And remember… to the business…it is now, and always has been… all about the apps.
So, what does “cloud computing” mean to us?
Because of the dilution of the term, the best way for us to explain what we feel are the core pillars of cloud are is to explain where the movement came from and what the purpose of it is. As an evolutionary term, cloud computing represents the “end-game” for building an IT infrastructure utilizing all the concepts laid out in the ITIL and by implementing an operational IT organization that is focused on the ITSM model. The primary difference that is difficult for most organizations to tackle is that a “cloud environment” is an environment where the IT organization is no longer a cost center but is truly an internal services provider to the company. In each of our engagements, this is the first step to making an organization more cloud-like. Everyone tends to jump to the thought that cloud computing means you must outsource your environment to a third-party cloud provider. That thought process is completely backwards when held against the ITSM model. You wouldn’t start a project by saying: “Whatever application this is, it doesn’t matter, we are putting it on a 1U pizza box server.” This is the same as saying: “To get to cloud, everything has to be on Amazon or Google.” Not true at all. Cloud computing is a method of computing, not a place.
For those of you that may not be completely up to speed on ITIL or the ITSM model, the short summary is that in order to provide services to the business that are meaningful and impactful, you need to be completely aligned to the line-of-business (LOB) owners from the start. Once you are aligned with the business owners it becomes much easier to build an infrastructure to provide tailored services to them. In the ITSM model, the processes by which services are requested and provisioned need to be tightly aligned to the business. Many IT organizations receive a request today to provide infrastructure and they react by purchasing and deploying additional technology based loosely on some requirements that are provided by the application team. In order to be a true service provider, there needs to be a process that provides alignment of the business owners to the IT platform owners. This is outlined in the following diagram:
For each service, we need to understand how it ties back to “the big picture” and how that service is used to help the business meet its objectives and strategic goals. For example, there was a story that I was told about a logistics company that when a new CIO came into the organization that was familiar with ITSM, she asked one of the Sr. Systems Engineers on her team: “Do you know what the impact is to the business if the picker application goes down for even 2 hours?” The engineer looked at her and explained that it would mean the warehouses wouldn’t be able to pick orders for a couple hours… no big deal… and explained that a 4-hour RTO should be fine. Immediately, she booked him travel to visit one of their largest warehouse facilities and had him interview the people that worked on the floor in the warehouse. Once he was there, the foreman explained to him that if the picker system goes down for 2 hours and they are not able to fill the trucks that the trucks start lining up outside waiting… putting them each 2 hours behind. Also, some of the carriers were union carriers, so if the truck didn’t get loaded by the end of their 10-hour shift, they would shut the truck off and go home for the day… which would mean tomorrow morning before they could ship any of that day’s orders they had to first work to fill the trucks that didn’t get done the night before. Hopefully, that didn’t cascade into them not being able to ship out that day’s orders… and on and on. When the SE returned home, he immediately told the CIO that the picker application, an application he had said was non-mission critical only days before, was now one of the most important applications the company had and that they needed to work to provide a higher level of redundancy and SLA for that app.
In a cloud environment, both internal and external, the same pragmatism needs to take place whenever a new product is deployed or an old product is brought into the cloud. When building the service catalog, it is imperative that each application be looked at and understood for how it fits into the organizational goals, then there needs to be understanding from the line of business owners and IT on what business process are used to meet those goals, then on what IT services those business processes rely on, then on what service levels need to be met in order for those services to be maintained, and finally what technologies need to be in place to provide the execution of the service levels. Once you have a fully functional service catalog you are well on your way to having a cloud environment. Then, it will also be possible to determine if you have the ability to leverage third-party cloud providers or if you need to keep your cloud internal in order to meet the service needs of the organization.
Author: Reid Engstrom
The prospect of cloud computing to today’s IT staff poses a real concern to them, not only because of the significant element of change and doing something different outside of their existing skill base, but also because so many current IT roles are involved with the installation, configuration and administration of IT infrastructure. Think of all the job roles today that end with “Administrator”. Those roles become greatly diminished in a virtualized and cloud based environment. Staff may be very reticent to embrace this new environment that now is less dependent on the skills and certifications that they have built up over their tenure. In addition, the justification on reducing cost and complexity is often built on the reduction of those legacy skills that were seen as critical in a physical world.
Technology depth still plays an important role in the cloud world as staff will still need a foundational understanding of cloud enabled technologies such as server, network, storage and end user device virtualization as the IT architecture changes to a flatter model. This new environment will now reach outside the walls of the organization with public clouds and Software-as-a-Service offerings that may encompass a greater majority of IT services.
There is a new set of critical skills moving forward in the highly productive and automated cloud environments that will be centered around the ability to design and implement systems and processes that automate the cloud based infrastructure of the future. Some of these proficiencies include technical and business architecture, project management, service delivery, and contracting. Soft skills of importance include understanding the business, and communications. These skills are not totally new but their significance has been elevated in a broader based environment that now include service partners and the need for agility to address the dynamics of business opportunity.
