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Forensic IT: Discover Issues Before Your End Users Do

 (This is a repost of original from the VMware CloudOps blog)

by Paul Chapman, VMware Vice President Global Infrastructure and Cloud Operations

Paul Chapman-cropIf you’ve ever watched five-year-olds playing a soccer game, there is very little strategy: all the kids swarm the field and chase the ball trying to score a goal.

Most IT departments take a similar sort of “swarming” approach to service incidents and problems when they occur.

For most of my career, IT has been a reactive business: we waited until there was a problem and then scrambled very well to solve it. We were tactical in terms of problem solving in a reactive mode, yet monitoring was focused on availability and capturing degradation in services, versus being proactive and predictive, analyzing patterns to stay ahead of problems. In the new world of IT as a service, where expectations are very different, that model no longer works.

New and emerging forensics tools and capabilities give IT the tools to be proactive and predictive—to focus on quality of service and end-user satisfaction, which is a must in the cloud era.

Forensics: A new role for IT
As an example, with new network forensics tools to monitor and analyze network traffic, it may seem a natural fit for network engineers to use them, but at VMware we found the skillsets to be quite different. We need people who have an inquisitive mindset — a sort of “network detective” who thinks like a data analyst and can look at different patterns and diagnostics to find problems before they’re reported or exposed into user impact.

Those in newly created IT forensic roles may have a different set of skills than a typical IT technologist. They may not even be technology subject matter experts, but they may be more like data scientists, who can find patterns and string together clues to find the root of potential problems.

Adding this new type of role in the IT organization most definitely presents challenges as it goes against the way IT has typically been done.  But this shift to a new way of delivering service, moving from the traditional swarm model to a more predictive and forensics-driven model, means a new way of thinking about problem solving. Most importantly, forensics has the potential to create a significant reduction in service impact and maintain high level of service availability and quality.

Quality of service and reducing end user friction
Every time an end user has to stop and depend on another human to fix an IT problem, it’s a friction point. Consumers have come to expect always on, 100 percent uptime, and they don’t want to take the time open a ticket or pause and create a dependency on another human to solve their need. As IT organizations, we need to focus more on the user experience and quality of service—today’s norm of being available 100 percent of the time is table stakes.

With everything connected to the “cloud,” it’s even more important for IT to be proactive and predictive about potential service issues. Applications pull from different systems and processes across the enterprise and across clouds. Without the right analysis tools, IT can’t understand the global user experience and where potential friction points may be occurring. In most experiences, IT finds out about a poor quality of service experience when users complain — perhaps even publicly on their social networks. Unless we get in front of the possible issues and take an outside-in, customer-oriented view, we’re headed for lots of complaints around quality of service.

At VMware, we have seen a significant reduction in overall service impact since using network forensics, and we’re keeping our internal customers productive. Focusing on quality of service and finding people with the right skillsets to fill the associated roles has us unearthing problems long before our end users experience so much as a glitch.

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Follow @PaulChapmanVM on Twitter.

5 Ways Cloud Automation Drives Greater Cost and Operational Transparency

 (This is a repost of original from the VMware CloudOps blog)

By Kevin Lees

Kevin_cropThere has always been tension between IT teams and their end customers — not the good kind of tension, but rather the contentious kind that rarely ends well.

It breaks down like this: IT never believes it has enough time, resources, or money; and the line of business (LOB) really doesn’t understand what they want. On the other side, the LOB is rarely happy with IT because response times aren’t fast enough or IT is missing the mark with its capabilities.

This tension leads to inefficient use of resources, both equipment and people. Shadow IT happens when those outside of IT take matters into their own hands and shirk IT policies and procedures. This can mean inefficiencies in the allocation of capital because finance is challenged to track exactly what it costs for IT to deliver. This becomes especially difficult in a shared resource environment, and it will only get more challenging as we move to a fully virtualized stack as defined by the software-defined data center (SDDC).

This can lead to all sorts of problems, fostering mistrust, lost profits, and lost opportunities. You get the idea.

In this post, we’ll explore key ways that cloud automation is critical to fulfilling the promise of cloud and how automation provides opportunities to practice cost and operational transparency as a way to help drive business alignment.

The Promise of Cloud Management
Cloud holds great promise and great responsibility. It provides many advantages to both IT and its stakeholders, but without effective cloud management and automation, the true value will never be realized.

This is true regardless of the type of cloud, whether private enterprise cloud, an external cloud provider, or a hybrid cloud.

As the figure below shows, there are five areas to focus on that not only provide opportunities to drive business alignment, but also provide opportunities to practice the cost and/or operational transparency needed to gain the business stakeholder’s trust:

5 Ways Automation-Lees

 

  1. Service quality: The business has to know it can count on the service it’s consuming.
  2. Predictability: Of course, the service has to be predictable. Outages are unacceptable.
  3. Agility: The business needs to quickly react to changing business conditions or proactively get to market before the competition, so IT needs to keep up.
  4. Smart economics: It also has to be cost effective. If it’s not, shadow IT rears its ugly head, and any degree of governance as well as economy of scale efficiencies dissipate into the cloud, outside of IT’s control.
  5. Clear communication: Business stakeholders have to truly understand what they’re getting and how much flexibility of choice is available to them.

