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A VMware Perspective on IT as a Service, Part 1: The Journey

By: Paul Chapman, VMware Vice President Global Infrastructure and Cloud Operations

At VMware, we now live and breathe IT as a Service (ITaaS). It’s a relatively new phenomenon, but many companies are beginning to make the shift.

In this short series of posts, I’m going to offer a VMware Corporate IT perspective on the journey to IT as a Service, looking at how we ourselves made the change, sharing some of the many benefits that ITaaS is bringing us, and offering some insights on how – if you’re considering taking the plunge – you might successfully make the transition yourself.

A Long Time Coming

First up, it’s worth remembering that the concept of IT as a Service is not that new. As a community of IT professionals, we’ve been talking about it for at least a decade. But for a long time, the obvious and daunting challenge of managing very complex IT infrastructures gave us an excuse not to act.

Fast forward to today: We now have Software as a Service, Infrastructure as a Service, Platform as a Service and so on – which creates a whole new consumption model for IT. These innovations make it very hard for IT organizations to keep hiding behind complexity as an excuse not to act.

Meanwhile, though, the pace of technological change has all but outstripped and outpaced internal IT’s ability to keep up with consumer-like demand, and that’s spurred the rise of successful innovation silos such as the Workdays, the Salesforce.coms, and the Amazons of the world – that have been happy to do the work instead.

You could say this is revenge of the business, with lines of business and developers now happy to bypass the IT infrastructure organization entirely, turning to external providers offering on-demand services and innovative business models.

In the face of this, most IT organizations struggle to keep up with demand for new services. Quite frankly, I think that even if they were funded to fully support the demand, most IT organizations still wouldn’t be able to keep up using traditional service delivery models. I think the inefficiencies and the lack of agility rooted in a heavy-human and “process-bound” way of doing things would just get in the way.  Even simply maintaining the status quo these days is enough to overwhelm and exhaust personnel.

Not Whether, But How Fast

That’s certainly how we saw things here at VMware. It wasn’t so much a question of whether to go on the journey to IT as a Service, but a question of how fast we could get there. In 2010, 99% of our servers were virtualized, and 20% of business applications were delivered by SaaS vendors. We saw the power of the shift to more agile service delivery. We established an executive mandate to further transform our IT services as soon as possible, and we also started to take an outside-in look vs. an inside-out look.

Our plan included four basic principles:

  • To get IT up to business speed;
  • To become much more efficient and agile in our operations;
  • To delight our users every day;
  • And to turn IT into an innovation center, not a roadblock.

These four principles still encapsulate what we expect ITaaS to deliver.

We knew that traditional service delivery models imposed numerous friction points between the business and IT. We also knew we had to significantly increase our levels of automation and self-service. We knew that our consumers were looking for us to act like an internal SaaS provider, and we knew that the solution was to move to a zero-touch, customer-centric model. With that, we committed to further increasing our SaaS portfolio, and we started our 1st private cloud initiative.

In 2012, 30% of our applications were delivered via SaaS providers, and we launched our 2nd private cloud effort. “OneCloud” is our internal IaaS private cloud based on a software-defined datacenter architecture. Within a year of launch, we now have 9 different large SDLC tenants groups internally and have approximately ~40,000 virtual machines in our private cloud.

Two Insights: Automation and Change Management

I’ll write another post about building a private cloud in the near future, but I want to share what I think is different today, that allows IT orgs to finally – and successfully – make the change to this new way of doing business. Here are two quick insights:

First: The move to third party cloud services offers IT a route back to relevance and value.

That may sound strange coming from a vendor that sells virtualization solutions, but the workloads we shifted to third party providers are the easily-siloed and more mature business processes – sending HR processes to Workday, say, or ITSM to ServiceNow, or SFA out to Salesforce. They are important, but they are not the mission-critical processes that differentiate us in the marketplace.

We found that by dismantling the “soviet era” systems that were running those paper-based processes and moving them to the cloud, we freed up a significant amount of internal resources from having to focus on the things that really did not differentiate us in the marketplace.

What remained, and what we’ve been aggressively moving to a private cloud SDDC environment, are the systems that are often more complex than what we moved to SaaS provider – systems like our license management system myvmware.com, or our online training hands-on labs (hol.com), or provisioning dev and test environments for hundreds of developers who use these applications every day. But the agility and efficiency we gain by maintaining them in house, in a private cloud, directly impacts our customers and supports our revenue growth objectives.

If you look at what many IT organizations spend on the services they don’t silo off elsewhere, 60-80% of it is spent in just keeping the lights on. And when you break it down even further, a lot of that goes to what I call “human middleware” – people doing standard repeatable work: install another database, install an operating system, maintain that database, maintain that operating system. We are actively and aggressively replacing our human middleware with end-to-end automation with impressive results that are a win-win for our customers, our business, and for IT.  Many of the traditional roles that are shrinking are shifting to more meaningful roles, and we are finding our IT professionals are learning new and more relevant skills.

The Promise of Change

That leads to my second insight: The shift to ITaaS is daunting to IT employees, but it offers them a great opportunity.

It’s not hard to make the case that an IT as a Service strategy unlocks levels of agility and efficiency we’ve never seen before. But we also need to consider how it impacts the people we’re asking to make it work. Fears, uncertainties, and doubts about the change are understandable, and it’s important to recognize that both personal and cultural challenges exist.

Change in our industry is inevitable and constant.  Who is still doing the IT job they did 10 years ago? But leading a transformation to ITaaS means that you need to paint a picture of a future state for your employees that highlights roles and opportunities that are much more meaningful than they’re used to under the traditional model. Who wouldn’t want to be relieved of rote and repetitive jobs and asked instead to be part of a forward-thinking and innovative sea change that can make a positive difference? This is important to keep in mind as you look to align employee incentives with the changes that you want to make.

In Summary:

  • ITaaS isn’t a new concept, but with new technologies, its time has come.
  • Even with better funding, most IT orgs wouldn’t be able to keep up with the demand they face today using traditional process-bound methods.
  • Shifting some applications to SaaS providers frees up IT resources and costs to automate and innovate where it really counts.
  • Shifting core differentiating business processes to a private cloud significantly improves agility, and creates new opportunities for innovation that weren’t possible in a traditional data center environment.
  • Finally, own the problem. Actively lead the cultural shift required to transform the architecture and operating model that enables IT as a Service.

In part 2 of this series, I’ll share specific details about just one of the IT groups that has transformed what it does based on a shift to private cloud. In part 3, I’ll look at agility: how we measure it and how we keep continuously improving. In Part 4, I’ll explain what it took to stand up and run our own internal private cloud with ~40k VMs.

Follow @VMwareCloudOps & @PaulChapmanVM on Twitter for future updates, and join the conversation by using the #CloudOps and #SDDC hashtags on Twitter.

One thought on “A VMware Perspective on IT as a Service, Part 1: The Journey

  1. Aater

    Insightful article like always from the cloudops team.
    The paradigm comes in when the abundance of service providers and data security becomes a threat, in such a case as said, shifting core business differentiating process to private cloud certainly improves efficiency and promotes innovation in secure environment. As you talked about shift to ITaaS in concerns with IT employees, I would like to take a conversation further in my office hours as I am a Faculty at UT Austin, as the session would be open, more would be benefited from a comprehensive discussion: Every Tuesday 10 a.m EST http://ohr.me/1da06xe

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