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Tag Archives: IT organization

A New Angle on the Classic Challenge of Retained IT

By Pierre Moncassin

Pierre Moncassin-cropWhen discussing the organization models for managing cloud infrastructure with customers, I have come across situations where some if not all infrastructure services are outsourced to a third party. In these situations my customers often ask – does your (VMware) operating model still apply? Should I retain cloud-related skills in-house? If so, which ones?

The short answer is: Yes. The advice I give my customers is that their IT organization should establish a core organization modeled on the “tenant operations” team as defined in Organizing for the Cloud, a VMware white paper by my colleague Kevin Lees.

Let’s assume a relatively simple scenario where a single outsourcer is providing “standard” infrastructure services — such as computing, storage, backups. In this scenario, the outsourcer has accepted to transform at least some of its services towards software-defined data center (SDDC), which is by no means an easy step (I will return to that point later).

For now let’s also assume a cooperative situation where customer and outsourcer are collaboratively working towards a cloud model. The question is — what skills and functions should the customer retain in-house? Which skills can be handed over to the outsourcer?

The question is a classic one. In traditional infrastructure outsourcing, we would talk about a “retained IT” organization.  For the SDDC environment, here are some skill groups that I believe have to be preserved within the core, in-house team:

  • Service Design and Self-service Provisioning is clearly a skillset to keep in-house. The in-house team must be able to work with the business to define services end-to-end, but the team should also be able to grasp accurately the possibilities that automation offers with software such as VMware vCloud Automation Center.  Though I am not suggesting that the core team needs to be expert in all aspects of workflows, APIs or scripting, they do need a solid grasp of the possibilities of automation.
  • Process Automation and Optimization.  A solid working knowledge of automation software is useful but not enough.  The in-house teams are required to decide which processes to automate and how. They need to make business-level decisions. Which processes are worth automating? What is the benefit of automation versus its cost?
  • Security and Compliance is often a top priority for cloud adopters. The cloud-based services need to align with enterprise policies and standards.  The retained IT function must be able to demonstrate compliance and where needed, enforce those standards in the cloud infrastructure.
  • Service Level Management and Trend Analysis. Whilst the retained IT organization does not need to be involved in the day-to-day monitoring and troubleshooting, they need to be able to monitor key service levels. Specifically, the business users will be highly sensitive to the performance of some business-critical applications. The retained IT organization will need to keep enough knowledge of these applications and of performance monitoring tools to ensure that application performance is measured adequately.
  • Application Life Cycle (DevOps). We have assumed in our scenario an infrastructure-only outsourcing — the skills for application development remaining in-house.  In the SDDC environment, the tenant operations team will work closely with the application development teams. Amongst other skills, the retained IT will need detailed knowledge not only of application provisioning, but also the architectures, configuration dependencies, and patching policies required to maintain those applications.

I have reviewed skills groups needed as more automation is used, but there will be less reliance on skills that relate to routine tasks and trouble-shooting. Skills that can typically be outsourced include:

  • Routine scripting and monitoring
  • System (middleware) configuration
  • Routine network administration

The diagram below is a (very simplified) summary of the evolution from traditional retained IT to tenant operations for SDDC environments.

Retained IT modelIt is also worth noting that the transformation from traditional infrastructure outsourcing to SDDC is a far from obvious step from the point of view of an outsourcer. Why should the outsourcer invest time and cost to streamline services, if the end customer has already contracted to pay for the full cost of service? Gaining buy-in from the outsourcer to transform its model can be a significant challenge. Therefore it is prudent to key to gain acceptance either:
–  early in the contract negotiations, so that the provider can build in a cloud delivery model in its service offering,
– or towards the end of a contract when the outsourcer is often highly motivated to obtain a renewal.

Finally outsourcers may initiate their own technology refresh programs, which can create a win-win situation when both sides are prepared to invest in modernization towards SDDC.

