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Monthly Archives: October 2013

Microsoft Windows 7 Migration: You Can’t Afford to Put it Off

Author: Charles Barratt

Almost every IT organisation I have worked with in recent years is struggling with the same question: How do we help the business see IT as a strategic partner rather than a cost centre?

The looming April 2014 end of support date for Microsoft Windows XP and the requisite migration off to Windows 7 or 8.x presents an opportunity for IT to do just that—if IT leaders put in place the right end-user strategy. This strategy should address issues such as the consumerisation of IT, the bring your own device (BYOD) movement, improved work/life balance, and generally providing a higher level of end-user computing (EUC) solution to empower the workforce. Together, these initiatives can improve productivity, job satisfaction, and staff retention.

While the businesses I engage with understand the opportunities presented by Windows 7, they are also struggling to make sense of the myriad EUC solutions available. Rather than getting stuck on a choice between Windows 7 and Windows 8.x, I recommend that IT organizations take this opportunity to step back and reset their entire end-user strategy.

Too often I hear that businesses are forcing IT solutions on end users without consulting them about their needs or wishes. In line with this strategy, many organisations have stuck with Windows XP because it’s “good enough.” By leaning on this “good enough” mentality, IT organizations are missing an opportunity to realize cost savings, increase user productivity, and redefine IT’s value to the business.

Consulting with your end users is no longer optional. But you don’t have to see it as a chore. By listening to users’ needs, you’ll not only end up with a better solution, you’ll also be upleveling internal PR by proving that IT is approachable, flexible, and delivers.

If you are still struggling with the logistics of Windows migration, I recommend migrating to Windows 7 immediately, since that will only simplify a later transition to Windows 8.x (the architecture of the operating systems is very similar). VMware can help you meet challenges of this transition with a suite of technology solutions to provide you with an agile platform for application, data, and desktop management, and the advisory services to help you develop a comprehensive, actionable EUC transformation strategy and roadmap.

Don’t wait to migrate — I can’t overemphasize this. Layering, virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), and zero-touch PC deployment technologies will help simplify migration and leave you with a more secure, stable, and better-managed PC footprint while significantly avoiding the cost and challenges associated with a physical OS migration project. Leveraging these solutions, your IT department has the ability to deliver a smarter workspace and reduce the issues associated with a physical OS migration project.

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Charles Barratt is a business solutions architect with VMware Accelerate Advisory Services, based in the UK. You can follow him on Twitter @csbarratt

Constant Change in Technology Is the Steady State

The VMworld Barcelona TV crew caught up yesterday with Paul Chapman, VMware VP of Global Infrastructure and Cloud Operations. In this short video, he describes how VMware is challenged with the same IT complexities as other large, global corporations—we have to run the business on a day-to-day basis, take orders, ship products, recognize revenue and so forth. And, because internally we’ve solved real-world issues that resonate with many of our customers, we’re now in a position to share how to solve many of those problems in a game-changing way.

Cloud, End-User Strategies Guard Against Data Breaches

Author: Alex Salicrup

The Fifth Estate hits theaters October 18, and with it a reminder of the corporate and government secrets exposed when WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange obtained breached classified data and released it to the world.

Assange and WikiLeaks, as we know, gained access to classified documents through US Army Private Bradley Manning, an intelligence analyst who was recently sentenced for espionage. In addition to this breach, there was Edward Snowden, the contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA) who outed the organization’s telecommunications monitoring programs.  — See related by Richard Rees on the VMware Consulting blog: The Snowden Leak: A Windfall for Hybrid Cloud?

In the 80s and 90s the spy scandals centered on individuals passing secrets to enemies of the state, like Aldrich Ames and Richard Hanssen, government employees who sold sensitive information to Russia for big bucks.

These days data breaches are more likely to be driven by a cause than cash. Widely described as hacktivism, breaches and malware attacks are made against corporations—not just governments—often by organizations that see themselves as the arbiters of online justice (like Anonymous). Two-thirds of all data breaches last year were made by installing malware on corporate systems. Almost all breaches were made from external sources.

Since its breach, the NSA, which already had plans to build a private cloud, has accelerated its implementation, largely because it sees automation as a key to eliminating the need for contractors like Snowden. In my experience, this is a good start, but only when it is followed by security policies focused on data classification rather than per application or system.

One of the advantages I see to software-defined networking is that it allows better visibility into where data, platforms, and infrastructure reside as part of the larger virtual infrastructure. The closer to a software-defined data center a corporation gets, the more control and visibility it has over its data security.

I was recently part of a deployment where the client designed innovative ways to classify and secure data, making it harder to breach, easier to monitor, and mostly automated. That’s a scalable solution that delivers enhanced security of precious data.

End-user computing (EUC) is another area where the right strategy needs to safeguard data accessible from devices that can potentially be accessed by someone besides the intended user. In my experience, if a company does not employ a comprehensive EUC solution, staff members will eventually bypass data security policies in order to have access data on their mobile devices.

