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Tag Archives: standardization

More Thoughts on the Benefits of Standardization

By: Pierre Moncassin

A couple of months back, Rohan Kalra and I looked at how modern IT organizations are helping their clients trade control over compute assets for control over business processes.

In the cloud era, we explained, IT can give developers and users immediate access to standard IT services that are accessed and then scaled on demand. By accepting this increased standardization, their users are gaining unprecedented agility at the business level.

For this to happen, though, IT consumers need to understand the business value they can reap by accepting increased standardization. If your job is to help them reach that understanding, here are three other points that might help you make the case:

1. The False Allure of Control Over Physical Assets

It’s good to be clear that in moving to standardized commodity compute resources, the associated loss in control over ‘nuts and bolts’ physical assets is much less of a problem than it might appear.

Traditional IT consumers might balk at the move, despite the real improvements it will bring to agility, because they like feeling in control of their technical environment. They might still feel the need for dedicated, physical servers that they can almost see and touch, for example. Or, they might still want an assigned applications team sitting in a nearby office that they can visit whenever a technical issue comes up.

But that ‘control’ can be both illusionary and restricting. When new business requirements come in and the existing infrastructure needs to evolve urgently, traditional IT consumers can find that:

  • They can’t respond to new requirements anywhere near fast enough
  • The cost of changing the environment they own is high, and even prohibitive
  • The current state of the infrastructure is only partially documented (or worse)

Moving to a cloud infrastructure (and, more generally, cloud services) does require that consumers let go of some control over the ‘nuts and bolts’ side of their IT. Instead of dedicated physical servers, for example, they may have to choose from a pool of virtual servers within a choice of standardized builds.

But what they gain massively outweighs that inconvenience: control over factors that really matter for the business. They now control which services to consume and when, for example. They gain choice over the cost and quality of these services, too. And they are agile in a way they have never been before.

2. The Problem of ad hoc Service Delivery

The move towards standardized service levels means moving away from ad hoc service delivery – where IT staff create tailored solutions to any problem that rears its head.

Ad hoc service can feel comfortable and become an entrenched custom. For example, we may be all-too happy with being able to walk over to the server administrator or service desk analyst from time to time for a ‘small’ request or fix. It can be hard to give up that kind of service – but it’s worth noting that ad hoc service delivery has a considerable downside, too.

Think about service levels. In organizations where the services are not standardized, SLAs might be severely out-of-date, or irrelevant – meaning there are no SLAs to speak of. Consumers instead just go directly to the IT staff for fixes or changes, a habit that makes planning a nightmare.

In moving to a cloud model, the consumer needs to shift from ad-hoc delivery to services with well-defined, standardized SLAs. Indeed, one of the first challenges in the journey to standardization is to accurately answer the question: ‘What service levels are we getting today?’

The primary benefit, though, is obvious. Service levels, commitments, and expectations are clearly outlined and therefore much more likely to be delivered and to match actual needs.

There is also a secondary benefit to standardization. It is more efficient to maintain and support a standardized service (with standard configurations and procedures) than an ad hoc one (sometimes featuring idiosyncrasies accumulated over decades)! I would call this a domino effect – standardizing one service can boost effectiveness and standardization in other areas.

Of course, the IT consumer might find that with standardized service levels, they can’t just call the IT staff directly to resolve an issue like they used to. But they also now know that if there is an incident after the usual IT staff are gone home, they can rely on resolution processes backed by well-defined SLAs.

3. Getting the Service Quality you Paid for

When moving towards a more standardized, cloud based service, it’s not just the true Service Levels that emerge, but also the true costs.

Standardizing the service means you can precisely define service cost versus quality. For example, a popular way to describe the quality/price ratio is to present the services in ‘Bronze, Silver and Gold’ flavors, each with a pricing band.

For some customers this can be the ‘Aha!’ moment where they realize that they may have been paying for ‘gold’ in the past, whilst actually getting ad hoc services closer to ‘Silver.’ And they might just decide the ‘Bronze’ quality does the job fine. Now that is a culture change!

Lesson learned: once the quality/price ratio comes into the light, you may not always need, or even want, to pay for ‘gold.’ It might be just fine to settle for ‘bronze’ once in a while, and to use the resulting savings to add value to your business elsewhere.

Summary

In sum, here are three more arguments for moving away from tightly controlled, ad hoc service delivery and towards delivering standardized services via the cloud:

  • There’s less value in controlling physical assets than your clients might think
  • Standardized service delivery is easier to plan around and more likely to reflect actual needs
  • With standardized service delivery you can make smart(er) budgeting trade offs

For more on this topic, join us at VMworld 2013 for the special session, Balancing Agility with Service Standardization: Easy to Say But Hard To Do (OPT5705).

