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IaaS, then PaaS, then SaaS, then… We’ll See

AUTHOR: Enrico Boverino

It‘s been a few years now since companies started to implement and use cloud computing. It’s been an interesting journey so far that is probably only at the beginning of what cloud computing can really mean to our lives, to the way we interact with each other, to the technology that will enable the creation and diffusion of applications and services.

And in this journey, we went through some usual stages of Darwinian IT evolution. We all remember the time when the main messages were around the definition of cloud, and what the IT industry could agree with. Deployment models, delivery models, management capabilities and above all, strong voices that explained how cloud was not only technology, but that it represented new economic models that companies could use to provision IT compute and services. Despite a few differences, the industry came to an agreement on private, public and hybrid as well as on IaaS, PaaS, SaaS and “every letter you can think of” as a service.

Now most organizations have started at least one cloud project, with the promise of costs savings and faster time to revenue tangible, but the attention shifted from “WHAT cloud is” to “HOW can we do it?”:

  • How can we implement a private cloud?
  • How can we exploit hybrid cloud resources?
  • How can we reshape our application portfolio with new cloud-ready apps?
  • How can we enable our users’ mobility?

Now that the attention is on implementing cloud projects and the resulting measurable benefits, it’s probably worth considering how most of the companies approached and began to transform IT.

Results from CIO Customer Solutions Group’s  2011 Global Cloud Computing Adoption Survey showed that the majority of IT organizations started a cloud project from islands within their organization, labs for test and development purposes, or from non-critical applications like email, CRM and help desks. Some put the attention on re-architecting the infrastructure to standardize the compute power and reduce operating costs. Very few, below 10 percent of those interviewed, defined an IT strategy and a phased roadmap to transform IT in a cost-efficient and flexible engine able to deliver what the business requires to grow or to produce services that can improve revenue streams and customer satisfaction.

Further, findings showed that moving forward on cloud projects without a phased roadmap, justified in many cases due to shortage of resources, existing contracts, risk-adverse organizations, and security threats-frequently resulted with implementations of siloed services likely to deliver only partially their real value.

It’s very common today for those of us on the VMware Accelerate team to see many IT organizations with infrastructure as a service (IaaS) implemented, some in a very mature state with end-to-end provisioning time in the order of hours, and close to 100 percent virtualization. Admittedly fewer organizations have chargeback and capacity under control, but still very advanced.

However, surprisingly these same organizations are then working on platform as a service (PaaS), and  they are often still in the “what is it” stage as a totally new and distinct initiative. Similarly after PaaS, these organizations will be focusing of SaaS and then ?aaS, when the initial letter of the acronym will be coined by someone. In most situations there are already SaaS applications in use, with the least-effective examples started by the lines of business that have bypassed IT, especially when we look into sales and marketing applications.

All this could generate duplication of efforts, redundancy of technology, new large lines of budget and likely longer projects to have it up and running. Maybe it’s been the quest to define the cloud and categorize delivery models and services that led to this, maybe because of recent economic conditions that IT had to concentrate on innovating IT in order for IT to reduce costs first. The challenge of demonstrating tangible value of IT to the business and customers, of innovate the business through IT in a consistent and enduring way still remains.

The definition of a cloud strategy to lead IT transformation can be the right approach to capture the company direction and create an IT function as broker of IT services over time. Through the use of internal and external resources, this service broker function will be able to have the agility to fully generate business value while controlling operating costs.

A cloud strategy should describe where IT organizations will need to grow, how to mitigate risks from business changes, how IT investments can be efficient and predictable. The result will likely be that IaaS, PaaS and SaaS will not be separate initiatives with redundant resources but guided by an overall IT Transformation plan that can be defined in five key areas:

  • On-demand services: Service portfolio and catalog with standardized offerings and tiered SLAs, actively managed and governed throughout its lifecycle, and with end-user access via a self-service portal
  • Automated provisioning and deployment: Automated provisioning, release, and deployment of infrastructure, platform, and end-user compute services
  • Proactive incident and problem management: Monitoring and filtering of events, automatic incident resolution, and problem diagnosis
  • Cloud security, compliance, and risk management: Security, compliance, and risk management policies embedded into standard configurations enabling policy-aware applications and automation of security, audit, and risk management processes
  • IT financial management for cloud: IT cost transparency and service-level usage-based ‘showbacks’ or ‘chargebacks’ using automated metering and billing tools

VMware is introducing, in collaboration with many partners in the Cloud Ops Forum, Cloud Operations Services to frame these five areas as critical management capabilities to unlock the full value of cloud computing for efficiency, agility and reliability benefits and transfer knowledge to the end-customer community.

VMware Accelerate Advisory Services can help address the challenges of moving strategically to the cloud by predicting and defining the many impacts to your organization, as well as providing architectural knowledge and operational strategies. Visit our Web site to learn more about our offerings, or reach out to us today at: accelerate@vmware.com for more information

Enrico Boverino is Business Solution Strategist for VMware Accelerate Advisory Services based in Italy. You can follow him on Twitter @eboverino.

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