Tag Archive | "Private Cloud"

Are Enterprises Really Gaga for the Cloud?

Tags: BSM, Business Service Management, Cloud, Enterprise IT, Private Cloud

So many statistics out there about when we’ll adopt the cloud. Some may suggest that it’s years away, that by 2013 only small bits will be there. Others say, that many organizations are there today. What are you to believe?

For the sake of argument, lets separate public cloud services like Google Docs and Salesforce.com and stick to the idea of private cloud — that is, the idea of building a set of services not unlike the public cloud, inside the firewall. Think of a portal of services you’ve built out on virtual machines providing you and your users with fixed costs and resource flexibility.

It sounds wonderful and there is a lot of upside to building a private cloud, but like anything else, there is expense involved. There is at least a couple of layers of technology you need to lay on top of these services offering (not the least of which should be business service management, ahem).

That’s why I was surprised to read a list of IDC predictions for 2011 — we are talking this year, not some nebulous point way off in the future — that the private cloud would mature in 2011. To be precise, IDC predicted that “Private Cloud Plans Will Mature, Dominate the Enterprise Infrastructure Software Agenda in 2011.”

That’s a pretty bold statement when you consider that a lot of companies still don’t understand the difference between the public and private cloud yet. Many remain wary of it for a number of reasons and it would require a significant change in direction for many IT departments.

Do I think companies are discussing it? I definitely think many CIOs are having conversations with their staffs about building private clouds, but change happens slowly in most IT departments.

In spite of the rapid pace of technological change going on all around us, I think it’s a bit unrealistic to think that what is basically a new technology will mature and dominate. Perhaps discussion will begin and maybe even some sand boxing. Perhaps companies will put forth a plan of attack, but to expect it to mature and dominate as IDC predicted is highly unrealistic to me and is counter to the way I’ve learned IT departments move, operate and absorb change.

Photo by gareth1953 on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.

Microsoft System Center Upgrade To Monitor Private Clouds

Tags: BSM, Business Service Management, IT, Monitoring, Private Cloud, Service Portal

Business Service Management Commentary on IT Service Management, Service Level Management & Performance ManagementAt the recent Microsoft Management Summit, Microsoft released details of an upcoming upgrade to its System Center product that will let IT pros monitor private clouds from the System Center console. It’s significant because it increases Microsoft’s presence in the cloud monitoring space.

System Center currently is a made up of a series of products that let IT pros monitor the server infrastructure inside their organizations including a configuration manager, a virtual machine manager, data protection manager and so forth. There are two key pieces in the upgrade.

The first piece is called Advisor and according to Infoweek,  it monitors the system and collects data in Microsoft Azure. As the system builds a knowledge base of configuration information, it sends out alerts of potential trouble spots.

It’s important to note that this product is focused on a Windows Server environment, but for Microsoft shops, the new Advisor piece provides a way to monitor your server configuration in the private cloud and find trouble before it affects a large number of users.

The other piece is software for managing and deploying a self-service portal. If this sounds familiar, it should because recently we wrote about the Cisco purchase of newScale, a product that provides Cisco customers with the same ability to build a self-service portal.

It’s clear that the big players are getting into monitoring and private cloud provisioning in a big way, and that’s because there is a developing market for these tools as organizations look for ways to understand and build private clouds in-house and take advantage of the economies of scale that private cloud services can bring. Vendors like Microsoft and Cisco are clearly looking to build or purchase tools that meet these customer requirements.

Monitoring is a key provision of private cloud computing because it’s essential to have a big picture view across the entire organization’s infrastructure. While Microsoft’s solution is typically Microsoft-centric, it is interesting from a BSM perspective because it is about monitoring, deploying and understanding the IT infrastructure.

While many organizations will need more than a Microsoft-only approach, the fact that Microsoft is in the space, should be proof positive that it’s something every IT pro needs to be paying attention to, whether yours is a Microsoft shop or a more heterogeneous environment.

Photo by cote on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.

Cisco gets cloud service portal with newScale purchase

Tags: Business Service Management, Cisco, Cloud Computing, IT Management, newScale, Private Cloud, Service Portal

Cisco today announced they had grabbed newScale, a service catalogue and service portal software developer. The purchase gives Cisco a valuable piece in the emerging private cloud business, one which makes it easier for customers to create an in-house service center.

A private cloud operates in the same fashion as a public one, offering web-based services, but instead of venturing outside the firewall, you get all your services in-house. This offers a number of advantages from a service and security standpoint, and provides a way to charge back customers for exactly  what they use. Your users like it because they only pay for services they use and you can plan resource requirements better from an IT perspective. As I wrote in a blog post earlier this month, Cost Transparency is a Two-way Street, “when your users understand the relationship between cost and consumption, everybody wins.”

What that means essentially is that by placing a set of clearly defined services inside a delivery mechanism like the one that Cisco bought with newScale, you can provide a clear set of costs associated with usage. That’s because, a service portal gives you the means to create a “store” where your users come for standard services offerings. For instance, you might set up a SharePoint collaboration site and a SharePoint file storage site. It provides a way to get in-house services as easily as going online to get services from say Google or Yahoo!.

Parvesh Sethi, senior vice president of Cisco Services said in a statement that they bought newScale because they were seeing a need in the market for this type of service. “Cloud computing represents a major shift in the evolution of the Internet, and as more customers migrate from traditional IT infrastructures, the need for rapid self-provisioning and efficient management becomes increasingly critical,” he explained.  This purchase does precisely that by providing Cisco with a tool the enables customers to create self-service portals quickly.

It’s a smart play because more companies are looking in this direction and looking for tools to help them set up service portals for their private cloud offerings. The deal is expected to close some time in the second half of the year.

