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Cloud Services Definition

Part 3 of the Cloud Business Management Series

By Khalid Hakim, Kai Holthaus and Bill Irvine

Services DefinitionIn our last cloud operations business transformation blog, we talked about the cloud business strategy and its importance in formulating the vision and the plan as to how you want to run your cloud as a business. In today’s blog, the focus begins to shift to executing the strategy and laying out the foundations of a service-oriented and business-driven “operating model”.

There is a saying: you can’t manage what you can’t control, and you can’t control what you can’t define.  Imagine that you are planning to open a new business. The first step is to define what services/products you want to offer your consumers and what distinguishes your market value among the others. Similarly, cloud business management starts at this point. IT should identify and define what cloud services would be offered to its consumers in order to truly drive a services-oriented and value-driven organization.

Key Areas of Services Definition

VMware recommends a unique approach for defining cloud services, through which a service owner defines a 360-degree view of how the cloud services would be established, managed and delivered effectively and efficiently to meet or exceed the expected value. To paint this panoramic view, cloud service owners should consider the following areas:

  • Service Overview – describe the service in terms of its purpose, goals, consumers, criticality, availability criteria and rhythm of business.
  • Virtual Service Team – organize your team members around the services you deliver. Team up as a virtual service team.
  • Services Definition ChartService Chart – map out the end-to-end cloud service in a graphical representation that is easy to consume. The service chart helps to visually understand the core components of a service and contributes when costing services.
  • Service Portfolio and Consumer Management – the service portfolio answers the questions, who are our customers and why should they buy the service from us. It contains all of the service categories and the business units that consume them and aids with making informed “service” and “business” based investment decisions.
  • Service Design and Development – provide high level information about how the services will be designed and developed, especially if the service isn’t yet in production. This helps with understanding the customer business need and developing the most valuable solution possible.
  • Service Catalog Management – identify service catalog structure parameters and possible blueprints. Also, define what columns or key fields should be included in service catalog entries.
  • Service Level Management – define key SLA/OLA targets to ensure provisioning time and quality meets specific business needs.
  • Service Desk Management – describe how the service will be supported. Draft a plan for service-desk requirements, skills needed and required knowledge transfer.
  • Proactive Operations Management – define the service operation requirements for support and reliability from the event and performance monitoring to availability, demand, capacity, continuity and security management.
  • Provisioning and Change Management – define the service provisioning lifecycle and associated change management policies including how the service will be pre-approved and auto-provisioned (for maximum efficiency). New leaner change management workflow needs to defined / refined (i.e. standard changes).
  • Service Financial Management – define the service cost and charge back/ show back model along with pricing and connections to the service catalog.
  • Service Performance and KPIs – define any applicable service related strategic, tactical and operational performance indicators (KPIs), and the metrics that will be collected to demonstrate that required performance was achieved. Also define how and when the KPIs and metrics will be reported, and to whom.
  • Service Reviews – define service-based review meetings to discuss and remediate any operational or consumer related topics. Follow a standard cadence for all services. Discuss potential changes in demand for services. Capture new or enhanced service requirements.
  • Service Marketing – define the key applicable service marketing elements for a successful service promotion and value realization within different company cultures.

Now, how long do you think this exercise will take? In most of our engagements, defining a service takes between 1 to 2 weeks. It is never intended to fully document all the areas above immediately, or establish all of the processes, as many organizations don’t have this all of this information available. Think of the Service Definition as a living and breathing document. The service owner should establish a working draft, develop it to the point of release and then maintain in for its life as an active service offering. All undefined services are treated as areas for improvement.

In our next blog, we will take this to the next level as we learn to establish a cloud service-based cost model and cost out cloud services end-to-end.  This will enable you to understand the cost of a unit of a cloud and provide the required level of cost transparency internally and to consumers.


Khalid Hakim is an IT Business/Financial Management Lead with the VMware Operations Transformation global practice. You can follow him on Twitter @KhalidHakim47.

Kai Holthaus is a Sr. Transformation Consultant with VMware Operations Transformation Services and is based in Oregon.

Bill Irvine is a Principal Strategist with VMware Accelerate Advisory Services and is based in Colorado.

The Critical Element of Service Delivery in the Cloud Era: Join our Webcast 11/14

As more companies aim to build the software-defined datacenter (SDDC), the importance of service definition continues to grow. Running a successful SDDC strategy means understanding service offerings, for sure. But it’s also about standardizing those offerings to achieve agility and efficiency. So where do you start? How do you know what services your company can best provide?

