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Monthly Archives: May 2015

Key People, Process and Policy Considerations for vRealize Automation Success

Keng-Leong-Choong-cropBy Choong Keng Leong

Organizations implement VMware vRealize Automation (vRA) with the aim of shortening the provisioning of infrastructure services and the release of applications through self-service and automation. To achieve this, there is a need for balance between governance and business agility. Projects are more likely to fail or face significant obstacles if they do not plan adequately and ensure the necessary policies, processes and workflows are in place.

In this blog, we’ll explore some of these key planning and design activities that are often overlooked on the journey to cloud automation.

Key Players

vRealize Automation - Key PlayersThe very first thing we need to do is identify key players. The roles are mapped to actual team members in the organization. Minimally, we need to identify:

  • Service consumers – Authorized users of the self-service portal who can request and manage their cloud services, and which business groups they belong to
  • Approvers – Approves all possible requests
  • Cloud administrators Administers and manages the cloud infrastructure, cloud resources, and the configuration and maintenance of vRA
  • System administrators – Administers, configures and maintains the guest operating systems in the virtual machine
  • Application administrators – Installs, administers, configures and maintains the application software hosted on the virtual machine
  • Cloud security and compliance analyst –Monitors, analyzes and tests the security and compliance of application, guest OS and infrastructure

A common mistake is not identifying all the necessary key players and involving them in the planning and design early, which could have drastic impact to the vRA workflow designs.

Service Models

vRealize Automation - Service ModelsThe next step is to determine what cloud services will be offered through vRA. Many organizations start by offering Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), provisioning virtual machines leveraging existing vSphere virtual machine templates. For organizations that are heavily virtualized, this is not transformational and has very little incremental impact visible to the business.

To realize the full values of vRA, organizations should look beyond provisioning up to the OS level. The steps that follow after the server with OS is ready usually involve manual or scripted steps and multiple parties (app, middleware, db, security, etc.). Being able to automate these steps, package them and offer the package as a cloud service will result in significant efficiency gains. For example, instead of offering Windows 2012 as a catalog item, why not offer a SQL Server 2012 or a Tier 2 Application consisting of a pair of load-balanced Apache Tomcat Servers and a SQL Server?

Developing service models requires engaging the business to understand their requirements. For example, what is the point in offering a Windows Server 2003 R2 catalog item when no new business applications will be running on it. We also need to understand the service levels and performance requirements so that we can provision the machines in the correct pool of resources that provide these capabilities. We also need to identify which business groups will be entitled to these services.

Request Models

vRealize Automation - Request ModelsOnce the service models are defined, we can identify all the use cases for vRA and the types of requests within the scope of vRA. Request models (i.e. workflows) for the services are mapped out and documented. These may include:

  •  Request for a virtual machine
  • Request for a database server
  • Request to increase the resources of a virtual machine (e.g., add CPU, Memory)
  • Request to extend the lease of a virtual machine
  • Request to reboot a virtual machine
  • Request to decommission virtual machine
  • Request to snapshot a virtual machine
  • Request to back up a virtual machine

It is common to start by mapping out the current workflows and automating some of the steps using vRA and/or vRealize Orchestrator. While this approach may be quick, it has proven inadequate in many customer use cases I have encountered. Requirements to interface with a business system, process and function appear in late stages of the vRA implementation project, jeopardizing the project’s schedule and budget. In order for an organization to automate as much of the process as possible and make significant impact to service provisioning and delivery times, the whole service fulfillment cycle needs to be studied, optimized and transformed. It’s imperative to understand the whole business process through initiation of an IT/business project, budgeting, approval, procurement, installation, building, integration, testing, release, operation, management, support and retirement. Then, you must identify how the vRA will fit and interface with the various stakeholders, functions, processes and systems. Sometimes, it is necessary to have the vRA interface with external workflows already existing in other systems such as an IT service management (ITSM) system.

In addition, each request model needs to be correctly categorized and aligned with the organization’s governance policy and processes. For example, a request for a virtual machine in production vs. a machine for development will require different change management process, approval levels and approvers. These considerations should be incorporated into the design of the workflows and vRA approval policies. The request models can also be re-categorized to reduce governance overhead due to risk reduction with process automation and standardization of blueprints.

Access and Entitlement Management

vRealize Automation - Access & Entitlement ManagementAfter the key players, service models and request models are finalized, the different security access roles for vRA can be defined and mapped to the key players, so that they have adequate permissions and privileges to perform their tasks defined in the request models. Entitlements to the services are also configured and granted to the respective business groups and/or users.

Communication and Awareness

vRealize Automation - Communication & Transition SupportBefore the launch of the vRA, don’t forget to brief all key players on the processes and how to use the vRA based on their roles. Print and distribute reference cards and stickers to remind them of the process steps and how to get support when needed. It is important to cater for more hand-holding and support during the initial transition phase. The project will fail if users start to revert to old ways and stop using vRA.

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Choong Keng Leong is an operations architect with VMware Professional Services and is based in Singapore. You can connect with him on LinkedIn

5 Steps to Building Your High-Performance Cloud Organization

Make sure learning happens by design; not just trial and error.

Pierre Moncassin-cropBy Pierre Moncassin

One of the often-overlooked aspects of building an effective cloud organization lies in the training and development of team members. My customers often ask, “How do I accelerate my IT organization’s transition to cloud?” Well, there is much more to my answer than relates to deploying toolsets.