Leadership and risk taking abilities will be critical in order to relate the rapidly changing environment to both staff and the business stakeholders. Those leaders who are confident enough to move forward aggressively will be able to position their IT organizations into a much more proactive state that not only can lead the business but can be a critical contributor to new revenue opportunities.
AUTHORS: Eric Ledyard and Michael Hubbard
It seems that every day we get asked “What is ‘The Cloud’ and should we be looking at it?” We feel the very first challenge in answering the question is the fact that the question references a thing and not a method. What we mean is that there is no such thing as the cloud and it isn’t a place. Even more importantly, Cloud is a Means and not an End. Without a business-impacting end state or benefit statement, (prepare to be shocked) you actually don’t need cloud! Cloud computing is a way of running your IT organization that makes you more agile and efficient in order to improve the quality and value of services that IT provides to the business. Where in the spectrum of IT projects and budgets could/would agility create revenue, competitive advantage and customer service? Conversely, where are the areas where efficiency (capital, operational, or organizational) could reduce the cost basis of IT? The need for this change arose out of the fact that IT’s role is changing in the modern business world. Many of us feel that there are 3 catalysts for this change: The first is the overwhelming desire for the commoditization of IT services. The second is the social technology impact that is permeating everything around us causing business to take note at what is available in their personal and daily lives and seeing a gap between those technologies and services and those that are available in their day-to-day business world. The third is the exciting yet ominous market effect of “fine-grain choice.”
As it pertains to the commoditization of IT services, businesses want to see more options available to them when they are looking at acquiring IT services and are tired of the expensive, hard-to-manage, custom services they have had to build internally for so long and are eager for this to change. There is a significant barrier to entry of any company wanting to get into business for themselves having to first acquire IT services for their organization. It isn’t just IT services that are the target of this, either. One of the types of “Cloud” services that Gartner highlighted in a presentation a year ago was the creation of “Business-Process-as-a-Service” companies that they said would pick-up considerably as a result of the “cloud” movement. Many new companies instinctively look to procure services for functions such as accounting, payroll, and tax services from 3rd party providers or brokers today, rather than building those organizations internally. Nicholas Carr made these connections in his books ‘Doesn’t IT Matter’ and ‘The Big Switch’ when he discusses the fact that IT in the modern era is perceived as a commodity input from a business perspective, in the same way that electricity and telecommunications are. In his books, he ties together the concepts that because of the fact that IT is seen as a commodity, the modern company would never want to build their own IT environment and datacenter if they don’t need to.
The second major pressure that is facing business IT in the modern world is the explosion of technology adoption throughout society as a whole. Smart devices and on-demand services are training young generations that access to information should be ubiquitous and on-demand from any location at any time. When they get to the business world, there is a dramatic gap in the way these people perceive how business is done and there is typically a negative reaction as to why the company does not operate like many of the services they are used to in their personal lives. A very strong example of this is how the iPad and iPhone have permeated society. You can walk into a café anywhere nowadays and overhear people saying: “Oh, I have an app for that… you should get it.” Then, the other person goes to their app store immediately and downloads the app so they have access to those services. Then, that same person goes back to the office and someone says to them: “Oh, you need an application for that.” And then that person has to go to IT, fill out a request form, submit that form, wait for managerial approval, schedule a time to have their laptop sent into IT so the application can be installed and then get their laptop back. Once this happens even once, those people begin to ask: “Why can’t our company operate in the same fashion as my phone provider?”
Third, how does “fine-grain choice” impact the consumption of IT services? And are IT organizations (the suppliers) adapting to the associated consumption behavior transitions? Quite some time ago, a company’s IT Organization was the ONLY game in town; IT had to meet ALL the needs of the business. In more recent history choice began to emerge and a bevy of firms and consultants cropped-up to provide extremely rough-grain choice via full IT outsourcing and then business process outsourcing. These were long term contracts, of huge commercial value. Each decision to outsource changed the financial balance sheet of the business, and each contract award changed the balance sheet of the outsourcer. Today, consumers and corporate IT both have “fine-grain choice.” We have choice between what application services we will run ourselves or subscribe to a service run by someone else (Salesforce.com, SiriusXM, iTunes, for example) Even more fine-grain, we can choose to run and manage our own application, but allow someone else to provide the application platform and infrastructure (cloud foundry for example). We can even continue to own everything except the physical infrastructure and consume empty, unmanaged VM or physical capacity (think Terramark, Amazon EC2 or Rackspace). Of course, the CIO is a provider of choice as well, where all aspects of the service are safely controlled and delivered by the corporation itself.
Because of these pressures, most CIO’s are now trying to figure out how to change their practices and operations to function as a service provider to their respective businesses. A CIO told us recently that a Line-of-Business president recently shared with him “find a way to become a service provider to me, or I will find a service provider that can.” This is what most organizations mean when they say they want to “do cloud” but they don’t necessarily know this is what they mean. That is where our Vision organization can provide help by providing a roadmap for how they can go from where they are today to where they want to go tomorrow. At the end of the engagement it will be clear what it will take to transform the IT organization into what the business needs it to be.