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Monthly Archives: May 2014

Guidance for Major Incident Management Decisions

By Brian Florence

Brian Florence-cropIf you’re an IT director or CIO of a corporation that has large, business-critical environments, you’re very aware that if those environments are unavailable for any length of time, your company will be losing a lot of money every minute of that downtime (millions of dollars, even).

Most of my IT clients manage multiple environments, many of which fall into the business-critical category. One proactive step is to define “key” or “critical” environments, which can be assigned to a specific individual accountable for the restoration of service for that environment.

The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) defines a typical incident management process as one that is designed to restore services as quickly as possible, and a “major incident” management process is designed to focus specifically on business-critical service restoration. When there are incidents causing major business impact that are beyond typical major incident management functions,  it’s important to pinpoint accountability (special attention, even beyond their regular major incident process) for those business-critical environments where your company would experience a significant loss of capital or critical functionality.

The First Responder Role

Under multiple business-critical environment scenarios, each major environment is assigned a first responder who assumes the major incident lead role for accountability and leadership. The first responder has accountabilities that are typically over and above the normal incident management processes for which an incident manager and/or major incident manager may be responsible. The first responder’s accountabilities are to:

  • Restore service for those incidents that fall into the agreed-upon top priority assignment (P0/P1, or S0/S1, depending upon whether priority or severity is the chosen terminology), as well as all technical support team escalations and communications to management regarding incident status and follow-up, once resolved.
  • Create documentation to guide the service restoration process (often referred to as a playbook or other unique name recognized for each major environment), which specifies contacts for technical teams, major incident management procedures for that specific environment, identification of the critical infrastructure components that make up the environment, or other environment-specific details that would be needed for prompt service restoration and understanding of the environment.
  • Develop the post-incident review process and communications, including the follow-up problem management process (in coordination with any existing problem management team) to ensure its successful completion and documentation.

I also recommend that this primary process management role of accountability be assigned to someone familiar with all of the components and processes of the specific environment they are responsible for, so the management process can run as smoothly as possible for business-critical incidents.

Reducing the Business-Impact of Major Incidents

With a first responder in place, the procedure for resolving major incidents is more prescribed. With each major incident, your company learns what is causing incidents—and most importantly, has a documented process in place for resolution.  Ultimately, the incidents are resolved faster and more efficiently, and your company avoids costly loss of critical functionality or capital due to downtime and is able to avoid similar incidents in the future

The business increasingly looks to IT to drive innovation. By keeping business-critical environments available, you can deliver on business goals that contribute to the bottom line.

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Brian Florence is a transformation consultant with VMware Accelerate Advisory Services and is based in Michigan.

New Technical Roles Emerge for the Cloud Era: The Rise of the Cross-Domain Expert

By Pierre Moncassin

Pierre Moncassin-cropSeveral times over the last year, I have heard this observation: “It is all well and good to introduce new cloud management tools — but we need to change the IT roles to take advantage of these tools. This is our challenge.” As more and more of the clients I work with prepare their transition to a private cloud model, they increasingly acknowledge that traditional IT specialist roles need to evolve.

We do not want to lose the traditional skills — from networking to storage to operating systems — but we need to use them in a different way. Let me explain why this evolution is necessary and how it can be facilitated.

Emergence of Multi-Disciplinary Roles
In the traditional, pre-cloud IT world, specialists tended to carve a niche in their specific silos: they were operating systems specialists, network administrators, monitoring analysts, and so on. There was often little incentive to be concerned about competencies too far beyond one’s silo. After all, it was in-depth, vertical expertise that led to professional recognition — even more so when fast troubleshooting was involved (popularly known as “firefighting”). With a brilliant display of troubleshooting, the expert could become the hero of the day.

In the same silo model, business-level issues tended to be handled far away from the technologists. The technology specialists were rarely involved in such questions as billing for IT usage or defining service levels — an operations manager or service manager would worry about those things.

Whilst this silo model had its drawbacks, it still worked well enough in traditional, pre-cloud IT organizations — where IT services tended to be stable and changes were infrequent. But it does not work in a cloud environment, because the cloud approach requires end-to-end services — defined and delivered to the business.

Cloud consumers do not simply request network or storage services; they expect an end-to-end service across all the traditional silos. If an application does not respond, end users do not care whether the cause lies within networks or middleware: they expect a resolution of their service issue within target service levels.

Staffing the Cloud Center of Excellence
To design and manage such cloud-based services, the cloud center of excellence (COE) requires broader roles than the traditional silos. We need architects and analysts who can comprehend all aspects of a service end-to-end. They will have expertise in each traditional silo, but just as importantly, the ability to architect and manage services that span across each of those silos. I call these roles “cross-domain experts,” because they possess both the vertical (traditional silo) and horizontal (cross-silo) expertise, including a solid understanding of the business aspects of services.

Cross-domain competencies are essential to bring a cross-disciplinary perspective to cloud services. These experts bring a broad spectrum of skills and understand the ins and outs of cloud services across network, server, and storage — as well as a solid grasp of multiple automation tools. Beyond the technical aspects, they are also able focus on the business impact of the services.

Cross-domain experts also need to cross the bridge between the traditionally separate silos of  “design” and “build.” Whilst in the traditional IT model the design/development activities could be largely separated from the build requirements, a service-for-the-cloud model needs to be designed with build considerations up front.

Org for Cloud wpEvery team member in the COE needs to possess an interdisciplinary quality. If we look more specifically at the organization model defined in the white paper Organizing for the Cloud, after the leaders, these hybrid roles are foremost to be found in the following categories:

  • In the tenant operations team, the key hybrid roles are service architect and service analyst.
  • In the infrastructure operations team, the architect is a key hybrid role.

Takeaways

  • To build a successful cloud COE, develop multi-disciplinary roles with broad skills across traditional silos (such as networks, servers, and middleware). Break down the traditional barriers between design and build.
  • Foster both formal training and practical experience across domains.
  • Organize training in both automation and management tools.

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Pierre Moncassin is an operations architect with VMware Operations Transformation Services and is based in France. Follow @VMwareCloudOps on Twitter for future updates, and join the conversation by using the #CloudOps and #SDDC hashtags on Twitter.

5 Ways Cloud Automation Drives Greater Cost and Operational Transparency

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. Follow @VMwareCloudOps on Twitter for future updates, and join the conversation by using the #CloudOps and #SDDC hashtags on Twitter.

To Succeed in the Cloud, CIOs Must Look Beyond Technology

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

I’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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Follow @VMwareCloudOps and @PaulChapmanVM on Twitter for future updates, and join the conversation by using the #CloudOps and #SDDC hashtags on Twitter.