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Cloud Enablement & Operations

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:

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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Geoff Smith

Sr. Practice Director | Modern Workspace & Managed Services

Geoff has more than 30 years of experience working in all verticals and markets, from the SMB to the enterprise, focusing on the application of IT solutions that enable businesses to achieve their goals. As Practice Director of Managed Services and Modern Workspace, Geoff is focused on the development of co-sourced and federated Infrastructure Operations, Help Desk, Cloud, and Security Service Frameworks designed to optimize IT operations and drive economic value to the business.

Geoff helps develop new services and marketing strategies for the company, as well as provides strategy and support to GreenPages’ key clients. Prior to GreenPages, Geoff was the Director of Client Services for Managed Technology Partners, where he was part of an overlay team that architected a new services methodology, marketing strategy, and client acquisition model. Geoff’s professional certifications include CCSP, MCNE, and VTSP. Geoff earned a BS in Computer Science from Westfield State College.