The organizations are curious to move their in-house hosted COTS based and customized business applications to cloud managed environment. The oversold benefits of the cloud computing viz., no upfront capital investments, ‘pay as you use’ subscription model, available on-demand, committed uptime and response time, availability of global hosting facilities to collocate the business services close to consumers. It makes sense to just get away with traditional hosting and management approach for IT infrastructure and applications and move to cloud based service support and delivery, isn’t it? Even if we consider transforming existing IT infrastructure into a private cloud, it gives similar benefits by deploying cloud management suites. If that’s the impression, then I would say the ‘cloud is oversold’. The cloud computing is not new technology or permanent answers to haunting IT challenges. The cloud computing is an innovative approach to leverage existing tools and skills to move to next level of improved and efficient IT infrastructure provisioning and management to keep the overall cost as low as possible.
What should be the approach to adopt the cloud and who should embrace it? I have tried to answer the question for you in the following sections.
Today every organization is trying to use cloud concept of IT service delivery and support model to get rid of IT cost centres, i.e., IT operations and management division. The options are either move the business applications to public cloud or transform existing hosting environment into a private cloud. Migrating business applications to public cloud is not feasible unless you understand what is required to make your applications work as expected in hosting environment. Similarly, transforming existing resource hungry (power/cooling), data centres into highly energy efficient and resourceful hosting facilities i.e., private cloud requires ensuring the organization has followed required steps to get there. When you look around, the aggressively sold benefits of the cloud computing are not delivered yet, because the organizations’ approach of cloud adoption is ad-hoc rather it should be step by step and progressive.
Either it is an enterprise with 1000 servers hosting business services in private data centres or a small company with 100 servers hosted at a third party hosting facilities, all are feeling the heat of flat IT budget and increasing OpEx. Nevertheless, most of the companies have already started virtualizing their hosting infrastructure and applications, but still they are not in a position to embrace the ‘cloud way’ of delivering the cost effective business services to their stakeholders. The reason, sheer virtualization is not cloud computing, and cloud computing is not just about virtualizing the IT infrastructure. Even before we virtualize the IT infrastructure, viz., storage, network and compute, we have to ensure that we have followed right path to get there.
Better Way To Do It
So how to approach the cloud computing? The answer is simple, go step by step. They say ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’, so as cloud. Before we find out how an organization should build cloud which meets all the business needs and enables IT to focus on creative and constructive undertakings rather than reactively responding to routine incidents and executing changes. To get the better understanding of the approach, I would like to refer to ‘IT Management Process Maturity Model’ discussed by Debra Curtis from Gartner, Inc. in 2005 in a short paper “New Technologies Attempt to Meet ITSM Demands of IT Operations Group”. The analyst talked about the maturity model which represents the current IT maturity state of every organization around us. The maturity model was discussed in 2005. The model has 5 levels starting from level 0.
The level 0 – It talks about ad-hoc and undocumented approach of IT support and management. Where disorganized IT support division responds to each event and incident reactively. There is no visibility of direct/indirect effects of performance of IT infrastructure on business services and overall business health. It represents the organizations those have extremely chaotic IT support system in place. The organizations are small in size, where the servers are placed in server rooms, and a small team of under skilled human resources support the entire environment, out of which few understand right way to respond to business requirements.
Level 1 – Represents a highly reactive environment where end user experience and business performance is not at all considered while responding to IT incidents. Even though such organizations have IT support and delivery processes in place to respond to incidents, monitor alerts and perform problem management; the processes are not fully matured yet. The state of maturity represents small organizations with limited tools and resources to respond to business needs.
Level 2 – These categories of organizations are comparatively mature in responding to business needs and minimizing destructive impact of unviability of IT services on business health and performance. The support team members have required skills and tools in place to act before business services fail. The alert and event analysis is done proactively, which helps to take appropriate actions. The root cause analysis helps to execute appropriate changes by involving key stakeholders. The level -2 divides all the organizations into two groups; the one which are yet to have matured IT service management and delivery processes in place, and other those have highly matured processes in practice. The level represents the foundation of processes maturity which is achieved by adopting right tools and skills. The success of such organizations depends of how they use their processes and improve responsiveness to each event proactively.
The level of maturity achieved up to this level should be called a ‘techno-centric’ maturity. The technology centric maturity is highly influenced by availability of high-tech tools, but the real needs of the business are not considered while adopting them. The most of the organizations belongs to this category. They have procured sophisticated tools and technologies, but they are not aware of magnitude of positive impact of deploying the tools on business profitability and performance. It is observed that at this level the technology drives the business.
Level 3 – From this level onwards, the organizations are inclined to understand what is critical for success of the business and how it could be achieved? The level talks about ensuring SLAs, considering each of the services delivered by IT ‘as a business service’ rather than a technological feature which is good to have but not must to have. The level talks about dynamic capacity management, bringing more transparency in to IT and business health and correlation between them. The organizations those falls into these categories are focused on business process engineering and improving their market share rather than investing in keeping the ‘lights on’. Some of them have either outsourced the entire IT support and management portfolio or have empowered their in-house IT support teams to have deep understanding and wider vision while responding to business needs on the basis of business applications’ and services’ relative priorities and overall impact on business performance. I have seen majority of the organizations have outsourced the ‘IT plumbing’ work to multiple vendors and service providers, keeping entire application portfolio managed by internal business intelligence team. It represents that the organizations have realized that the underlying technologies and infrastructure should be managed by experts, while they should focus on their core business services. This is process centric maturity level, which takes the organization to next level of maturity.