Join Product Manager Jason Holmberg and Business Solutions Architect Rohan Kalra on Thursday, November 14th  at 10am PT for their BrightTalk webcast: The Critical Element of Service Delivery in the Cloud Era. The webcast will take you through the four fundamental Service Catalog building blocks:

  • Automation
  • Governance & Policies
  • Provisioning and orchestration
  • Lifecycle management

Both Jason and Rohan have years of experience building and implementing service catalogs. In addition to defining these building blocks, Jason and Rohan will dive into the requirements for each component, making it easier for you to implement a service catalog and making sure that you’re delivering the best services to your users through your catalog. Don’t miss this webcast to learn how service definition will be the key to your SDDC.

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

Service Definition – The Tradeoff Between Standardization and Agility

By Rohan Kalra and Pierre Moncassin

In the client server era, IT demonstrated responsiveness by designing infrastructure to meet the technical requirements of various applications that the business relied on to do work. Developers spec’d systems. Ops built the systems. Devs changes the specs. The back and forth continued until the systems were live in production.

There were attempts to enforce architecture standards that were designed to control the chaos of having every system be a unique work of art, but business needs for whatever typically trumped IT needs for simplicity. If developers for a critical business application demanded some unique middleware configuration, they usually got what they requested.

As a result, most IT organizations have racks full of one-off systems that are unique and often hard to support.  “A museum of past technology decisions” is one way to describe the typical enterprise datacenter landscape.

Cloud Changes Everything

Cloud computing changes this paradigm. With cloud, developers and users experience the value of fast access to standardized commodity compute resources. By accepting and designing around standard resource configurations, developers no longer need to predict usage levels to set capacity requirements, and no longer have to wait through long procurement cycles.  Similarly, by accepting one-size-fits-all, consumers can get immediate access a wide range of ready to use apps.

The trade-off IT consumers make is essentially one of releasing control over technical assets in order to gain control over business processes. In return for accepting increased standardization (typically at the ‘nuts and bolts’ level, e.g. infrastructure, catalog, OLA’s, charging models), they get unprecedented agility at the business level (“on-demand” IT both in the form of provisioning and scaling and usage levels change).

In the cloud era, IT demonstrates responsiveness by giving developers and users immediate access to standard IT services accessed and then scaled on demand.

As a result, IT success in the cloud era depends, to a large extent, on IT consumers to understand the tradeoff and appreciate the value of standardization.

Start with Common Service Definition

The first step to achieving standardization is getting agreement on a common service definition. This includes getting multiple groups that traditionally have requested and received custom work, to agree on the details of standard services. There is an art in building this consensus, as different consumers with unique requirements need to come together to make this a success.The key is communication and consistency starting for from collection of requirements to delivery of services. (more on this process in a future blog post)

Another critical step is standardizing and centralizing an organization’s service catalog and portal. This allows for a consistent and secure customer experience that provides access across all services regardless of underlying environment – physical, virtual, as well and private and public cloud resources.

Standardization also enables IT to be a true service broker, picking the right environment to meet the needs of each service or workload. A service broker strategy includes policy-based governance, service-based costing, and end-to-end life cycle management across all types of internal and external services.

Today, organizations that understand the need for standardization are the ones transforming themselves to be more responsive with cloud-based operating models. For them, standardization is the driver to both increase business agility, and become more efficient from an OPEX perspective.

Key actions you can take:

1. Acknowledge the problem.

Is this true within your organization?

  • Multiple single points of failure?
  • Specific individual’s supporting legacy applications without documented runbooks or recovery procedures?
  • Continuous fire-fights due to complex architectures leading to business downtime?
  • Inefficient manual procedures?
  • War room like setups to solve problems with limited to no root cause analysis and problem solving measures for the future.

2. Before embarking on the journey, take stock candidly of what is actually being delivered today. Ask probing questions from your current-state services.

  • What services levels are actually being delivered (not just promised ‘on paper’)
  • What services look ‘gold plated’ and could be simplified?
  • What services are never, or very occasionally used?

Once you have a firm baseline, you are ready to start the journey.

3. Understand it’s a journey and it takes time. There is no big bang answer to solving this problem.

  • Start with small wins within your organization’s cloud transformation.
  • Development environments are ideal proving grounds.
  • Initialize the cloud first policy.

4. Create a cloud strategy and focus on building business consensus through business communication and outreach.

For more on this topic, join Khalid Hakim with John Dixon of Greenpages for the May 30th #CloudOpsChat on Reaching Common Ground When Defining Services!

For future updates, follow us on Twitter at @VMwareCloudOps and join the conversation by using the #CloudOps and #SDDC hashtags.