Bespoke IT vs. Fit for Purpose

I’ve been focused on blogging over at EMC’s InFocus blog for the last year, but I want to get back to Mr. Infrastructure and start blogging more frequently about a wider variety of topics. First up is some thoughts on a topic I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about these days: Bespoke IT versus Fit for Purpose. We’ve spent a lot of time on bespoke IT in the industry, building new applications, silos, architectures, etc. to meet a specific need based on the skills and tools we are familiar with. We often don’t have the luxury to go out and investigate what the right tools would be and learn them in order to best apply them. If I think of this in sartorial terms, we make some outstanding, finely fit suits, but it might be in last decade’s style or colors. The suit might be of the highest quality and yet might not meet the needs of the wearer, or might stand out for all the wrong reasons in a crowd. Just because it’s bespoke doesn’t mean it’s the best way to approach the problem.

This is a long lead in to what I really want to talk about, the idea of Fit for Purpose. EMC acquired Adaptivity and I’ve been lucky enough to get to work with that great team, and learn a lot about how they think about IT, Applications and Infrastructure. They have a lot of talent on that team and I’ve learned a lot in conversations and brainstorming with them. Their Chief Scientist is Sheppard Narkier and he’s started to share many of his ideas, thoughts, and experiences on InFocus, see his post on Lessons Learned: The Quality of Design is not Fuzzy. On the surface , “Fit for Purpose” is nearly self explanatory, the idea of designing IT and Business systems based upon what they’ll be used for and how they’ll consume infrastructure. But to those not used to thinking in that paradigm, this explanation could be considered too coarse grained as a definition, let me explain a bit further. Continue reading Bespoke IT vs. Fit for Purpose

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Converged Infrastructure Buzz

There’s been a lot of interest in converged infrastructure platforms by IT organizations, and these can be a great foundation for a cloud infrastructure across the enterprise. However, our experience working with clients on realizing their converged infrastructure suggests that you need to think about this not just as a technology deployment, but also a catalyst to transform to a cloud operating model.

If you’re going to meet business expectations for improved IT agility, you’d better make your processes as agile as the technology can support. What does all this mean? And how can you leverage converged infrastructure to achieve such an operating model?

I recently did a 20 minute slidecast with Rich Brueckner of Inside-Cloud, and we discussed best practices for realizing converged infrastructure and the drivers for it.

Take a look/listen and let me know what you think:

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Go big or go home!

Go Big or Go Home, seems trite, but it is applicable to IT transformation.  Companies that are successfully adopting cloud technologies are taking a transformation approach, not a technical project approach.  The larger the scale of the program the more traction they are getting across the enterprise, business and IT.  For too long virtualization has been conflated with consolidation and that’s been one of the sticking points when it comes to trying to get the business and application owners to buy in to change. Continue reading Go big or go home!

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Cloud Heresy

I’m about to commit a bit of cloud heresy as a technology guy writing about cloud and claiming that it’s really not all about hypervisors, automation and orchestration. Sure, you need a measure of these components in order to be able to deliver on the cloud vision and model efficiently, but does that really solve the problems that are driving the consumers of IT to try and skirt enterprise IT and give their dollars to the public cloud? I think the number of services being consumed that are called cloud but really aren’t and the amount of cloud washing going on in the marketplace clue us in on the fact that it’s not the technology per se that is driving the consumption of cloud. The key thing I am hearing from my customers, and more importantly their customers, is that what is driving people to consume these services, some of which are actually inferior from a service management stand point to what is already offered internally, is the ease of consumption. Consumers are voting with their dollars for quick provisioning, knowing what they’ll pay and the levers that effect that cost, and transparency around what they are getting and using. Continue reading Cloud Heresy

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Trusted Cloud

More and more I’m hearing that it is no longer a matter of ‘if’ clients will use cloud computing in some way but a matter of ‘how’ and ‘when’.  Security is often listed as the number one concern regarding cloud adoption in surveys of EMC and VMware customers, and an informal poll at VMWorld reflected that as well.  Why the need for a Trusted Cloud?  Well by now people have figured out the benefits of cloud computing outside just the evangelist ranks and are looking to use it within their enterprises, authorized or not.  The “consumers” within the enterprise really want the provisioning, management and reporting promised by the cloud and they are willing to go around IT to get it in some instances.  So if “consumers” are already using cloud, and more and more of them want to be, we need to figure out a way to inject security and compliance into those services.  VMware’s been doing their part with the launch of the vShield security portfolio last week, but that is only part of the equation.  So what is the Trusted Cloud?  It’s a cloud that assures that the right people have access to the right services, applications and information via a secured infrastructure.

