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5 Steps to Shape Your IT Organization for the Software-Defined Data Center

by Tim Jones

TimJones-cropOne aspect of the software-defined data center (SDDC) that is not solved through software and automation is how to support what is being built. The abstraction of the data center into software managed by policy, integrated through automation, and delivered as a service directly to customers requires a realignment of the existing support structure.

The traditional IT organizational model does not support bundling compute, network, storage, and security into easily consumable packages. Each of these components is owned by a separate team with its own charter and with management chains that don’t merge until they reach the CTO. The storage team is required to support the storage needs of the virtualized environment as well as physical servers, the backup storage, and replication of data between sites. The network team has core, distribution, top of rack, and edge switches to support in addition to any routers or firewalls. And someone has to support the storage network whether it is IP, InfiniBand, or Fibre Channel. None of these teams has only the software-defined data center to support. The next logical question asked is: What does an organization look like that can support SDDC?

While there is no simple answer that allows you to fill a specific set of roles with staff possessing skill sets from a checklist, there are many organizational models that can be modified to support your SDDC. In order to modify an organizational model or to build your own model to meet your IT organization’s requirements, certain questions need to be answered. The answers to the following five steps will help shape your new organization model:

  1. Define what your new IT organization will offer.
    Although this sounds elementary, it is necessary to understand what is planned on being offered in order to know what is necessary to provide support. Will infrastructure as a service (IaaS) be the only offering or will database as a service (DBaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS) also be offered? Does support stop at the infrastructure layer, or will operating system, platform, or database support be required? Who will the customer work with to utilize the services or to request and design additional services?
  2. Identify the existing organizational model.
    A thorough understanding of the existing support structure will help identify what support customers will expect based on their current experience and any challenges associated with the model. Are there silos within that negatively impact customers?  What skills currently exist in the organization?  Identifying the existing organization and defining what will be offered by the new organization will help to identify what gaps exist.
  3. Leverage what is already working.
    If there are components of the existing organization that can either be replicated or consumed by the new organization, take advantage of the option. For example, if there is already a functioning group that works with the customers and supports the operating system, then evaluate how to best incorporate them into the new organization. Or if certain support is outsourced, then incorporate that into the new organizational model.
  4. Evaluate beyond the technical.
    The inclusion of service architects, process designers, business analysts, and project managers can be critical to the success of your new organization. These resources could be consumed from existing internal groups such as a central PMO. But overlooking the non-technical organizational requirements can inhibit the ability of the IT organization to deliver on its service roadmap.
  5. Create a new IT organization.
    Don’t accept the status quo with your current organization. If the storage, compute, and virtualization teams all report through separate management chains in the current organization, the new organization should leverage a single management chain for all three teams. Removing silos within the IT organization fosters a collaborative spirit that results in better support and better service offerings for customers.

Although there is no one size fits all organizational model for the software-defined data center, understanding where your IT organization is currently and where it is headed will enable you to create an organizational model capable of supporting the service roadmap.

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Tim Jones is business transformation architect with VMware Accelerate Advisory Services and is based in California.

SDDC: Changing Organizational Cultures

By Tim Jones

TimJones-cropI like to think of SDDC as “service-driven data center” in addition to “software-defined data center.” The vision for SDDC expands beyond technical implementation, encompassing the transformation from IT shop to service provider and from cost center to business enabler. The idea of “service-driven” opens the conversation to include the business logic that drives how the entire service is offered. Organizations have to consider the business processes that form the basis of what to automate. They must define the roles required to support both the infrastructure and the automation. There are financial models and financial maturity necessary to drive behavior on both the customer and the service provider side. And finally, the service definitions should be derived from use cases that enable customers to use the technology and define what the infrastructure should support.

When you think through all of the above, you’re really redefining how you do business, which requires a certain amount of cultural change across the entire organization. If you don’t change the thinking about how and why you offer the technology, then you will introduce new problems alongside the problems you were trying to alleviate. (Of course the same problems will happen faster and will be delivered automatically. )

I correlate the advancement to SDDC to the shift that occurred when VMware first introduced x86 virtualization. The shift to more efficient use of resources that were previously wasted on physical servers by deploying multiple virtual machines gathered momentum very quickly. But based on my experiences, the companies that truly benefited were those that implemented new processes for server requisitioning. They worked with their customers to help them understand that they no longer needed to buy today what they might need in three years, because resources could be easily added in a virtual environment.

The successful IT shops actively managed their environments to ensure that resources weren’t wasted on unnecessary servers. They also anticipated future customer needs and planned ahead. These same shops understood the need to train support staff to manage the virtualized environment efficiently, with quick response times and personal service that matched the technology advances. They instituted a “virtualization first” mentality to drive more cost savings and extend the benefits of virtualization to the broadest possible audience. And they evangelized. They believed in the benefits virtualization offered and helped change the culture of their IT shops and the business they supported from the bottom up.

The IT shops that didn’t achieve these things ended up with VM sprawl and over-sized virtual machines designed as if they were physical servers. The environment became as expensive or more expensive than the physical-server-only environment it replaced.

The same types of things will happen with this next shift from virtualized servers to virtualized, automated infrastructure. The ability for users to deploy virtual machines without IT intervention requires strict controls around chargeback and lifecycle management. Security vulnerabilities are introduced because systems aren’t added to monitoring or virus scanning applications. Time and effort—which equate to cost—are wasted because IT continues to design services without engaging the business. Instead of shadow IT, you end up with shadow applications or platforms that self-service users create because what they need isn’t offered.

The primary way to avoid these mistakes is to remake the culture of IT—and by extension the business—to support the broader vision of offering ITaaS and not just IaaS.

Tim Jones is business transformation architect with VMware Accelerate Advisory Services and is based in California. Follow @VMwareCloudOps on Twitter for future updates, and join the conversation by using the #CloudOps and #SDDC hashtags.