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Recap: 5 Key Steps to Effective IT Operations in a Hybrid World

In a recent webinar, VMware’s Kurt Milne, and Kevin Lees, Principle Architect for Cloud Operations, discussed how to optimize IT operations in a hybrid world.

Users and business managers can now easily work around IT to procure a wide range of services from vendors on-demand, and get billed based on usage. So what can, or should, IT organizations do?

Here’s a quick summary of the key points from the discussion. Kurt and Kevin provide recommendations and solutions to avoid shadow IT activity, and to make cloud era IT operations as effective as possible.

Problem #1: Your business wants fast AND easy.

As IT evolves, users increasingly want immediate access to central IT resources and services. They’re adding agility requirements to the cost, performance, and service quality requirements that have traditionally driven IT strategy. How do you respond?

Solution: IT needs to shift away from building custom resource configurations for each application and take a more standardized approach – building a factory that can deliver self-service, on-demand access to a portfolio of “off-the-rack” services. Users will get the control and speed they want if they’ll agree to standard service configurations. They can get fast and reliable, but not custom.

Problem #2: Transparent Service Deployment

Increasing deployment options (physical, virtual, private and public cloud) are pressuring IT to offer solutions that are, as Kurt puts it, “fit for purpose,” in terms of duration, cost, quality, performance and business context. This suggests a need to  shift from a custom systems view, to a standardized portfolio view of both workloads and compute environments.

Solution: Deploy systems to an environment that is a best fit for a range of criteria. Collect attribute data during service requests, then use a policy-based system to make workload placement decisions. Enable automated provisioning that can cross boundaries and work with physical, virtual, and multiple cloud environments. Your business really cares about the cost, risk and quality of service. But if IT is responsible and accountable for performance, service quality, support, as well as security and compliance, it also needs to stay in control of workload placement and provisioning decisions.

Problem #3: “Run Time” Complexity

Modern application topologies and compute stacks are more complicated, and often more dynamic, than ever. As a result, many IT organizations are re-evaluating resiliency strategies from the ground up. In the past, we improved service quality by carefully controlling changes to a static environment. What do we do today?

Solution: In the cloud era, it’s better to assume that change will happen, and build systems to monitor and automatically respond to likely conditions, in order to deliver high quality of service. We need to shift from reactive incident response to proactive detection and preservation of services before outages occur. This sounds like a utopian vision. But it’s backed up by real solutions that let you start making powerful changes now – by leveraging a single platform for work across environments and across pre-production and production lifecycle phases.

Tip 1) Focus on performance, capacity, monitoring and analytics. Leverage intelligent analytics to identify conditions that predict pending disruption. Use the same capabilities to accelerate root cause analysis, determine the source of the pending disruption, then fix it before services are impacted.

Tip 2) Don’t forget to plan for new roles and skillsets needed in a policy driven and automated environment.  (Attend April 25th Twitter chat on Changing IT Admin Roles hosted by Puppet Labs CTO Nigel Kersten and VMUG IT founder Andrea Mauro)

Problem #4: Workflow Variability

Ad hoc operations is a weak foundation for automation. Highly variable procedures for building or maintaining complex systems are neither repeatable nor deterministic. Exceptions drive up the manual response costs. And exceptions also reduce service quality.

Solution: Standardization and policy based automation is key for enabling a shift  away from variable and unpredictable “Artisanal IT” to predictable and reliable “Industrial IT”. Adopt a policy-based control strategy to guide workflow and automation. Start by setting basic policies, then look for process and run book procedures that require exceptions. Then eliminate the cause of those exceptions and standardize activities to fit policy.

Problem #5: Alternative providers have clearly marked prices

IT does not clearly price services, for both historical and structural reasons. It is certainly easier to fund IT based on project or flat rate business unit allocation. But 3rd party cloud service providers offer service- and usage-based pricing, which is changing the expectations of users and IT funders. IT won’t be the preferred service provider for a business if its services are not priced for comparison. It’s time to act.

Solution: IT needs to enhance IT financial management. It needs to put systems in place that provide a service-based view of costs. It needs to fund operations at least in part based on services delivered. And it needs to offer pricing information at the point where services are ordered to enable cost comparison.

The good news is that IT has an insider view of business objectives and the unique needs of users. With improved transparency, and a portfolio of services that meet the needs of your business, IT has unfair advantage over 3rd party service providers.

Round Up: By acknowledging and addressing these problems your business can offer effective IT operations in a hybrid world, and will possess the advantages needed to be the preferred service provider for your users and business managers..

For solutions that enable the approach that Kurt and Kevin were talking about, check out:

vCloud Director Learn more
vCloud Automation Center Learn more
vCenter Operations Management Suite Learn more
vFabric Application Director Learn more
vCenter Chargeback Manager Learn more
IT Business Management Suite Learn more

Want to learn more? Check out the webinar replay and follow us on Twitter at @VMwareCloudOps for future updates! Join the conversation using the #CloudOps and #SDDC hashtags.