Level 4 – The organizations those have highly matured IT processes in place and understand what is critical to make their business successful, falls into this category. The underlying IT infrastructure is already optimized and supported by best brains in the industry. The organizations are now focused on creating value through sophisticated technologies rather than just getting influence by them. At this level of maturity, the business needs drive the technological evolution. The business requirements are influencing the future product development to deliver customized and improved technologies and tools. The organizations are very clear on what they want from underlying technologies and the service providers. The new concept of Real Time Infrastructure is introduced here. The IT now predicts the business growth and demand for IT resources. The underlying cloud centric analytics provisions the required resources for specific time frame without human interventions to meet business SLAs as well as to keeps the OpEx minimum through resource optimization and process automation. This level represents ‘business-centric’ maturity of the organization.
Every organization should look at the reference maturity model to fine tune their cloud adoption strategies.
The organizations those are at level 0 should focus on standardizing the existing IT infrastructure, the business services/application and management approach. The supporting team must be equipped with the required skills to leverage existing tools and resources effectively. Pushing disorganized applications into cloud managed environment would make the situation worst and expensive to manage for the organizations.
The organizations at level 1 should focus on instilling ‘proactive’ responsiveness to respond to IT events and incidents. The organizations must help the supporting teams to understand correlation between IT services and business applications, their inter-dependencies and the overall modus operandi. Similarly, moving these organizations to cloud without adopting suggested changes would create panic as they do not poses skills and vision to use the cloud managed environment to host business services.
The organizations those are at level 3 of maturity should leverage their proactive responsiveness skills and capabilities to create value for business rather than adopting the latest and greatest technologies and tools available in market. Promoting resource sharing across the enterprise will further improve the resource utilization and will reduce the cost per business transaction. Adoption of virtualization technologies helps in further optimizing use of existing IT resources. Simplifying the existing complex processes and automating them to respond to precise events reduces the IT support turnaround time and improves availability of business services and end user experience without additional investment. Moving such organization to cloud based service delivery and support will further help in eliminating unwanted licensing, support and management overhead by using standardized third party hosted business applications. Software as a Service is one of the options which would help small to medium size organizations to use industry standard software without investing in end to end application lifecycle management from procuring, management, upgrade and retiring.
The level 4 categories of organizations shows business centric approach while adopting IT services. These organizations are of medium to large in size and have already invested heavily in setting up their private data centres and have also customized COTS based applications to meet their business needs. Moving them to public cloud would not be feasible as their business needs are unique which would not be met by third party cloud service providers and standardized applications. As they have already heavily invested in building massive private data centres, and in-house global support teams; now their focus is to reduce on-going recurring cost (power, cooling, support, licensing, human resource, server sprawl, resource utilization and show back, internal notional chargeback). Transforming their existing IT landscape into a highly dynamic pool of resources i.e., a private cloud will give them an edge over the competition. The transformation of existing private data centres into private cloud will not only improve the efficiency of the support and delivery processes, but also helps the organization to reduce recurring cost of power and cooling by improving server consolidation ratio through virtualization and application rationalization. It also helps in adopting industry specific analytical applications to monitor business KPIs, and leverage underlying cloud management layer to provision resources as number of business transaction grows and scale-down the IT infrastructure ‘autonomously’ as the demand for resources for business reduces.
The cloud computing is not a magic wand. It work perfectly fine and delivers what is mentioned above if adopted at right level of maturity. If you automate wrong processes, they go wrong faster and leave long term cascading impact on business health and goodwill.
Every organization has to analyse the existing IT infrastructure, the current policies/ processes to manage and support business applications, existing hardware landscape, expected growth in business transactions, required regulatory compliance and security measures in place to store business data and host the workloads. The cloud computing is not a technology in itself, but it is an innovative approach of supporting the business services by leveraging existing tools and skills.
While adopting cloud computing, the organization has to ensure that it has achieved the required level of maturity to use cloud computing ‘way’ of managing and supporting business services. The cloud computing is desired state to host business services when the organization has standardized the hosting hardware and hosted software environment and simplified the supporting processes. The adoption of cloud computing for any organization should not be motivated by high end sophisticated technologies and tools but looking at current state of IT and required features to support business services.
About The Author:
Mohammad Firoj is associated with Wipro Cloud Services as Sr. Architect. He has two patent pending analytics in cloud computing field in business workload analysis and workload movement. He has published several research papers in the field of cloud computing in several international conferences including IEEE. He is PMP, CPSA, MCTS, VCP, ITIL, CCSK certified. He provides end to end cloud consulting and solution for global organizations. He leads the cloud advisory services at Wipro, which assists organizations to take fact based decisions about moving their business applications to cloud managed environment.