What the IT organization needs is accelerated learning—learning at organizational level as well as individual. All too often, that learning happens in part by accident.  An enthusiastic project team installs the technology first, sometimes as a pilot. The technology works wonders and produces great initial results, e.g., IT services can be provisioned and managed with levels of speed and efficiency that were simply not possible before. Then sometimes, the overall project just stalls. Not because of a technical shortfall. The reason is that the organization has not completely figured out how to fully leverage that technology, and more importantly, how to fit it in with the rest of the IT organization. This is a shortfall of learning.

Faced with the challenge of learning to leverage the technology, many organizations fall back on the tried and tested approach known as “learning on the job.”  After all, this is an approach that has worked for centuries! But in the fast-paced cloud era, you want to accelerate the learning process. Really, you want learning by design not just by trial and error. So, where do you start?

Here are some practical lessons that I have collected by supporting successful projects with customers and within VMware:

1. Design a plan for the organization.
Org for Cloud wp
It stands to reason that the future organization will be different from the current, “pre-cloud” organization. However, the optimal structure will not be reached without planning. In practice we want to gradually flesh out your tenant operations and infrastructure operations teams, as describe in more details in the white paper: Organizing for the Cloud.

In turn, this means orchestrating the transition from the current roles into the target organization. Each transitioned role will require a skills development plan adapted to the individual.

2.    Plan for formal skills development.
The fist step to plan skills development is to carry out a gap analysis of each selected team member, against their future roles (e.g. , service owner, service architect, and so forth). Each role carries specific requirements in terms of technical skills—without delving in all the details, a blueprint manager will need deeper knowledge of VMware vRealize Automation than a customer relationship manager; however the customer relationship manager will need some awareness of the blueprints and how they can be leveraged to meet customer requirements effectively.

3. Reinforce learning with mentoring and coaching.
Mentoring and coaching are effective ways to reinforce the individual’s own learning. Typically mentoring will focus on knowledge transfer based on personal experience. For example, encourage sharing of experience by pairing up the new service architect with an experienced service architect (either in another part of the organization—if existing—or from another organization).

Coaching will focus on individual skill development—either by learning directly from the coach, or from the coach supporting an individual’s own learning journey.

Although coaching/mentoring is by definition highly personalized  (learner centric), it is a good idea to establish a formal structure around it. For example, assign coaches/mentors to all future cloud team members, with a mechanism to track activity and results.

4.    Develop leaders with both business and technical skills.
As when building any team, it is important to identify and nurture a cadre of leaders for the cloud organization.  These leaders will be both the formal leadership roles (tenant operations leader, infrastructure operations leader), but also critical roles such as service owner and service architect.

Such leaders will hold a key role in representing the cloud organization within the broader business.  Part of their development will include broadening their understanding of the business. For example, by assigning them mentors within the lines of business—this is another example where mentoring comes in handy.

However business acumen, whilst important, is not enough. These roles also need to develop broad technical skills to be able to articulate solutions across technical silos and understand the new capabilities introduced by cloud automation.

5.    Reach out to the broader organization with a champions community.
Champions, a.k.a change agents, are advocates within the rest of the organization (especially within the lines of business) who will spread the awareness and support for the cloud. These champions help bridge the silos with business users and win “hearts and minds.” Refer to my earlier blog where I explained how we leverage a change agent program within VMware and the lessons that can be inferred. Your change agents will make sure that the broader organization/business learns about the cloud project and ultimately adopts it.

Takeaways:

  • Plan the transition and learning curve both for your organization and the individuals.
  • Combine formal learning with individual-centric learning (coaching and mentoring).
  • Invest effort in developing at an early stage, the future leaders and champions  for cloud adoption. Make sure that their planned learning spans across both technical and business knowledge.

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Pierre Moncassin is an operations architect with the VMware Operations Transformation global practice and is currently on long-term assignment in Asia-Pacific. Follow @VMwareCloudOps on Twitter for future updates.

The Business Case for Cloud Automation

Automating in the Cloud Pays Off

Top 5 Tips for Marketing Your Cloud Services

By Alberto Martinez

Alberto Martinez-cropA couple of years ago when I was working in Australia, one of my customers was starting to deliver cloud services to its external customers—mainly infrastructure as a service (IaaS). It was not a very mature market at that time though they knew what they had to do to promote those services: enable a marketing capability with a strong customer focus. As the IT organization was evolving its cloud service offering from a technology point of view, that marketing function was driving the change and ensuring customers recognized the value of their cloud.

One key takeaway from the recent Computerworld Forecast Study 2015 is that companies like yours are now investing (or are planning to invest) large portions of their IT budgets to enable a cloud service offering. In my previous blog entry, I briefly mentioned the key steps to define a process for marketing your cloud services within your organization in order to maximize ROI.

cover top tipsNow let´s take those steps to the next level of detail by considering the lessons learned and the critical success factors from those early adopters of cloud. Take a look at this brief: Top 5 Tips for Marketing Your Cloud Services. I think you’ll find some very useful tips for building a marketing capability for your cloud service offering.

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Alberto Martinez is an operations architect with the VMware Operations Transformation global practice and is based in Spain.