Posts Tagged Cloud Computing For Dummies

Is Service Management the Missing Link on the Path from Virtualization to Cloud?

Many business executives are interested in moving to the cloud because of the potential impact on business strategy. Increasingly they are convinced that a cloud model – particularly the private cloud – will give them an increased amount of flexibility to change and manage the uncontrolled expansion of IT. In contrast, from an IT perspective, the ability to virtualize servers, storage, and I/O, is often viewed as the culmination of the cloud journey. Of course, the world is always more complicated than it appears. Cloud computing if implemented in a strategic manner can help a company experiment and change more easily. Likewise, virtualization, which may seem like an isolated and pragmatic approach, needs to be considered in context with an overall cloud computing strategy.

However, the challenge for many companies right now is how to transform their virtualized infrastructure into a private cloud that delivers on the promise of on-demand and self-service provisioning of IT resources. To make sure that business leaders gain desired cost savings and business flexibility while IT gains the optimization that can be achieved through virtualization requires an integrated strategy. At the heart of this strategy is service management of this emerging highly virtualized environment.

Why is service management important? There are good reasons why a key focus of the virtualization strategy at many companies has been on server virtualization. For example, server virtualization helps companies create a faster and more efficient IT provisioning process for users. It helps users with increased operational flexibility based on the mobility and isolation capabilities of virtual machines.

However, there is a major management problem with the typical virtualization approach in many companies. Often developers satisfy their demands for computing resources by simply creating or spinning up a new virtual machine rather than anticipating that they might not have the time or money to purchase new IT systems.  IT management in the beginning allows this practice because it is easier than trying to control impatient developers.  However, there is a price to be paid.  Each new virtual machine image requires memory and disk resources. When the number of virtual machines grows out of control, companies end up spending more time and money on disk, storage, and memory resources than was anticipated. Lack of control means lack of management. What is the answer?

At a recent IBM systems software meeting, Helene Armitage, General Manager of Systems Software, emphasized that in order to truly transform the data center into an agent of change requires a focus on manageability.  Here are the main take always from my conversations with Helene and her team.

  • Virtualization is not just about server consolidation. Companies need to think differently about virtualization in order to prepare for a future marked by rapid change. For example, storage virtualization can offer big benefits to companies facing explosive demand for data storage from increased use of new technologies like embedded and mobile devices.
  • Physical and virtual environments will need to be managed in a unified way and at the same time. Some may think of virtualization as a way of reducing management requirements. After all, with consolidated resources you should have less demand for power, energy, and space. However, management needs to be done right to be effective. it is important to consider how to manage across the platform and to include monitoring and configuration in combination with business service management  – delivering IT services in a structured, governed, and optimized way.
  • Cloud changes the complexion of what’s important in how virtualization is approached.  In the cloud, virtualization takes on a different level of complexity.  If elements of virtualization including storage, server, and I/O virtualization are handled as isolated tasks, the cloud platform will not be effectively managed.
  • System pooling is key for managing lots of systems. Systems pooling essentially means that IT treats all resources as a unified set of shared resources to improve performance and manageability.
  • Enforcing standardization right from the beginning is a requirement — especially when virtualization is at the core of a cloud environment.  The only way to truly manage the virtualized environment is to apply repeatable, predictable, and standardized best practices across the entire computing environment.

The greatest challenge for companies is to think differently about virtualization.  Management will need to realize that virtualization is a foundational element in building a private cloud environment and therefore has to be looked at from a holistic perspective.

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Cashing in on the Cloud

I am welcoming my business partner, Judith Hurwitz as a contributor on my blog.  The following is her observations about the partner ecosystem in the cloud.

