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Implementing a Cloud Infrastructure Is About Changing Mindsets: Three Ways Cloud Operations Can Help

By: Pierre Moncassin

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending the first in a series of cloud operations customer roundtables in Frankfurt, Germany. The workshop was expertly run by my colleague Kevin Lees, principal consultant at VMware and author of “Organizing for the Cloud” as well as numerous VMware CloudOps blog posts.

Customer participation in the round table exceeded our expectations – and was highly revealing. It quickly became obvious that process and organization challenges ranked at the top of everyone’s priorities. They needed no convincing that a successful cloud deployment needs operations transformation in addition to leading-edge tools.

Even so, I was amazed how rapidly the conversation turned from technical strategy to organizational culture and, most importantly, changing mindsets.

I remember one customer team in particular outlining for us the challenge they face in operating their globally-distributed virtual infrastructure. They were acutely aware of the need to transform mindsets to truly leverage their VMware technology – and of how difficult that was proving to be.

For them, changing mindsets meant looking beyond traditional models, such as the monolithic CMDB (an idea deeply entrenched in physical IT). It also meant handling the cultural differences that come with teams based in multiple locations around the world: and, more than ever, the need to align teams with different functional objectives to common goals and gain commitments across boundaries.

To state the obvious, changing organizational mindsets is a vast topic, and many books have written about it (with many more to come, no doubt). But here I want to explore one specific question: How can cloud operations help IT leaders, like our customer above, in their journeys to mindset change?

For them, I see three main areas where cloud operations can bring quick wins:

1) Create Opportunities to Think Beyond ‘Classic’ IT Service Management

Part of the journey to cloud operations is to look beyond traditional frames of reference. For some of our customer teams, the CMDB remains an all-powerful idea because it is so entrenched in the traditional ITSM world. In the world of cloud infrastructure, the link between configuration items and physical locations becomes far less rigid.

It is more important to create a frame of reference around the service definition and everything needed to deliver the service. But adopting a service view does require change, and that’s not something that we always embrace.

So how do you encourage teams to “cross the chasm?” One simple step would be to encourage individuals to get progressively more familiar with VMware’s Cloud Operations framework (by reading ‘Organizing for the Cloud,’ for example).

After that, they could take on a concrete example via a walk-through of some key tools. For example, a VMware vCenter Operations Manager demo can illustrate how a cloud infrastructure can be managed in a dynamic way. It would show how dashboards automatically aggregate multiple alerts and status updates. Team members would see how built-in analytics can automatically identify abnormal patterns (signaling possible faults) in virtual components wherever they are physically located. A demo of vCloud Automation Center’s use of blueprints to automate provisioning of full application stacks would show how new tools that leverage abstraction can help break through process-bound procedures that were developed for more physical environments.

All of this would build familiarity with, and likely excitement at, the possibilities inherent in cloud-based systems.

2) Break Down Silos with the Organizational Model

A key principle of VMware’s cloud operations approach is to break down silos by setting up a Center of Excellence dedicated to managing cloud operations. You can read more about how to do that in this post by Kevin Lees.

The main point, though, is that instead of breaking processes up by technology domain (e.g. windows/unix etc.) or by geography, Cloud Operations emphasizes a consistency of purpose and focus on the service delivered that is almost impossible to achieve in a siloed organizational structure.

Simply by creating a Cloud Infrastructure Operation Center of Excellence, you are creating a tool with which you can build the unity that you need.

3) Boost Team Motivation

Lastly, although a well-run cloud infrastructure should in itself add considerable value to any set of corporate results, don’t forget the influence held by individual team members facing a change in their work practice.

In particular, consider their likely answer to the question “What’s in it for me?”

Factors that might positively motivate team members include:

  • Acquiring new skills in leading-edge technologies and practices (including VMware certifications, potentially)
  • Contributing to a transformation of the IT industry
  • Being part of a well-defined, well-respected team e.g. a Center of Excellence.

So, remember to make that case where you can.

Here, then, are three key ways in which you can leverage cloud operations to help change mindsets:

  1. Understand that moving to cloud is a journey. Every person has their own pace. Build gradual familiarity both with new tools and concepts. Check out more of our CloudOps blog posts and resources!
  2. Build a bridge across cultural differences with the Center of Excellence model recommended by VMware CloudOps.
  3. Explain the benefits to the individual of making the jump to cloud e.g. being part of a new team, gaining new skills – and a chance to make history!

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