In December I had the pleasure of attending a seminar called “Service Management in Cloud and Virtual Environments” which was organised by IT Service Management Forum (ITSMF) at a very cold but, thankfully, snow free Manchester Museum. The aim of the seminar was to “highlight the specific challenges, and suggest practical ways to how you can modify your approach to service design, service transition, and service operations”.

There were speakers from the following organisations; HP, Global Knowledge, Atos Origin and Fujitsu and each presentation was followed by a short question and answer session.

First up was the presenter from HP who gave a very interesting address entitled “Why is Infrastructure Converging? – Creating platforms for the Cloud”.  This presentation outlined the technology challenges ahead driven by Population Growth, Urbanisation and Globalisation resulting in an Information Explosion. Together with an aging, complex and inefficient IT infrastructure will lead to an environment where business demand technology which is based upon rigorous standards, high volume, low-cost and rapid innovation. In the presenter’s opinion, this environment will be dominated by the “top table players”, namely Cisco, IBM, Oracle and unsurprisingly HP! There will always be small companies leading the innovation
cycle and “looking to be acquired” but mid market players such as SAP will be squeezed. New convergence technologies such as intelligent energy management, virtual I/O networks and virtual resource pools will be the infrastructure which underpins the Cloud Solutions but unlike the mainframe era the only lock in will be via quality as businesses look to metrics such as Time to Innovation, Cost to Innovation and Longevity of Supply.

This was an extremely thought-provoking presentation backed up by some incredibly large numbers and forecasts and it made me consider the following;

  • The need to address the regulatory environment when looking at Cloud solutions. For example the requirements for retaining data are different in the USA compared to the UK and Europe and what does this mean if the customer is based in the UK but Cloud services (and data stored) are provided elsewhere or anywhere!
  • What is the impact to Service Level Management and Service Operations where the network becomes the boundary of the organisation as devices are too diverse and widespread to be supplied or supported by IT?
  • The challenges associated with organisations grappling with initiatives associated with reducing their carbon footprint. How do you measure the number of transactions per unit of power and what are the operational challenges moving workload from the hot part of the data centre to the cooler areas?
  • Service Transition policies and plans are required to have a greater focus on how to move service from one cloud provider to another.

Next up was the presenter from Global Knowledge who gave a presentation called “Service Level Management and the cloud revolution. A survival guide”. This presentation started by reviewing the definition of the Cloud given by Forrester Research (“Any computing service that is provided outside the customer premise and that is provided on a ‘pay-as-you-go’ basis”)
and looking at some of “… as a Service” offerings such as Platform as a Service (PAAS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IAAS). An interesting slide outlined the speaker’s findings about “the Cloud” when speaking to various CIO’s and these were; lack of control, accountability, visual representation and transparency including security and resolution processes. The presenter then looked at Service Level management in more detail and in particular looked at some details around “Agree”, “Monitor” and “Improve”. When looking at “Agree” the following key themes were discussed; Cloud is just another Third Party Service
with Underpinning Contracts, Performance and Availability will be outside your control, Security is NEVER guaranteed and Service Catalogues will be vital. “Monitor” basically asked one question and provided one possible outcome;
Traditional measures of components are irrelevant and Synthetic Monitoring will be the key. Finally when looking at “Improve” it is worth considering that Cloud providers are unlikely to be interested in your Service Improvement Programme (SIP) and therefore SIP may have to be achieved by switching vendors.

This presentation was much more related to Service Management than the first of the day and was still as interesting and again made delegates consider some interesting questions.

  • During and after this presentation I found myself in full agreement with the assertion that Cloud Services  is just another underpinning contract which needs to be managed although in practice this may be an easier “sell” to the customer where a service is fully outsourced but where  other sourcing models, such as co-sourcing or multi-sourcing, are in place then this may not be the case.
  • Additionally I was in full agreement with the speaker regarding synthetic monitoring, i.e. monitoring from the end-user perspective, as for far too long organisations have hidden behind complex availability metrics whilst end users feel the service is less than satisfactory. However it’s easier to talk about synthetic monitoring than achieve it and when designing a service this sort of monitoring must be able to be lifted and shifted if the service is to be moved between Cloud service providers
  • As part of the Service Design process it seems to me that organisations may spend less time on technical resources but actually spend more time and effort ensuring people understand how to manage procurement and the supplier management processes.
  • Demand Management, understanding User Profiles and Patterns of Business Activity are likely to be a key part of Service Design process to ensure the ability to leverage benefits of the cloud such as ensuring there is enough capacity to meet spikes in demand.
  • Consideration will need to be given to how network availability is designed as a network is the key to accessing Cloud based services. Questions will need to be asked how are the providers of networks geared for this change when changes
    in this area are typically slow to provision. Additionally how does this affect IT Service Continuity if network providers utilise a shared infrastructure.
  • Most of the above questions and issues appear to me to have a significant bearing on how Service Level Agreements are negotiated with clients. It may be that fundamentally not a great deal has changed with delivering the service
    when moving to the cloud but the very act of moving a service in to the cloud will mean that many questions that have not been addressed until now suddenly become all important.

