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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.