I’ll be hosting an EMC Live! webcast tomorrow on the topic and some best practices for beginning the implementation of the Trusted Cloud.  You’ve got to start with an analysis and rationalization of your application portfolio in order to understand how and where trust needs to be incorporated in your transformed environment.  The rationalized application portfolio feeds into your service portfolio analysis:  what are the appropriate application or service architectural models for your environment?  This is the basis for your cloud strategy and cloud sourcing model:  what are the services that I need to provide my customers and where can they be sourced from?  From here you define your services, policies and controls via ITIL or whatever framework you prefer, document them in your Service Catalog, and then publish them via a Service Portal.  The goal is to provide an end-to-end unified look and feel across the different delivery models with the trust attributes integrated into the environment.

Building the Trusted Cloud

If you’re interested in learning more please join me on September 9th at 11:00am EST for the EMC Live! webcast:

The GRC-Enabled Cloud

As cloud computing becomes more pervasive, one of the most important business questions concerns governance, risk, and compliance (GRC).

How can you achieve business agility and lower costs, while still ensuring that security and compliance issues are resolved?

Attend this webcast and you will:

Understand how to incorporate GRC considerations into the IT services provided by private cloud

Learn best practices from recent private cloud customer deployments by EMC Consulting

See how you can take advantage of private cloud initiatives to meet future requirements for GRC

Find out how defining IT services can help you incorporate public cloud capabilities into your private cloud without compromising security and compliance

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Strategies for Private Cloud Initiatives

Later this week I’ll be presenting as a part of our EMC Live! webcasts on Building Strategies for Private Cloud Initiatives. I’ve been thinking more about what EMC’s Private Cloud vision means and how it is being implemented by our customers.¬† The initial idea of Private Cloud being a destination, part of a linear progression does a bit of a disservice to the whole concept of cloud computing and the control and choice offered by these new models.¬† Many companies are already thinking about Private Cloud as an approach to balancing their IT Service portfolio across internal and external resources based on criteria like cost and risk.¬† In my opinion, and I think EMC’s strategy and approach on Private Cloud bears this out, Governance, Risk Management and Compliance (GRC) is what makes the Cloud private.

Organizations have had a portfolio approach to IT for quite some time, now the various components within that portfolio might have started out as Mainframe, Open Systems and x86 in their own data center, or it could’ve been App Dev/Test and Pre-Prod in their data centers and Production at a hosting facility, and many, many other permutations.¬† Until recently there have always been pretty significant differences between those IT Services in the Portfolio and usually different management interfaces, organizations, reporting, etc. associated with each of them.¬† I posit that an integrated GRC framework with a Unified Service Portal not only bind the portfolio together and provides commonality in terms of how IT’s customers provision, manage and report on their services, but that they provide the framework for efficiency, control and choice which are the hallmarks of EMC’s Private Cloud vision.¬† This allows, as the portfolio matures and the GRC framework becomes more integrated, the CIO to deliver against the CEO’s expectations of cost reduction, the CISO/CLO’s expectation of a secure and compliant environment and his or her own expectation for more automation and transparency.¬† The goal then becomes not having only one method of computing achieved via a linear transformation of IT, but rather a portfolio of services delivered via several methods that is balanced for cost and risk with the ease of consumption and transparency of the public cloud and all the security and compliance associated with the data center.

I’ve geared my presentation for Thursday to address some tactical approaches to implementing such a strategy with achievable early successes to build momentum for the adoption of the model.¬† I’d welcome discussion, questions, another perspective via the comments, engagement via Twitter or on the webcast session.

Please feel free to register here and join in the conversation:

EMC Live Webcast:
Create an Architecture and Roadmap for Your Private Cloud

Thursday, May 6, 2010
8:00 am PT / 11:00 am ET / 15:00 GMT

Register Today!

The private cloud vision has captured the attention of enterprise IT leaders and strategists because it promises unprecedented economies of scale and dramatically improved business agility.