Judith Hurwitz

I have been spending quite a bit of time these days at Cloud Computing events. Some of these events, like the Cloud Camps are wonderful opportunities for customers, vendors, consulted, and interested parties to exchange ideas in a very interactive format. If you haven’t been to one I strongly recommend them.  Dave Nielsen who is one of the founders of the Cloud Camp concept has done a great job not just jump starting these events but participating in most of them around the world.  In addition, Marcia Kaufman and I have been conducting a number of half and full day Introduction to Cloud Computing seminars in different cities.  What has been the most interesting observation from my view is that customers are no longer sitting on the side lines with their arms crossed. Customers are ready and eager to jump into to this new computing paradigm.  Often they are urged on by business leaders who instinctively see the value in turning computing into a scalable utility.  So, for the first time, there is a clear sense that there may well be money to be made.

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Are you bypassing CIO policies to access cloud services?

I recently spoke with a CIO of a large and highly regulated organization about his company’s experiences with cloud computing. Security and compliance issues are top priorities for this CIO causing the company’s leadership to move with caution into the cloud. He expects that all cloud implementations throughout the enterprise – from Software as a Service (SaaS) to Infrastructure as a Service  (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) will receive prior approval from his office. This CIO is implementing the same approach to security and compliance that he has taken with every project undertaken within the company. In other words, security must be implemented following a centralized approach in order to ensure that information governance policies are upheld.   The company’s cloud experiences so far have included the on-demand purchase of extra compute power and storage for development and test on two small projects as well as use of Salesforce.com in several business unit sales teams. Overall, he feels confident about the level of control he has when it comes to managing cloud security issues, and understanding the potential impact of the evolving cost and economic models of cloud computing.

However, is this CIO is really as in control of the situation as he thinks?  If his experience is in line with what I have heard from CIO’s at similar enterprises, then he may well be blind sighted. For example, many businesses find that while their centralized governance processes are effective at improving security, there may also be some unintended consequences. While the CIO directs his team to implement policies to monitor the flow of information between internal users, customer, and partners, there may be some people in the company who are undermining his efforts. Tighter control at the corporate level may lead to longer approval processes for IT resources.  And departments that need to complete a project quickly have never been very patient.  As a result, developers and business unit analysts are leveraging cloud delivery models for quick and cost effective access to computing resources even if it means bypassing CIO instituted governance policies. Right now, the usage of cloud computing is small and is not impacting security or the expense structure in any significant way. However, I expect that as his company becomes more involved in cloud commuting this CIO will need to pay more attention to controlling the costs of cloud services and the management of cloud security.

Controlling costs. Cloud computing is fundamentally about the economics of delivering IT resources in a cost efficient, elastic, and secure manner.  But, the price per CPU for compute power or the price to bring the first five users onto a SaaS application is only one element of the overall economic equation.  It can be so inexpensive to access public cloud resources to meet short-term requirements that it is easy for users to enter a corporate credit card number and move ahead with the project. But, over time small projects can grow larger or take longer to complete than expected. For example, a software development team has a tight deadline to evaluate the performance of a new application prior to an upcoming sales promotion.  One of the developers uses a corporate credit card to get the extra compute power needed for this short-term test and spends a lot less money and gets faster results than by requesting additional resources from his company’s data center. Job completed. Deadline met. Cost low. However, what happens when the application requires additional testing under various scenarios and goes into production? The initial payment to Amazon may have gone unnoticed, but when the development team’s use of cloud resources expands significantly the CFO and the CEO suddenly start to ask a lot of questions.

Security. CIO’s identify security concerns as one of the top reasons why they are cautious about cloud computing. In addition to checking out the security policies of the cloud vendors under their control, CIO’s worry that you may be accessing cloud-based services without their approval. One big area of concern is the increasing use of  social networking applications accessed on mobile devices and used with little or no distinction between business and personal usage. For example, you may use LinkedIn to get help from a business contact to close a deal and Twitter and facebook to connect with friends and clients. For many people, there are few boundaries between business and personal conversations conducted in the cloud and this has some CIO worried about security and compliance issues.

The bottom Line. Unfortunately, these issues and concerns are not going away any time soon. In fact, I expect that the level of oversight will only increase. The CIO will be called to task if various departments begin relying on cloud services for various mission critical projects without any oversight.  This is only the tip of the iceberg. And I suspect this is going to be a big iceberg.


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