The panel – featuring VMware’s Khalid Hakim, Paul Chapman, and Kurt Milne along with Dave Bartoletti of Forrester Research and Ian Clayton of Service Management 101 – will explore what works and what doesn’t when it comes to delivering standardized services that truly meet business needs.

Hope to see you there! For more CloudOps sessions at VMworld, check out our highlights of the Operations Transformations track.

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.

Reaching Common Ground When Defining Services – Join Us For #CloudOpsChat!

An optimized service definition process can make or break the success of hybrid clouds or Software-Defined Data Centers (SDDC). But even if you have tools and processes in place to enable automated provisioning, you still need key stakeholder agreement on the makeup of standard services and resource configurations.

  • Standardized services need to meet the needs of those who request and consume the services.  But they also need to make sense to those in IT responsible for both automation that delivers the services and ongoing support.
  • Standardization helps increase flexibility at the business process level. But rigid service definitions can also inhibit those who both consume and deliver the services.

So how can you meet the needs of multiple groups and find common ground when it comes to defining services?

Find out by joining our next #CloudOpsChat on “Reaching Common Ground When Defining Services” taking place on Thursday, May 30th at 11am PT.

The event will be co-hosted by two CloudOps pros who have helped multiple VMware customers reach common ground:

  • John Dixon, Consulting Architect at GreenPages (see John’s posts on GreenPages Journey to the Cloud blog)
  • Khalid Hakim, Cloud Operations Architect at VMware

During the chat, we will answer the tough questions:

  • What service components should be included in a standard service definition?
  • What components can be flexible for modification around the edges?
  • Are there obvious points of abstraction that help balance standardization and flexibility?
  • Are there recommended approaches to getting multiple groups of users to reach consensus?
  • Are there recommended approaches to balancing the needs of both IT and service consumers?
  • What happens if key stakeholders don’t reach consensus?

Here’s how to participate in #CloudOpsChat:

  • Follow the #CloudOpsChat hashtag (via TweetChatTweetGrid, TweetDeck, or another Twitter client) and watch the real-time stream.
  • On Thursday, May 30th at 11am, @VMwareCloudOps will pose a few questions using the #CloudOpsChat hashtag to get the conversation rolling.
  • Tag your tweets with the #CloudOpsChat hashtag. @reply other participants and react to their questions, comments, thoughts via #CloudOpsChat. Engage with each other!
  • #CloudOpsChat should last about an hour.

In the meantime, feel free to tweet at us at @VMwareCloudOps with any questions you may have. We look forward to seeing you in the stream!

The Secret to Avoiding the Portfolio Management Bottleneck: Simplicity

By: David Crane  

Delivering a set of standardized infrastructure services is a critical dependency as IT becomes more service oriented. Getting application owners who are used to custom infrastructure to agree to only use standard service configurations may be the defining problem of the cloud era.

The lifecycle of defining new service elements, adding them to the service portfolio, then formally releasing them for use by adding to service catalog is the very heart of the problem when getting multiple developers and application owners to agree to use standard services.

The process is critical.  And the process must be streamlined and oriented to the needs of users and funders of the service, and not the internal machinations of the IT organization.

However, traditional ITSM Service Portfolio Management is a cumbersome process geared to the needs of the IT organization.  IT includes numerous points of IT management sign-off, and the process is not optimized for actually developing and releasing new services into use.  The traditional approach tends to be heavy on oversight, and light on actually doing work. This approach reduces agility and wastes scarce resources. Not good in an era where increased agility and reduced operating costs are key measures of success.

Things are different within a virtual cloud ecosystem like VMware’s vCloud Automation Center (vCAC). With vCloud Automation Center, authorized users can access standardized services through a secure self-service portal, as vCAC acts as a service governor to help enforce business and IT policies throughout the service lifecycle. In this environment, a radically simplified design lets IT service managers focus their energy on the needs of users and funders and helps them get their work done with minimal internal IT process overhead and friction.

vCAC simplifies portfolio management in two main ways:

  • Policy-based service definition – Through vCloud Automation Center, users can request and manage their compute resources within established operational policies – cutting IT service delivery times. Users can build specifications into vCAC that contain the automation policies that specify the inputs needed and actions required to maintain your portfolio.
  • Improved service transition – Moving a new service out of the portfolio and into the catalog where it can be used requires keeping the portfolio and catalog elements up-to-date and aligned with each other. With vCAC, release and ongoing management functions are built into the tool set, and thus both automated and massively simplified.

