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Tag Archives: Cloud Center of Excellence

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.

A Critical Balance of Roles Must Be in Place in the Cloud Center of Excellence

By: Pierre Moncassin

There is a rather subtle balance required to make a cloud organization effective – and, as I was reminded recently, it is easy to overlook it.

One key requirement to run a private cloud infrastructure is to establish a dedicated team i.e. a Cloud Center of Excellence. As a whole this group will act as an internal service provider in charge of all technical and functional aspects of the cloud, but also deal with the user-facing aspects of the service.

But there is an important dividing line within that group: the Center of Excellence itself is separated between Tenant Operations and Infrastructure Operations. Striking a balance between these teams is critical to a well-functioning cloud. If that balance is missing, you may encounter significant inefficiencies. Let me show you how that happened to two IT organizations I talked with recently.

First, where is that balance exactly?

If we look back at that Cloud Operating Model (described in detail in ‘Organizing for the Cloud‘), we have not one, but two teams working together: Tenant Operations and Infrastructure Operations.

In a nutshell, Tenant Operations own the ‘customer-facing’ role. They want to work closely with end-users. They want to innovate and add value. They are the ‘public face’ of the Cloud Center of Excellence.

On the other side, Infrastructure Ops only have to deal one customer – Tenant Operations. In addition to this, they also have to handle hardware, vendor relationships and generally, the ‘nuts and bolts’ of the private cloud infrastructure.

Cloud Operating Model
But why do we need a balance between two separate teams? Let’s see what can happen when that balance is missing with two real-life IT organization I met a little while back. For simplicity I will call them A and B – both large corporate entities.

When I met Organization A, it had only a ‘shell’ Tenant Operations function. In other words, their cloud team was almost exclusively focused on infrastructure. The result? Unsurprisingly, they scored fairly high on standardization and technical service levels. End users either accepted a highly standardized offering, or had to go through loops to negotiate obtained exceptions – neither option was quite satisfactory. Overall, Organization A struggled to add recognizable value to their end-users: “we are seen as a commodity”. They lacked a well-developed Tenant Organization.

Organization B had the opposite challenge. They belonged to a global technology group that majors on large-scale software development. Application development leaders could practically set the rules about what infrastructure could be provisioned. Because each consumer group yielded so much influence, there was practically a separate Tenant Operation team for each software unit.

In contrast, there was no distinguishable Infrastructure Ops function. Each Tenant Operations team could dictate separate requirements. The overall intrastructure architecture lacked standardization – which risked defeating the purpose of a cloud approach in the first place. With a balance tilted towards Tenant Operations, Organization B probably scored highest on customer satisfaction – but only as long as customers did not have to bear the full cost of non-standard infrastructure.

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In sum having two functionally distinct teams (Tenants and Infrastructure) is not just a convenient arrangement, but a necessity to operate a private cloud effectively. There should be ongoing discussions and even negotiation between the two teams and their leaders.

In order to foster this dual structure, I would recommend:

  1. Define a chart for both teams that clearly outlines their relative roles and ‘rules of engagement.’
  2. Make clear that each team’s overall objectives are aligned, although the roles are different. That could be reflected through management objectives for the leaders of each team. However, this also requires some governance in place to give them the means to resolve their discussions.
  3. To help customers realize the benefits of standardization, consider introducing service costing (if not already in place) – so that the consumer may realize the cost of customization.

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

Assembling Your Cloud’s Dream Team

By: Pierre Moncassin

Putting together a Cloud Center of Excellence (COE) is not about recruiting ‘super-heroes’ – but a matter of balancing skills and exploiting learning opportunities. 

On several occasions, I’ve heard customers who are embarking on the journey to the cloud ask: “How exactly do you go about putting together a ‘dream team’ capable of launching and delivering cloud services in my organization?” VMware Cloud Operation’s advice is fairly straightforward: put together a core team known as the Cloud Center of Excellence as early as possible. However, these team members will need a broad range of skills across cloud management tools, virtualization, networking and storage, as well as solid processes and organizational knowledge. Not to mention, sound business acumen as they will be expected to work closely with the business lines (far more so than traditional IT silos).

This is why at first sight, the list of skills can seem daunting. It need not be. The good news is that there is no need to try to recruit ‘super-heroes’ with impossibly long resumes. The secret is to balance skills, and taking advantage of several important opportunities to build skills.

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First let’s have a closer look at the skills profiles for the Cloud COE as described in our whitepaper  ‘Organizing for the Cloud’. I won’t go into the specifics of each role, but as a starter, here are some core technical skills required (list not inclusive):

  • Virtualization technologies: vSphere
  • Provisioning with a combination of vCAC or VCD
  • Workflows Automation: VCO
  • Configuration and Compliance: VCM
  • Monitoring/Event Management: VC OPS
  • Applications, storage, virtual networks, applications.

But the team also needs members with broad understanding of processes and systems engineering principles, customer facing service development skills, and a leader with  sound knowledge of financial and business principles.

Few organizations will have individuals with all these skills ready from day one – but fortunately they do not need to. A cloud COE is a structure that will grow over time, and the same applies to the skills base. For example, vCO scripting skills might be required at some stage in order to develop advanced automation scripts – but that level of automation might not be required until the second or third phase of the cloud implementation, after the workflows are established. However, we need some planning to have the skills available when needed.

Make the most out of on-site experts:

Organizations usually start their cloud journey with project team as a transitional structure. They generally have consultants from VMware or a consultancy partner on-site working alongside them.  This offers an excellent opportunity to both accelerate the cloud project, and to allow internal hires to absorb critical skills from those experts. However – and this is an important caveat – the knowledge transfer needs to be intentional. Organizations can’t expect a transfer of knowledge and skills to happen entirely unprompted. Internal teams may not always have the availability or training to absorb cloud-related skills ‘spontaneously’ during the project. Ad hoc team members often have emergencies from their ‘day job’ (i.e. their business-as-usual responsibilities) that interrupt their work with the on-site experts.  So I advise to plan knowledge exchanges early in the project. That will ensure that external vendors and consultants train the internal staff, and in turn, project team members can then transfer their knowledge to the permanent cloud team.

Get formal training:

Along with informal on-site knowledge transfer, it can be a good idea to plan formal classroom-based VMware training and certifications. Compared to a project-based knowledge exchange, formal training generally provides a deeper understanding of the fundamentals, and is also valuable to employees from a personal development point of view. Team members may have additional motivation to attend formal courses that are recognized in the industry, especially if it leads to a recognized qualification such as VMware Certified Professional (VCP).

Build skills during the pilot project:

Many cloud projects begin with a pilot phase where a pilot (i.e. a prototype installation) is deployed with a cut-down functionality. This is a great opportunity to build skills in a ‘safe’ environment. Core team members get the chance to familiarize themselves both with the new technology and stakeholders. For example, a Service Catalog becomes far more real once potential users and administrators can see and touch the provisioning functions with a tool like vCenter Automation Center. For technical specialists, the pilot can be a chance to learn new technologies and overcome any fear of change. Building a prototype early in the cloud project can also give teams the opportunity to play around with tools and explore their capabilities.

A summary of how your IT organization can structure its Cloud Center of Excellence and prepare it for success:

  1. Plan to build up skills over time. All technical skills are not required in-depth from day one. Rather, look at a blend of technical skills that will grow and evolve as the cloud organization matures. The Cloud team is a ‘learning organization’.
  2. Plan ahead. Schedule formal and informal knowledge transfers – including formal training – between internal staff and external vendors and consultants.
  3. Make the most out of a pilot project. Create a safe learning environment where team members and stakeholders can acquire skills at their own pace.

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