Organizations will do well to start an internal assessment of how well-positioned they are to manage their data securely in the age of hactivism. Are there opportunities to enhance data security using virtual infrastructure and software-defined networking? Which is more cost effective and efficient? How much would a breach potentially cost? Is your organization capable of managing the infrastructure needed to support virtualization and EUC initiatives?

Let’s face it: No one expects to have their data breached. And yet, the majority of US corporations are victims to it every year. Why risk being one of them?

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Alex Salicrup is a business solutions architect for VMware Accelerate Advisory Services.

 

How Intelligent is Your Automation?

Author: Rich Pleasants

When I talk with my enterprise clients about their IT as a service (ITaaS) strategies, service automation frequently comes up. Scripting might be done to make specific IT activities easier, but it does not necessarily address the need to orchestrate or fully automate a set of process steps that affect an entire process lifecycle timeline or set of quality measures.

The true value of automation lies in functional build- and run-side automation: workflow automation user stories and use cases at higher-level process disciplines such as provisioning, incident, problem, performance, or capacity management. Key build- and run-side technology solutions help your IT organization drive quantifiable business value with the intelligent application of automation.

As a CIO, you and your team focus on key performance indicators (KPIs) that measure your IT organization’s ability to achieve business- or operational-related goals. These include avoidance of service-related outages and the ability to measure improvement over time. In each IT process discipline, there are opportunities for automation to positively impact these KPIs. This will help you demonstrate the business value those measurable improvements provide to your key stakeholders—the consumers of your IT services.

The enterprise organizations I work with usually don’t have an “automation” team. They have operations staff with scripting skills who are focused on optimizing their own day-to-day activities or integrating data from many tool sets. Often each team member uses his or her own methods and scripting tools. This disjointed, one-off automation approach is not efficient or sustainable. In order for your IT organization to meet the increasing demand placed on your operations staff—more than likely, already running lean—you will need to adopt a service automation approach.

You’re probably asking: Where do I get started? And what KPIs should we focus on to measure success? Here are the best practices I share with the IT organizations I work with.

The most important thing is to build a team within your IT organization that includes cross-functional members, each with defined responsibilities, to create a standard approach to service automation across key IT disciplines. This virtual team should focus on four tenets of “intelligent automation” described below (and illustrated in this chart):

Optimize Processes

  • Validate current-state operational process with supporting roles and responsibilities.
  • Tune operational process steps, which could include collapsing steps or re-aligning roles.
  • Evaluate specific steps of process for potential automation. Don’t automate an activity simply because it can be done. Choose steps that will add measurable value to IT and the business, such as reducing full lifecycle provisioning time, reducing MTTR, or rightsizing virtual resources to improve cloud service performance.  KPIs should be baselined to measure how automation provides improvement over time.

Change Management

  • Automation workflows should comply with required change management documentation and notification.
  • Pre-approved changes that utilize automation should be fully documented and outcome(s) reported on, including failure and rollback activities.
  • Automation workflows should be fully auditable in the change management process.

Criteria for Action

  • Select one process to start with, such as Performance Management. Defined automation workflows should include documentation on what, when, where, and how the workflow automation use cases are utilized.
  •  Create a standard automation workflow document that outlines all criteria for each automation script and how the workflow will be maintained as technology, process, and organization roles evolve, as well as how workflow activity is reported and audited.
  • Be specific and maintain the specific criteria or conditions that must exist for certain automation workflows to execute.

Notification and Reporting

  • Define who is notified when a specific automation workflow is executed or is awaiting approval for execution. This includes timing automation activities to take into account human inaction.
  • Assign a member of the virtual automation team as a report owner and publisher.
  • Enable key business stakeholders to see how automation supports their specific business objectives, which includes exposing KPIs that are clearly understood by the business.

Once established, your virtual team of cross-functional members can break down the walls typically existing between IT functional groups and instead help the organization focus on intelligent automation. This will allow your IT organization to consitently deliver measurable business value to stakeholders, providing your staff with more time to focus on continuous innovation.

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Rich Pleasants is a business solutions architect with VMware Accelerate Advisory Services. You can follow him on Twitter @cloudopsvoice.

IT as a Service: Virtualization Is Only Part of the Puzzle

During VMworld last month, VMware released insights from its 2013 Journey to IT as a Service Survey, based on feedback from more than 1,000 CIOs and other IT decision makers.

The findings illuminate a growing revolution in how IT organizations are managed and perceived. As outlined in the study, IT organizations are progressing through three stages of transformation:

  1. IT Productivity: Capital expenditure savings through consolidation
  2. Business Productivity: Operating expenditure savings through automated management
  3. IT as a Service (ITaaS): Agile, strategic IT organization providing innovative, business-focused service delivery

As Gene Likins, director of Accelerate Americas, points out in this video, expanded, sophisticated virtualization provides big business benefits, but it’s not the whole story. Successful ITaaS organizations also transform their processes and organizational structures to support IT’s new role as a service provider and innovation center.