Cost Transparency is a Two-way Street

Tags: Business Service Management, Costs, IT, Private Cloud, Service Model

In a recent blog post called  IT Cost Transparency = Power to the people on the bmcsoftware blog, Tony Narvarrete wrote that when your users don’t understand IT costs, they can take them for granted. That means they probably think of them as free and as such, they don’t really care about consumption. Yet his title seemed to suggest that the advantage of knowing this cost rested with the users when it’s actually advantageous to both IT and users when service costs are laid out in a clear way.

A couple of years ago before there was a lot of talk about private clouds, I learned about a Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) initiative that provided a way for teams to set up and break down projects very quickly while in the field. The spokesperson explained they set up a portal with a series of tightly defined service offerings, and that individual projects were charged based on the services they used and for how long. That meant, users only kept a project open for as long as they needed and no more.

Even if you’ve established a services approach at your company, if you haven’t set up a cost structure for your users, there is no basis for them to understand cost and consumption. If I’m in a situation like the DISA service portal, I know if I’m using a certain number of software licenses, a certain amount of hard drive space and so much memory and it’s going to cost me x dollars for x days, I’m going to make darn sure, it gets shut off the day I don’t need it anymore.

On the other hand, if I don’t know how much these services cost, it’s not going to matter to me how many resources I’m using, and I’m probably not going to think to give those resources back when I’m done. It’s one of the reasons that companies have thousands of SharePoint sites sitting around on the company servers  — because there is nothing compelling project owners to shut them down, even long after the project is over.

But when you tell your customer-users exactly what it’s costing them to use your services, you can plan your resource requirements better because chances are you won’t have so many of these orphaned projects sucking resources. It’s better for IT pros because you can make better use of  existing IT resources, and it’s better for users because they can negotiate based on a firmer understanding of the costs of using a particular service.

When your users understand the relationship between cost and consumption, everybody wins.

Photo by Oran Viriyincy on Flickr. Used under the Creative Commons License.

Your Service Costs What?! Justifying Internal Chargebacks

Tags: Business Service Management, Chargebacks, Cloud, Monitoring, Private Cloud, Utility Computing

I remember when I first started working for a consulting firm back in the 80s, how surprised I was to find that departments inside a company charged one another for services rendered. Today, as IT moves to internal or private cloud environments, you are setting up a series of internal services, for which you charge back based on usage, and you better be prepared to justify those costs to your internal customers. 

In some ways, charging for private cloud services is infinitely more fair than in the client-server model where everyone might have divided the cost equally even if one department was using the server more than another. With a private cloud, it becomes more like a utility bill, where you pay for what you use.

But as I learned in my first work experience, when you charge for a service, you may find that people can find a cheaper alternative elsewhere outside the company, so you have to be able to justify your costs. The copy center was a good example. Consultants could use the in-house service, or they could go to another copy center (if company policy allowed this).

We liked to think we provided a unique service. We worked beyond regular business hours and we boxed and shipped the items, sometimes at the last minute under great time pressure. Sure, they might find it cheaper at another copy center, but those people wouldn’t necessarily put up with their unreasonable demands.

But as costs tighten for everyone, being able to provide a service you can trust in-house for a reasonable cost based on understandable and measurable terms, becomes even more important than it was back in the 80s when I started my job. That means making sure your services are easy to access and use and guaranteeing certain service levels.

You can ensure that your systems and services are up and running by providing your IT department with solid monitoring tools that provide real metrics about up time. This can work in two ways. First of all, it lets your IT staff know when something isn’t working so they can react and fix it immediately.

Secondly, it gives you metrics that you can share with your internal customers to let them know in a fully open and transparent way just how often you are up (or down as the case may be). When you have solid data about the health and well being of your whole system, you can better justify the cost of the services you offer through that system, leaving you with a group of customers who might not always like the cost of the services, but at least understand what it is they’re paying for and why.

Photo by alanclever_2000 on Flickr. Used under the Creative Commons License.

Cloud Control: Staying on top of a Hybrid Cloud

Tags: Cloud, Hybrid Cloud, Monitoring, Private Cloud, Public Cloud

Just last week, IDC released a report on the growth of cloud management software over the next several years. A Computerworld article discussing the report said these results highlight the importance of having a solution in place to monitor a hybrid cloud environment.

The hybrid cloud refers to a set of services that encompasses both public cloud solutions from companies like Amazon S3, Salesforce.com and Verizon, as well as private clouds built in-house behind the firewall.  According to IDC, in fact, by 2015, the cloud management software market will grow to $2.5 billion.

According to the Computerworld article, this software will include:

“…virtualization management, automated provisioning, self serve provisioning portals, dynamic consumption based metering and capacity analysis, service catalogs, end-to-end real time performance monitoring and related management software tools deployed into public and private cloud environments.”

As an IT pro, you need to be thinking about how this will affect your own company moving forward. Of course, this will involve deciding which services are better kept in-house and which are best out-sourced to the public cloud. Many factors will come into play when making these decisions including cost versus security considerations.

Regardless, being able to find ways to monitor the entire cloud environment both internally, and to the extent possible, externally, will be increasingly important as you move forward. One consideration you might want to take into account when choosing an external cloud vendor is the extent to which it provides information for your monitoring systems.

Some like Amazon S3, for instance, provide data you can use in your monitoring tools to measure and understand up time and other key metrics. You will want to take into account how easily you can independently monitor your external cloud services because chances are you will be judged by your internal customers based on your ability to understand and control the entire system–whether it’s internal or external.  Finding tools and vendors that give you the ability to understand the whole picture will be increasingly important as you make the transition to cloud services.

Photo by Lars Ploughman on Flickr. Used under the Creative Commons License.