EMC Consulting experts can help you find the best path to the private cloud by leveraging virtualization, pooling enterprise resources, and adopting a service-oriented model.

Attend this webcast and learn how to:

  • Identify the key attributes of a private cloud architecture
  • Establish a business case for private cloud
  • Develop a high-level architectural plan for private cloud
  • Transform operations into a service-oriented, self-service model
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Cloud Differentiators

I’ve spent a lot of time talking with my clients and partners lately about what makes a Private Cloud a cloud. There are many schools of thought on this, no end to the opinions really, but I think it comes down to a few differentiators between “just” virtualized infrastructure and a cloud. For me those differentiators are less about technology and more about how you manage and provision things. A virtual infrastructure is still managed and provisioned on a resource or asset basis, where a cloud is managed and provisioned as a service or by policy. A service being some aggregation of resources to deliver something meaningful to your customer. An integrated approach to Governance, Risk Management and Compliance (GRC) is required to accomplish management as a service or by policy. It’s not enough to have a Dashboard that shows you the status of your environment, you need a console that reports and allows you to interact.

The virtual infrastructure is a key enabler of the cloud, but it’s not the cloud. At EMC we’ve developed a product and services portfolio that enables the Private Cloud vision of any device, anywhere accessing your information and your applications regardless of the infrastructure it happens to live on. Our Virtual Computing Environment coalition extends that enablement by including the components of unified internetworking and compute with the cloud operating system. Private Cloud is more expansive than VCE and the first technology solution offered by it in the form of the VBlock. The real differentiator between the virtual infrastructure and the Private Cloud is any device, anywhere is able to access your applications and information with your governance controlling it regardless of the underlying infrastructure, be it internal assets or those provided through the public clouds.

It’s the integration of GRC into the environment that delivers on the Private Cloud promise of all the agility, flexibility, scalability, multi-tenancy and automation associated with cloud computing tempered with the security, availability, resiliency, and control of the data center. This means that getting to a Private Cloud has to be about a lot more than deploying new technologies, it’s a wholesale transformation of IT and a new way of interfacing with the Business and your customers. A lot of what has been promised and demanded by frameworks like ITIL, SOA, MOF, COBIT, etc. is now able to be delivered through the infrastructure and toolsets supporting it. It’s possible to implement the Service Catalog and things like automatically approved changes into the resource management infrastructure to begin to provide real self service of IT where appropriate. The appeal of many existing public cloud solutions are the ease with which users can consume them: a credit card; a few clicks; and bam you have storage, or a server, or a CRM system. An integrated approach for GRC can provide this same user experience, plus the enterprise necessities like Service Levels, Business Continuity, Data Protection and the like for enterprise IT. This is the stuff that gets traction with the people I talk with about cloud and to me is the real promise of Private Cloud, a promise that is actually deliverable today.

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Clouds on the horizon

There’s been a lot of discussion lately about clouds and the future of IT across the blogosphere: Chuck is always good for a post or two; IBM spoke up the other day; and there are even reports that “Hey, this is real!”.¬† I can’t help but wonder if Cloud Computing is really just the marriage of flexible architecture, ubiquitous networks and IT Service Management?¬† As has been noted on this blog I am highly infrastructure biased, but I think it is apparent that fast, readily available networks are changing IT, your phone, laptop, Kindle, &c. are now viable end devices for application and content delivery almost anywhere on the planet.¬† Exciting times indeed!

If you scratch beneath the surface a bit the magic and mystery of the Cloud becomes a little more apparent: you have a high-performance, omnipresent network; a flexible delivery engine that is highly scalable and efficient; and a management framework that provides the appropriate Service Levels, security, compliance and communications the customer is seeking.  To truly deliver a cloud service you first have to identify and define a service that can be readily doled out to customers clamoring for it.  I can think of tons of services internal to an enterprise that would qualify for this designation, so I think the concept of a private cloud is a cogent one.  Take for example File Sharing, or Email, or Market Data, or Order Processing.

So why now?  The emergence of good allocation and resource management tools certainly makes the management of the service a lot easier, add adaptive authentication, identity management and role based access, couple that with the virtualization capabilities and infrastructure components geared to hypervirtualization and you have the recipe for easy to deploy private and public crowds.  The market adoption of frameworks like ITIL and ISO 20000 and their focus on Service Level Management provides the appropriate mindset for the IT organization looking to become service oriented.  Now ride all of that on a ubiquitous, converged, highly available fabric and you can provide these services to pretty much any client, via any platform, any where.