3 Key Take-Aways

  1. Organizations that undertake their journey to SDDC with an outsourcer are advised to establish a core SDDC  organization including most tenant operations skills; a key focus is to leverage automation (whilst routine, repetitive tasks can be outsourced).
  2. The exact profile of the tenant operations (retained IT) will depend on the scope of the outsourcing contract.
  3. Early contract negotiations, renewals, or technology refresh can create opportunities to encourage an outsourcer to move towards the SDDC model.

Pierre Moncassin
is an operations architect with VMware’s Global Operations Transformation Practice and is based in the UK. Follow @VMwareCloudOps on Twitter for future updates.

A New Kind of Hero

By Aernoud van de Graaf

AERNOUD VDG crop-filterIn every IT organization there is that special person. Let’s call him Phil. Phil is the kind of person who…
– knows everything
– can fix anything
– knows everybody
– and gets things done in hours that would take others days or weeks to accomplish.

Phil is a hero. If the system goes down, call him, and he will fix it — even if it takes him all night. You can call Phil any time of the day, and he will rise up to the challenge and make sure that the system is up and running in no time. And you love him for it.

One day before a project was to go live, the project leader found out that to implement the new application required a change to the firewall rule, which normally takes two weeks. He called Phil, and after a friendly cup of coffee with the network guys, the firewall change was made in just two days (instead of two weeks).

But during the installation of the application, the test database was accidentally connected to the application instead of the production database. Chaos ensued. The lines of business (LOBs) were furious because customers were getting the wrong orders and threatening to end their contracts. Phil fixed it within a day — and though a lot of money was lost due to wrong orders, not one customer ended its contract. It could have been much worse, had it not been for Phil.

Because of his history of “saved the day” work, Phil gets recognized in the organization — not just within IT, but also with the LOBs. Everyone knows and loves Phil, and he gets high scores on his reviews. After a particularly nasty problem took him an entire weekend to fix, Phil got an extra bonus and a nice weekend with his family in a 5-star hotel. He earned it.

As we said before. Phil is our hero.

And then there is John. John has a vision. He is convinced that things need to change. The current environment is far too complex and needs to be simplified and standardized. Also, most things are done manually, taking way too much time and causing a lot of problems — because people make mistakes.

John envisions a world where IT users have access to a portal that will automatically provision what they need, without any human intervention. Applications, workplaces, middleware, servers, storage, network, and security — all at the push of just a few buttons. The user simply classifies the business requirements, and the policies will ensure the application is provisioned to meet the requirements. John did his research and found that this way, implementation errors can be nearly eliminated and time-to-market greatly improved.

No longer would IT need loads of people monitoring and managing the operations and health of the infrastructure. No more firefighting 24X7. Most things would be handled by the tooling. If manual intervention were required, the tooling would give context and advise on where to look and what could be done. This may be the opportunity to put Phil to good use. Instead of spending time fixing things, Phil can start creating solutions that would add real value to the business.

Phil is the only one with the technical skills and the influence with the CIO to bring this vision to reality, so John sets up a meeting with him. John explains to Phil all the advantages that standardization, virtualization, and automation will bring to the organization. No more weekends spent fixing problems, no more last-minute interventions. Everything will run smoothly. The business will profit because the quality of service will go up, costs will go down, and IT can change at the speed of the business — speeding up innovation and time-to-market. John asks Phil to help design and build the solution and to support him in presenting it to the CIO.

But Phil is not as enthusiastic as John would have thought. In Phil’s opinion, no tools can replace the knowledge he has of the IT environment. And he is already far too busy with today’s work to spend time on John’s project. Automation maybe useful, but virtualization and automation will only make things worse for Phil. He would lose insight of where the applications are running and is afraid he could no longer fix things because of constant changes based on rules a tool determines are useful. Phil states that IT should stay the way it is, where he knows all the little nooks and crannies and how to fix them. He will not support John’s initiative and will advise the CIO to leave things status quo.

John is surprised. He does not understand why Phil would not want to improve the current situation.  Having IT run smoothly may not provide as many opportunities to save the day, but it will ensure that IT is really enabling the business.

It is time for a new kind of hero.

Aernoud van de Graaff is a business solutions architect with VMware Accelerate Advisory Services and is based in the Netherlands. You can follow him on Twitter @aernoudvdgraaff 

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