The 3rd presentation was given by a representative of Atos Origin and began by restating some defining principles of Cloud Computing. The presenter then outlined some considerations which organisations may need to consider when looking at moving in to the Cloud; Migration consideration – build an “Internal Cloud”, Determine external vs. internal Cloud ROI and
monitor external costs, Don’t abdicate responsibility to the Cloud, Use the Cloud for short-term scale and offload capacity, Safeguard your data, Gain access to well-trained “Cloud expertise” which in my opinion these all seemed very sensible observations.

Personally I found this slide show less stimulating but one or two of the slides made for interesting discussion.

  • Firstly that organisation should consider moving non-strategic services in to the Cloud; personally I can see the merit in that approach but that may be a bit idealistic as the appetite and speed of migration of services in to the
    Cloud will be driven by many different factors. For example if an organisation no longer has capacity in their own data centre then all future services may be moved in to the Cloud in spite of their strategic importance to the organisation.
  • Here at Smart421 we are not building an Internal Cloud but undertaking an exercise to “eat our own dog food” by moving some of our internal services in to the Cloud.
  • I particularly like the suggestion to engage with an organisation with Cloud Expertise :-)

The final presentation was from Fujitsu which was titled “A Private Cloud – The HMRC “S4” Service” which was described as “A private cloud service for hosting Windows, Linux, and AIX based applications”. A Capacity Unit was the model used for charging and was composed of n CPU cores + memory.

When discussing the challenges associated with this service it was clear that many of the traditional challenges remain, namely; maintenance slots, how much to invest against the foreseeable customer demand, forecasting workload and optimising utilisation.

Finally, looking at the benefits of this shared infrastructure solution it can be seen that there are similar benefits to be gained as identified from cloud solutions, that is; reduction in costs, faster deployment of business solutions and reduced sizing risk. The final benefit, according to the presenters, was “Simple decommissioning at end-of-life” which I assume was meant from an infrastructure point of view in terms of not having to retire and dispose of hardware etc.

  • Although this was presented as a Private Cloud, in my opinion this was more of a shared infrastructure solution which had some features and benefits of cloud but also had some limitations. For example the HMRC Service Owners
    could purchase the service using a standard service catalogue and costs were below what would typical charged to host the solutions on dedicated hardware however there didn’t appear to be anyway to “burst” beyond what was purchased
    in terms “Capacity Unit”.  Whilst I can see attraction of this from a technical point of view this charging model does not directly relate to business outcomes or metrics which in my opinion is the way the IT Service Management community is heading.
  • In my opinion a true cloud solution would offset some of those shared infrastructure concerns. For example maintenance slots negotiation could be mitigated by moving the workload to another instance in a true cloud solution. Again in a true cloud solution investment would be less of an issue as the customers only pay for what you use.

In conclusion this was interesting rather than startling seminar however what was still clear to me was specific real world examples of organisations moving services in to the Cloud are still pretty thin on the ground. Additionally addressing the security concerns of organisations is fundamental to driving this growth of take up of Cloud Services.

Looking at the Service Lifecycle and some of the processes contained within I believe that greater emphasis in the future is going to be  placed upon Service Strategy (Demand Management), Service Design (Capacity Management) and Service Transition.

When assessing the impact on Service Operations I think there is a fundamental requirement to assess existing processes for appropriateness and effectiveness when moving services in to the Cloud. Indeed there could be opportunities to streamline processes and for example, potentially reduce the impact on end users associated with Change.

Continual Service Improvement will continue to be a challenge especially with those Infrastructure as a Cloud (IAAS) service providers which operate a true utility model.

Finally in my opinion, the demand placed upon IT Service Management will still be as great as ever but the emphasis may be different to what we have seen in the past which for me is an exciting part of the challenge.