Suddenly Clouds aren’t so amorphous but really the next logical progression of virtualized infrastructure, Service-Oriented Architecture, and IT Service Management.

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Product Management

Awhile back I got a call on a Friday night that is familiar to many consultants, “Can you be in City X on Monday morning?”¬† The program manager on the other end of the phone remembered hearing that I had a degree in Product Management and was eager to get me in front of his customer who was looking to transform his organization into one that managed infrastructure according to a Product Management Lifecycle (PML).¬† Now I admittedly view the world through PML-tinted glasses, but this concept had really piqued my interest.¬† The idea was a pretty simple one: convert his organization to be product-oriented and merge the PML with the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) framework and the Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC) that the organization was already spottily using.¬† As a Unified Field Theory devout I was hooked!

The customer, like most, was approaching the development, testing and management of their infrastructure through a number of siloes: people thinking about the long term strategy; another group concerned with the implementation of systems; a group that tested the integrated infrastructure; a group responsible for the daily management of the environment; and an organization dedicated to interfacing with the customer to understand their requirements (and on occasion their satisfaction).¬† Strategy, architecture, engineering and operations were divided across the organization with several silos within each knowledge area.¬† No one was incented to work together, no one had a vision of the entire infrastructure as a “system” and finger pointing was the order of the day during any outage.¬† Walking around the several floors the IT department was spread over there was an air of discontent, people bolted for the door at 5pm, at the latest, were largely disengaged and took pride in the walls they put up around their particular part of the organization.¬† Worst of all the business, their customer, was unhappy and questioning why they were spending so much on that black box called IT.

Continue reading Product Management

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Outsourcing & margins

It seems about 50% of my clients these days have outsourced, are thinking about outsourcing or are insourcing.¬† Some of my customers are themselves outsourcers.¬† An interesting facet of the model these days is the introduction of new services to meet customer needs while providing opportunity for the outsourcer.¬† I’ve had the opportunity to meet with several outsourcers over the past few years and advise them on their service catalog, usually for storage.¬† A common complaint has been that “we’re losing money on this deal” which always manages to surprise me.¬† If you’re losing money on so many deals you may want to get out of the business, but I digress.¬† Usually it’s not just the outsourcer that is unhappy, the customers generally are too: they think the prices are too high, the service is lousy, and that they aren’t really getting what they need.¬† You can rarely go back to the table and renegotiate your price for Tier 1 service and raise the price, so how do you create a win-win situation?

I’d like to present one solution that has been used to good effect in the past: the introduction of a new, and necessary, tier of storage to the service catalog.¬† I think this applies not just to outsourcers but anyone who runs their environment in a service provider mode.¬† A lot of customer I interact with complain that the performance of their Tier 1 storage is suboptimal and that their backups never finish on time, or aren’t validated, etc.¬† While hardly a novel or new solution appropriate archiving is the answer to these sorts of problems, and if you view it from a TCO perspective you can gather a lot of financial evidence for the executives on why it should be implemented.

I encourage my customers to think of their production data in terms of two classes, this is the highest level of data classification in my opinion, Operational Data and Reference Data.¬† Operational Data is that which the enterprise uses on a regular basis to run the business, the key is understanding where the cut-off is for “regular basis”.¬† Reference Data is that which is helpful to have around,¬† you might use once in awhile, for a quarter close or year end analysis, but which is ignored on a daily basis.¬† Reference Data takes up valuable Tier 1 storage, backup bandwidth and storage, and as a result can lead to blown SLAs.¬† The appropriate archiving of this data provides an opportunity to right-size the environment, delay the purchase of additional Tier 1 arrays, streamline the backup flow and improve Service Levels by administering data according to its value to the business.¬† The creation of an Archive Tier(s) provides an opportunity to deliver a necessary service to the customer while also enabling the provider to structure it at an improved margin.¬† Customers will want to archive Reference Data when they can link it to improved Tier 1 and backup performance, driving archive utilization and with it the improved margin while at the same time improving the margin on the other services due to fewer SLA misses and a lower administration cost.

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