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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.

DevOps and All The Other “Ops Religions”

By: Kurt Milne

I didn’t wake up yesterday thinking, “Today I’ll design a T-shirt for the DevOps Days event in Mountain View.”  But as it turns out – that is what happened.

Some thoughts on what went into my word cloud design:

1. DevOps is great. This will be my 4th year attending DevOps Days.  I get the organic, bottoms up nature of the “movement.” I’ve been on the receiving end of the “throw it over the wall” scenario. A culture of collaboration and understanding go a long way to address the shortcomings of swim lane diagrams, phase gate requirements and mismatch of incentives that hamper effective app lifecycle execution. Continuous deployment is inspirational, and the creativity and power of the DevOps tool chain is very cool.

2. EnterpriseOps is still a mighty force. I remember an EnterpriseOps panel discussion at DevOps Days 2010. The general disdain for ITIL, coming from a crowd that was high off of 2 days of Web App goodness at Velocity 2010, was palpable. The participant from heavy equipment manufacturer Caterpillar asked the audience to raise their hand if they had an IT budget of more than $100M. No hands went up in the startup-dominated audience. His reply – “We have a $100M annual spend with multiple vendors.” The awkward silence suggested that EnterpriseOps is a different beast. It was. It still is. There is a lot EnterpriseOps can learn from DevOps, but the problems dealing with massive scale and legacy are just different.

3. InfraOps, AppOps, Service Ops. This model developed by James Urquhart makes sense to me.  It especially makes sense in the era of Shape Shifting Killer Apps. We need a multi-tier model that addresses the challenges of running infrastructure (yes, even in the cloud era), the challenges of keeping the lights on behind the API in a distribute component SOA environment and the cool development techniques that shift uptime responsibility to developers, as pioneered by Netflix. Clear division of labor with separation of duties, and a bright light shining on the white space in between, is a model that seems to address the needs of every cloud era constituent.

4. Missing from this 3-tier model is ConsumerOps. Oops. Too late to update the shirt design. Many are consuming IT services offered by cloud service providers; there must be a set of Ops practices that help guide cloud consumption. Understanding and negotiating cloud vendor SLAs and architecting multiple AWS availability zones immediately come to mind. Being a service broker and including 3rd party cloud services as part of an integrate service catalog is another.

5. Tenant Ops. As far as I can tell, this term was coined by Kevin Lees and the Cloud Operations Transformation services team at VMware. See pages 17 and 21 in Kevin’s paper on Organizing for the Cloud. It includes customer relationship management, service governance, design and release, as well as ongoing management of services in a multi-tenant environment. VMware internal IT uses the term to describe what they do running our private cloud internally. They have a pie chart that shows the percentage of compute units allocated to different tenants (development, marketing, sales, customer support, etc). It works. It may be similar to ServiceOps in the three tier model, but feels different enough, with a focus on multi-tenancy and not API driven services, to deserves its own term.

6. Finally CloudOps. This term is meta. It encompasses many of the concepts and practices of all the others. This is a term that describes IT Operations in the Cloud Era. Not just in a cloud, or connected to a cloud. But in the cloud era. The distinction being that the “cloud era” is different than the “client server era,” and implies that many practices developed in the previous era no longer apply. Many still do. But dynamic service delivery models are a forcing function for operational change. That change is happening in five pillars of cloud ops: People, Process, Organization, Governance, and IT business.

So while some of the sessions at this year’s DevOps conference are focused on continuous deployment. I’d bet that all the topics of the “Ops religions” will be covered.  Hence the focus on the term CloudOps.

We’ll be live tweeting from DevOps next Friday. Follow us @VMwareCloudOps or join the discussion using the #CloudOps hashtag.

Consider joining the new VMUG CloudOps SIG or find out more about it during VMUG June 27th webcast.