That said, IT cannot deploy and run an effective and successful cloud in a vacuum. A truly successful cloud, one that adds real business value, requires alignment among IT, LOB, and finance. It requires a lot of interaction, listening, discussing, and agreeing. Yes, there will be trial and error.

Fortunately, one of the big benefits of cloud when done right (namely agility) is the ability to fail fast, fail often, and try something else.

With alignment and the clear communication required to achieve it:

  • IT can provide solutions and services that add value to the business by meeting its needs, because business is involved in the service definition.
  • LOB stakeholders will have a much better idea of what they’re getting and know it will meet their needs.
  • Finance will understand service costs within a business context to make more informed decisions about how to maximize the budgets and ensure a degree of cost predictability.

If all goes well, the end result is trust and business alignment between the parties.

One final note for IT: you desperately need to take a course in Marketing 101. IT needs to get better at advertising its services and demonstrating its value add so everyone knows what an asset the group is. At VMware, this is something we address explicitly when we help IT customers set up their processes for defining, costing, and offering cloud-based services to their LOB market. Taking a technical service to LOB market is no different than the business taking a service to market. Would they do that without proactive marketing? I don’t think so.

If you found this post helpful, stay tuned for future posts on this topic. Next time, I’ll offer my thoughts on ways to turn IT’s “trust debt” into true business alignment through greater transparency, agility, and technical alignment.

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Kevin Lees is Global Principal Architect, Operations Transformation Practice.

To Succeed in the Cloud, CIOs Must Look Beyond Technology

(This is a repost of original from the VMware CloudOps blog)

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

Paul Chapman-cropI’ve watched with interest as cloud solutions and services have matured in recent years to offer more agility, cost optimization, security, and quality of service for the full range of enterprise needs.

Yet I continue to see many businesses adopt cloud services in an ad hoc—rather than holistic—fashion. This is often driven by business leaders who feel the systems they need can not be delivered fast enough by corporate IT, if at all.

CIOs and IT leaders can’t wait any longer—now is the time to lead development of an enterprise cloud strategy that strikes the right balance between agility, efficiency, security, and compliance. I found Forrester’s “Achieve Cloud Economics for Operations and Services” provided some great guidance for how to do just that.

As the paper points out, IT organizations tend to focus on the part of a cloud transformation that comes naturally to them—the technology. It’s easy to see why. But success equally depends on transforming how IT operates, factoring in people resources, processes, financial management, governance, service delivery, communication, and more.

A cloud strategy that doesn’t include these elements will never reach its full potential for business transformation. CIOs can avoid that fate by developing or enhancing the following key competencies. You can further explore these elements of a successful cloud transformation in this interactive infographic.

  • Service Delivery:  The business demands agility and finance demands efficiency. Virtualization up and down the stack, combined with automation of standard repeatable tasks, is an essential first step. These advancements enable IT to meet service-level agreements independently of hardware, and to deliver innovative approaches to service delivery, such as on-demand and self-service models.
  • Talent Acquisition and Development: IT’s transition to the cloud demands new talents and skills. Leaders should ask themselves: Do I have the right people, competencies, and expertise in my organization to enable next-generation IT and business innovation? Strategies to address these needs include:

– Hiring new talent with the right skills
– Retraining and educating current team members
– Building a culture that encourages team members to embrace new responsibilities
– Working with sourcing and vendor management professionals to build up cloud skills

  • Financial Management: By investing strategically in the right technologies, IT leaders can help fund future IT transformation. To take advantage of the cloud’s pay-as-you-use cost advantages, procurement and budgeting will need to be updated for “elastic” resources. Financial transparency will also be key to positioning IT as a business driver, not a cost center.
  • Governance: Traditional IT policies and procedures will not be adequate in governing cloud solutions. Although it may prove challenging, designing combined roles, responsibilities, and accountabilities for combined marketing and IT teams, for example, is critical.
  • Sales/Marketing/Communication: IT Leaders traditional approach of “pitching” ROI, cost-benefit analysis, and business cases is no longer sufficient to develop relationships with executive management and elevate IT to a more strategic, consultative role. Professional “trusted partner”-level selling needs to be an iterative process of developing IT capabilities, marketing those capabilities, managing stakeholders, generating demand, and presenting line-of-business leaders with resonating and often proactive proposals.
  • Business Strategy: IT leaders will need to strengthen their business acumen and develop a deeper understanding of the company’s business, as well as the operations of each line of business. By researching and proposing technology innovation that is business-driven, and by designing solutions around corporate priorities and business outcomes, IT can become an active participant in business strategy development.

To be clear, I’m not recommending you tackle all these initiatives at once. I suggest building a tiered change management strategy and transformation roadmap that identifies top priorities, then sequencing broader changes over time to avoid chaos and facilitate adoption to ensure success.

Are you focusing on operational transformation to support a successful cloud strategy? Which areas are proving the most challenging? I welcome your thoughts and experiences with this set of challenges.

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You can follow @PaulChapmanVM on Twitter.