation.
This is a huge trend amongst Fortune 500 companies. In my work, I keep hearing VPs of Operations/Infrastructure and the like saying things like "we are consolidating from [some large number of] datacenters to [some small number, usually 2 or 3] datacenters." In the course of these migrations, they are rationalizing the need for each application that they must migrate from one datacenter to another.
The cost of these migrations can be staggering. "Fork-lifting" servers from one site to another incurs costs in packaging, shipping and replacing damaged goods (hardware in this case). Copying an installation from one datacenter to another involves the same issues: packaging (how to capture the application at the source site and unpack it at the destination site), shipping (costs around bandwidth use or physical shipping to move the application package between sites) and repair of damaged goods (fixing apps that "break" in the new infrastructure).
What if something could "grease the skids" of these moves--reduce the cost and pain of migrating code from one datacenter to another?
One approach is to package your software payloads as images that are portable between hardware, network and storage implementations. Now the cost of packaging the application is taken care of, the cost of shipping the package remains the same or gets cheaper, and the odds of the software failing to run are greatly reduced because it is already prepared for the changing conditions of a new set of infrastructure.
Admittedly, the solution here is more related to decoupling software from hardware than Service Level Automation, per se. But a good Service Level Automation environment will act as an enabler for this kind of imaging, as it too has to solve the problem of creating generic "golden" images that can boot on a variety of hardware using a variety of network and storage configurations. In fact, I have run into several customers in the last couple of months that have a) recognized this advantage and b) rushed to get a POC going to prove it out.
Of course, if you can easily move software images between datacenters, simpler disaster recovery can't be far behind...