Cloud Management Platform – A Strategic Approach


I have been talking to a lot of enterprise companies where the CTO’s, CIO’s and architects are trying to break into the “single pane of glass” service management strategy. Their reasons are fair and simple – the single pane of glass allows them seamless view, access and management capabilities for their entire IT foot print across multiple platforms and multiple regions.

What I hear ..

Most of these conversations have just about two key players who drive this discussion. The CIO’s/CTO’s really care about an easier way to broker IT services to internal business units. Cloud Services brokerage is the new hotness in enterprises and they are going all out to ensure they phase out the old, manual and antiquated processes and techniques and replace them with the new cloud savvy applications.

The architects and the operations folks on the other hand are all about how amazing the whole concept of a single pane of glass is and how much time, effort and man power it saves these teams not to forget the visibility that it gives to the IT staff in allowing them to respond faster to any events. (Advanced features in a cloud management platform include event management, monitoring and even disaster recovery!)

What adds fuel to fire is that Gartner and 451 research have clearly indicated that a majority of enterprise companies are transitioning to a cloud services brokerage model where achieving an effective ITSM model is easier than ever before.

Enterprises are stuck at either talking about how great Cloud management platform (single pane of glass) sounds or have deployed it but are not really using it to its fullest potential.

Easier said than done

There is a lot more strategy and planning that needs to go into effectively designing and deploying a cloud management platform to enable a reliable and an effective service brokerage framework.

The highlighted layers of the above picture are some of the key design aspects that need to be thoroughly thought of before deploying a management platform. You always have the option to grow your platform to add any feature at a later stage but you run the risk of reworking your foundation and your architecture which can have minimal to significant impact on your end users.

I will list out a few features that enterprises need to think about.

Self service provisioning – This to me is one of the aspects that is part of the service operational framework which primarily focusses on how your end users are going to interact with the platform? Think about extending the platform web interface and giving them user login credentials to request resources or would you rather take requests over the phone? Many enterprises are actively considering building more customized web UI for their business units to deliver a much more personalized service and making the whole process more user friendly. Also think about your audience, are they tech savvy?

Service Catalog – A service catalog should ideally be a little more than simple virtual machine templates. It is good to think about what foundation services will you be offering in your service catalog. A good place to start is to find the common subset of services that most if not all business units within your organization need. That will allow you to offer that common service as part of your service catalog. This can be as easy as offering them a pre-built virtual machine or a well packaged and automated service that allows for easy customization through configuration management. I vote for the later and this is where dev ops configuration management and orchestration become such powerful tools. Do you really want to spend time customizing a service for a business unit? Do you really want to give the same service to all business units with no room for customization?

Chargeback – Start to think about how will you bill those business units that require IT resources and services. This is where you may have to redo all your current price models because a cloud management platform justifies a second look at your pricing models that were built for your slow and antiquated brokerage model. Are you going to get creative with pricing? How about offering “slot” pricing like Amazon AWS does where you get to bid on a resource. What about special pricing for a professional services type of engagement? Will you charge extra for a overlay network? What about pricing for a service deployed with the disaster recovery option?

Lifecycle Management – There is so much that can be written about this one segment because lets face it, our needs and requirements are all so varied from one enterprise to another. We can go over what ITIL has to say about lifecycle management but what you really need to do is to spend time truly understanding the requirements, use cases and applications of these business units are. Almost always we have only cared about giving these units resources and dusting our hands but our engagement has to go beyond that. We need to, at a minimum, have a thorough high level logical understanding of what applications they care about and their scope.

Compliance – This isn’t listed in the picture above but I shouldn’t even have to stress on how important it is to know ahead in time what compliance standards you are supposed to meet so you can architect the platform accordingly. Think what compliance standards are required by some business units while what are the ones that don’t require any. Think about how you would logically separate these work loads? What about physical separation by forcing some business units to only deploy in external cloud hosting providers?

External Cloud Connection – Cloud hosting providers are doing well, well.., really well and with good reason, many companies are finding value in hosting with hosting providers rather than building new datacenters. So an integral part of your design should include what hosting providers do you want to connect with. Think about what the hosting provider has to offer rather than which hosting provider you are comfortable with. Remember you are offering a service to your internal business units so as long as they are happy, you are in business.

Many cloud management platforms integrate with multiple hosting providers. The question to ask is would you rather connect with a managed hosting provider like Rackspace that provides all round support for your workloads or would you rather connect with Amazon that speaks towards a pure cloud play with no application support? What about migrating work loads between your datacenter and your cloud provider – or even between multiple cloud providers if you are integrating with a few – think ease of migration and compatibility.The argument here is simple – you are the gate keeper and have the option of picking a provider who offers you most managed services or a provider who does not offer any managed services. Metaphorically speaking – it is similar to you deciding if you want to have a dirt road or a well paved road outside your home(being the gate keeper) – it all depends on what tires and shocks your car has. 🙂

I hope this gave you some direction about some key points to think about while talking Single pane of glass .So no more Blah Blah…

Feel free to comment and contribute as you see fit. You can also reach out to me on my Twitter handle – @rjapproves

Pic Courtesy – Gartner

One Thought on “Cloud Management Platform – A Strategic Approach

  1. Pingback: Cloud Management Platform – Vers la gouvernance de votre empreinte IT | OCTO talks !

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