Transforming IT from a technology supplier into a provider of services to the business
If you've ever taken a high-level look at enterprise IT, you'll notice that the vast majority of money is spent making the infrastructure do pretty much what it did last year. In fact, most IT Departments spend about 73% of their budget just keeping the lights on; far less is spent on creating new business value or innovation.
For those in charge of IT departments the job has now been made just that little bit harder as businesses look to squeeze as many costs out of the business as possible. At the same time the demands being put on IT by the business - to improve business agility and increase flexibility - require innovation.
So what is needed is a better investment strategy for the IT infrastructure. This will help decrease the amount spent on delivery and increase the dollars available to drive business value and innovation. And this is where the Private Cloud model comes in.
Simply put you are transforming Enterprise IT to be able to deliver IT services to their own users and business units in much the same way a public provider would deliver services to their customer base. Essentially this is through a combination of virtualisation (effectively removing the direct link between function and resource), converged infrastructure and automation, which combine to deliver IT as a service.
Most organisations are progressing along the Journey to Private Cloud in 3 phases:
1. IT Production Phase - lowering costs
2. Business Production Phase- improving quality of service
3. IT as a Service Phase - increasing agility
Typical areas of focus are on things like storage consolidation, backup and accelerating virtualisation. It's an infrastructure focus, and the payoff is inherently lower IT costs.
Phase one is about the IT owned applications - particularly those functions which are typically out of sight and out of mind to the business such as file and print, test and development, web environments. You can expect to see significant OpEx and CapEx savings achieved by creating a simple and more efficient storage infrastructure that's well protected.
In the second phase, the focus shifts towards extending the value of Private Cloud to your business-owned, mission-critical applications. These are applications which are critical in keeping your business running smoothly such as ERP systems, e-mail, CRM, and business intelligence applications. What phase two delivers is improved quality of service, efficiency and flexibility to do more with your data.
Here you are not only introducing new technology to better protect, and manage applications, you're also fundamentally changing the operational processes you use to run IT. The payoff goes beyond capex and opex savings. You have the potential for IT that significantly operates better - better availability, better protection, better security, efficiency, and so on.
The third phase is focused on transforming IT from a technology supplier into a provider of services to the business. This means changing the way in which IT relates to the business, providing transparency into costs and management of service levels.
This centres on delivering IT as a service, creating a catalog of services for the business - whether that be infrastructure as a service, applications as a service, desktop as a service or other variations of the model. At this point virtualisation is pervasive. Everything new is deployed virtually. Thus the value can more easily be measured in tangible benefits such as faster time to market, process automation, and real IT agility.
In this phase, IT is fully policy driven. Your operationalised infrastructure allows you to allocate dollars spent more accurately and achieve true cost transparency for the level of service you're providing to your users and business units. Just as importantly, they can easily shift from asking for the technology they want to making a justified business decision on the requirements of the organisation.
If you think about it, this phase is really about establishing a new relationship between the business as a broker and IT as a trusted partner. IT becomes the internal service provider and business users become intelligent users of these services. Here you are providing what the business needs when it needs it with the agility to move with the business as it evolves. In fact, if done well the IT department itself should be in a position to drive a partnership with the business and define the portfolio of services to support business growth and agility.
The key thing is to determine which bits of IT are important to the business. This can't just be approached from a technology point of view because that's not how the business sees it. The value could be, for example, in the information that the business has about its customers - not the CRM system that captures it.
Essentially what this boils down to is viewing everything from a pure business standpoint rather than a technical perspective. This should to be at the heart of your Private Cloud strategy. If you can imagine cloud as an actionable catalogue of services that the business is choosing from (to help them be more productive and efficient), that will greatly help you in your approach.
For example the business may be expanding into new markets which could require new sales people. The Sales Director wants to be able to come to IT and say 'we are hiring four new salespeople and they start on July 1st'. In a perfect world, IT wants you to say 'great - leave it with us' rather than 'how many PC's do you want? How many smartphones? What level of security do they need?'. Part of this is about transforming organisational processes in a way that puts the business at the centre of IT and understands how a business decision directly translates to the IT department.
So how does this relate to determining the shape of your Private Cloud? To gain maximum agility to compose new services and combine infrastructure and applications to respond to rapid business shifts, you'll want to take full advantage of the flexibility of virtualisation technology.
Virtualisation makes it much easier to pool infrastructure resources, and utilise new tools for virtual environments, simplifying the development, migration and operation of applications and infrastructure. In a similar way, you'll also want to simplify the way in which the business requests and manages services. An online service portal presents your portfolio of services to the business, and integrates into your IT environment. If properly orchestrated, the business should be able to easily identify and monitor costs and service levels.
Finally, your Private Cloud architecture should easily expand to incorporate Public Cloud capabilities as the business requires. It's not just the circumstances surrounding or affecting the business today - you need to make room for change and plan for tomorrow. And that's the subject I'll come on to in my next post as we start to look at leveraging the benefits of the Hybrid Cloud model......