One way to think of what’s changed here is in terms of oversight versus enablement. Traditional ITSM can be geared as much as 80% towards oversight, with just a 20% focus on the people who actually go and do the work. The vCAC approach flips that around.

Oversight is still essential, and it’s built in to the new model.  Prior to vCAC, traditional ITSM involved significant initial investment, top heavy input requirements, with repetitive multiple touch points to senior management., vCAC presents fewer, better-designed gates to your workflow, so you can work both safely and fast while gaining the agility that comes with a true cloud environment.

It’s About Standardization

The key to giving cloud consumers the services they want as quickly as possible, while still keeping the necessary corporate controls in place, is standardization.

Under vCAC’s blueprint model, service elements (e.g. backup, capacity, and provisioning requirements, security and other policies etc.) are preapproved to sit in the catalog and are thus ready to be deployed in new ways whenever they’re needed. In other words, if an item is in the catalog, and you have authority to access it, then you can provision at will – without having to go up the chain of command every time you want to respond to customer demand.

The result:

  • Fast efficiency processes focused on quickly and efficiently delivering new services to users, so that users don’t feed the internal IT machine.
  • Simplified processes with policy-based service definition capability and improved service transition, business agility and time to market.
  • Automated interfaces between the service portfolio and service catalog, with minimal resources and overhead required.

And you do it with higher quality, and at scale. With a set of preapproved blueprints and policies, it’s much easier to address increases in either the volume or variety of demand that you want to meet, and do it in a way that is more deterministic and improves service quality over time.

What’s more, you’ve done all that while reducing your company’s overhead and the resources you need to draw on.

With the help of vCAC, your portfolio management is simpler, more agile, more efficient and faster-to-market, too.

This is the first in a series of posts we’ll be writing about service portfolio management in a vCloud ecosystem. Next up, we’ll go deeper in to the simplified, three-step process of vCloud portfolio management.

Be sure to follow @VMwareCloudOps for future updates, and join the conversation by using the #CloudOps and #SDDC hashtags.

VMware #CloudOps Friday Reading List – Standardization in the Cloud Era

I’ve been reviewing submissions for the Ops Transformation track at VMworld 2013.  It is a fascinating look at what a bunch of really smart people think is important in the cloud era.  Based on review of proposed panel discussions and breakout sessions, there seems to be some consensus that standardization is a key dependency for successfully deploying an automated and scalable service strategy.

The quantity and variety of topics suggests there isn’t yet consensus on how the concept of standardization should be applied. But some of the submitted topics suggest that standardization of service definitions and infrastructure configurations is what makes innovation possible at the business process level – where it counts.

Related reading topics:

Monitoring Strategies in the Cloud by Michael Kavis
Michael Kavis takes a look at best practices when dealing with cloud, including standardizing as much as possible in cloud based systems so that a high level of automation can be put in place.

What Goes Around Comes Around Part 2: Is Standardization Still a Valid Strategy? By Theo Priestley
Standardizing business processes reduces innovation. Note – VMware paper submissions suggest that standardizing IT services and infrastructure enable greater business process innovation.

Resilience Engineering Part 1 and Part 2 By John Allspaw
Great insights on how resiliency, automation, and standardization are all tightly linked.

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

VMware #CloudOps Friday Reading Topic – Service Definition Process

Increasingly, we see the service definition process as a key dependency in the success of a hybrid cloud or SDDC strategy. Standardization of service offerings (and thus configurations, as well as management and maintenance processes) is key to simultaneously achieving agility and efficiency benefits.

Here are some interesting Friday reads related to standardization and the service definition process.

Putting The Service Back In “as-a-Service” by CloudTweaks
Pete Chadwick offers advice on how to uilize a service-oriented approach to ensure the business can easily access and rapidly deploy what it needs.

Preventing Epidemics in Cloud Architectures by Gordon Haff
Gordon digs into a recent presentation by Netflix’s ubiquitous Adrian Cockroft. Understand the tension between the benefits of standardized services, and the inherent weakness of a homogenous environment.

ITSM Goodness: How To Up Your IT Service Management Game In 7 Steps by Barclay Rae
To achieve ITSMGoodness – start by listening to customers, and structure services based on business outcomes. Services trump SLAs.  Good perspective from visionary Barclay Rae!

Service Initiation: Understanding the People and Process Behind the Portal by David Crane and Kurt Milne
In VMware’s CloudOps operating model, Service Definition is one part of the multi-part service initiation process.  Listen to this webcast to understand how these four processes fit together.

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