Breaking Down the Management Barriers to Adopting Hybrid Cloud Technologies

By Geoff Smith, Sr. Solutions Architect

It is inarguable that change is sweeping the IT industry.  Over the last five years a number of new technologies that provide huge technological advantages (and create management headaches) have been developed.  We have attempted to leverage these advances to the benefit of our organizations, while at the same time struggling with how to incorporate them into our established IT management methodologies.  Do we need to throw out our mature management protocols in order to partake in the advantages provided by these new technologies, or can we modify our core management approaches and leverage similar advances in management methodologies to provide a more extensible platform that enables adoption of advanced computing architectures?

Cloud computing is one such advance.  One barrier to adopting cloud as a part of an IT strategy is how we will manage the resources it provides us.  Technically, cloud services are beyond our direct control because we do not “own” the underlying infrastructure and have limited say in how those services are designed and deployed.  But are they beyond our ability to evaluate and influence?

There are the obvious challenges in enabling these technologies within our organizations.  Cloud services are provided by and managed by those whom we consume them from, not within our four-walled datacenter.  Users utilizing cloud services may do so outside of IT control.  And, what happens when data and service consumption crosses that void beyond our current management capabilities?

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In order to manage effectively in this brave new world of enablement, we must start to transition our methodologies and change our long-standing assumptions of what is critical.  We still have to manage and maintain our own datacenters as they exist today.  However, our concept of a datacenter has to change.  For one thing, datacenters are not really “centers” anymore. Once you leverage externally consumed resources as part of your overall architecture, you step outside of the physical and virtual platforms that exist within your own facilities.  A datacenter is now “a flexible, secure and measurable compute utility comprised of delivery mechanisms, consumption points, and all connectivity in between.”

And so, we need to change how we manage our IT services.  We need to expand our scope and visibility to include both the cloud services that are part of our delivery and connectivity mechanisms, and the end points used to consume our data and services.  This leads to a fundamental shift in daily operations and management.  Going forward, we need to be able to measure our service effectiveness end to end, even if in between they travel through systems not our own.

So the root question is, how do we accomplish this?  There are four distinct areas of change that we need to consider:

  • Tools – the toolsets we utilize to perform our management processes need to both understand these new technologies, and expand our end-to-end visibility and evaluation capabilities
  • Techniques – we need to modify the way we perform our daily IT functions and apply our organizational policies in order to consider the new computing platforms we will be consuming.  Our ability to validate, influence and directly control IT consumption will vary, however our underlying responsibilities to deliver effective and efficient services to our organizations should not
  • Talent – we are faced with adopting not only new technologies, but also new sets of responsibilities within our IT support organizations.  The entire lifecycle of IT is moving under the responsibility of the support organization.  We can develop the appropriate internal talent or we can extend our teams with external support organizations, but in either case the talent needed will expand in proportion to the capabilities of the platforms we are enabling
  • Transparency – the success of enabling new technologies will be gauged on how well those technologies meet business needs.  Through comprehensive analysis, reporting and auditing, IT will be able to demonstrate the value of both the technology decisions and the management structures

First and foremost, we must modify our concepts of what is critical to monitor and manage.  We need to be able to move our viewpoints from individual silos of technology to a higher level of awareness.  No longer can we isolate what is happening at the network layer from what is transpiring within our storage facilities.  The scope of what we are responsible for is expanding, and the key metrics are changing.  No longer is availability the key success factor.  Usability is how our teams will be judged.

In the past, a successful IT team may have strived for five 9s of availability.  In this new paradigm, availability is now a foundational expectation.  The ability of our delivered services to be used in a manner that enables the business to meet its objectives will become the new measuring stick.  Business units will define what the acceptable usability metrics are, basing them on how they leverage these services to complete their tasks.  IT will in fact be driven to meet these service level agreements.

Secondly, we have to enable our support teams to work effectively with these new technologies.  This is a multifaceted issue, consisting of providing the right tools, processes and talent.   Tools will need to expand our ability to view, interface and influence systems and services beyond our traditional reach.  Where possible, the tools should provide an essential level of management across all platforms regardless of where those services are delivered from (internal, SaaS, PaaS, IaaS).  Likewise, our processes for responding to, managing, and remediating events will need to change.  Tighter enforcement of service level commitments and the ability to validate them will be key.  Our staff will need to be authorized to take appropriate actions to resolve issues directly, limiting escalations and handoffs.  And we will need to provide the talent (internally or via partners) necessary to deliver on the entire IT lifecycle, including provisioning, de-provisioning and procurement.

Last, IT will be required to prove the effectiveness not only of their support teams, but also of the selection of cloud-based service providers.  Because we consume external services does not release us from the requirements of service delivery to our organizations.  Our focus will need to shift toward demonstrating that service usability requirements have been met.  This will require transparency between our internally delivered systems and our externally consumed services.

This is a transition, not a light-switch event.  And as such, our approach to management change must mirror that pace.  Our priorities and focus will need to shift in concert with our shift from delivered services toward consumed services.

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