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ITIL & the Private Cloud

Imported from http://consultingblogs.emc.com/ published September 8 2010

Although the Private Cloud has many advantages for organizations, there is a learning and growing phase that is frequently omitted. When building out a Private Cloud, many stress points in an organization start to become prevalent. Many of these same organizations had, or were in the process of implementing, the OGC ITIL framework of best practices in IT Service Management. Nonetheless, critical areas of the service management regime had to be reinforced in order to support the transition to the Private Cloud.

Typically, incident and problem management are introduced to tackle, in a structured fashion, challenges in maintaining current service commitments. These are accompanied by Change Management. In parallel, architecture groups together with service management groups form the kernel of the Service Design.

Service Transition, the bringing of new services into normal operations is performed by dedicated project groups in combination with technical management groups such as facilities, network, storage etc. There are many variations of this, but these core disciplines are implemented, in one form or another.

Supporting processes that are typically weak or overlooked are demand management and capacity management. In traditional IT service environments there is normally a comfortable time delay between demand being expressed and supply needing to be provisioned. In Cloud regimes, we start to see the shortening of the interval between demand and supply. If you wish, the Cloud provides a shortcut to supply of IT services – in near real-time.

Other processes also become more significant in the IT services value chain, but the careful management of demand is critical. This provides a stable input to the acquisition of IT infrastructure, which in turn underpins the Business.

Why is this important?

Well, time and again, we see organizations making significant upfront investment in Private Cloud infrastructures, anticipating certain levels of demand to consume the resources whilst providing value for money to the users. This is the ‘build it and they will come’ model. By not setting realistic expectations for demand, corporate IT financial resources are trapped in the Cloud infrastructure for quite some time before demand is realized. This represents trapped value, as that investment could have also been used to finance other revenue generating or service enhancing projects.

Cascading effects of trapped value are felts as ripples throughout the organization in projects being put on hold, innovation stagnation, and further cost cutting measures as the critical transformative nature of information technology continues to garner further bad press in the Business. This simply makes the job of the CIO, the nominated catalyst agent of the organization, that much harder. The CIO’s role is critical in representing value through transformation, and enabling the Business to be able to innovate in turn to maintain/further market positioning.

On the other hand, the ability to closely provide IT infrastructure services in near-time to demand patterns is challenging. Typically the response is to provide a large buffer pool in advance of demand. This ‘better keep a lot of spare capacity in case of..’ model allows for a more phased capacity provisioning approach. However, without accurate intelligence coming in as early as possible predicting patterns of demand, it is difficult to fine tune upfront buffer capacity.

EMC Consulting is working with many clients to be able to setup the processes required to get early intelligence of demand patterns such that supply chain alignment of IT services can be implemented. Through a rigorous understanding of the client’s current ‘way of doing things’ – the IT Service Culture if you will - it is possible to craft a process stack that is more suited to the large scale dynamics prevalent in Cloud environments.

Financing of IT infrastructure becomes more manageable. ITIL Financial Management disciplines can be consistently implemented within the Cloud. This in turn allows financial resources to be used in a smarter fashion to cover the traditional ‘unpredictability’ of IT service shops – which in turn started the tightening of the purse strings to the IT groups in the first place as a means to control the runaway IT train.

So where else can ITIL be helpful in the Private Cloud?

Well ITIL is not just for Service Management. It can be equally well used within application creation/maintenance. This lets ITIL move up the stack to the application development levels. The ability to ‘design-in’ the ability to create good service behavior in applications such that they can be easily transitioned to operational status is a critical competitive advantage. It reduces the time-2-market, allows value to be extracted quickly, and if the powers that be are willing, get first mover/early mover advantage with the targeted customer segment.

ITIL is as relevant in the Cloud (with some modifications) as it is in traditional IT shops. Its use as a mechanism for governance, risk and compliance management is also to be recommended. Specific industries mandate additional compliance standards; however, ITIL as a base standard is extremely helpful.

The ITIL enabled Private Cloud

As a critical element of Private Cloud management, an organization would be well advised to review the current maturity level of ITIL implementation. Certain rationality tests can also be factored in, related to the scale and speed of operations in a Cloud environment. This allows process optimization, facilitating optimal process shortcut implementation.

Many organizations are at the ITIL fatigue level – been there, done that. However, when actually tasked with scenarios that are typical in a Cloud environment, they stumble or find that their existing processes are so stressed that they could not cope with that level of demand. That is potentially lost revenue! This should never really happen. That’s what service management is about!

ITIL is not intended to be odious, although it is frequently viewed as such. Rather it allows management of the flow of IT services to their eventual consumers to be managed. Organizations cannot afford to allow their ‘good practices’ to exhibit signs of value-erosion over time by not maintaining processes. A regular review, a health check if you will, will at least confirm the current-state-of-affairs. From there a tactical plan for renewal can be formulated, commensurate with the realities of the Private Cloud.

We each do this with our annual health checks with the doctor. Why not do this for our IT organizations? Verify that processes are still fit-for-purpose and as currently implemented they are also fit-for-use. These two ITIL concepts which are exceptionally important – they maintain continuing value for your service consumers.

Disclaimer

The opinions expressed here are my personal opinions. Content published here is not read or approved in advance by EMC and does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of EMC.

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