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If It Isn’t Self-Service, It Isn’t a Cloud

Posted by Ephraim Baron

10/28/15 8:30 AM

A while back, I was working for a large storage company.  We had a marketing campaign called “Journey to the Cloud” where we advised enterprises about cloud computing – as we defined it.  For us, the cloud was all about storage.  Of course, for server vendors the cloud was all about servers.  Ditto for networks, services, or whatever else you were selling.  There was a lot of “cloud-washing” going on.  I knew we’d reached the Trough of Disillusionment when, as I got up to present to a prospect, they told me “if you have the word ‘cloud’ in your deck, you can leave now.”

Fast-forward five years, and cloud computing appears to have reached the Slope of Enlightenment.  By nearly all measures, cloud adoption has increased.  Ask any CIO about their cloud strategy, and they’ll give you a well-rehearsed answer about how they’re exploiting cloud to increase agility and drive partnership with the business.  Then ask, “How are you enabling user self-service?”  Typical responses start with blank stares or visible shudders, followed by “oh, we don’t do that!”  They may say “we’re only using private cloud”, or they may mention OpenStack or containers.  If so, you should point out “If it isn’t self-service, it isn’t really a cloud.”

Unless it provides self-service it is not a cloud

Defining Cloud Computing

When looking for a definition of cloud computing, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) version is widely cited as the authoritative source.  NIST lists five “essential characteristics” of cloud computing.  The operative word is ‘essential’; not suggested; not nice-to-have.  If a service doesn’t have all five, it’s not a cloud. These include:

  • Broad network access
  • Rapid elasticity
  • Measured service
  • Resource pooling
  • On-demand self-service

The NIST model of cloud computing

 For the last of these, on-demand self-service, the cloud test is simple.  If users can request systems or applications and get them right away – without directly involving IT – they are getting on-demand self-service.  If they have to submit a ticket and wait for an intermediary to review and fulfill their request, it’s not a cloud.

Working With You or Around You

At this point, you may be told “we don’t offer self-service because our users don’t understand IT.  They need our help.”  There was a time when that reasoning may have worked.  The C-I-‘no’ of the recent past had the power to rule by fiat and ban anything that wasn’t explicitly on the IT approved list.  Users had no choice.  But times have changed.  Now, users can simply create an account with a public cloud service, swipe their credit card, and get what they want, when they want it.

As a result, companies are seeing a marked increase in so-called shadow IT – pockets of information technology that exist and are managed by users rather than by formal IT groups.  And while this may cause wailing and gnashing of teeth by everyone from security, to finance, to IT operations, it’s nearly impossible to stop.  The genie is out of the bottle.

Rather than trying to prevent or shut down rogue users, IT must take a different approach.  They need to ask their users “how can we help you?” rather than “how can we stop you?” 

“Be the cloud, Danny”

IT needs to become a cloud services provider to their users

If you work in IT and want to stay relevant, you need to be as easy to work with as a cloud service provider.  Do that, and users won’t look for alternatives.  After all, they have their own jobs to do.

So how do you get started?  That’s where CloudBolt comes in.  We’re a cloud management platform that was designed from the start with the end-user in mind.  We enable systems administrators to establish standard configurations and to publish them to their users via an online service catalog.  Users get rapid access to capacity; IT maintains control and compliance.  Best of all, CloudBolt isn’t restricted to a single cloud vendor’s services and APIs.  We work with more than a dozen cloud providers, from private to public, as well as with a wide variety of configuration management and orchestration tools.  We even integrate with legacy, brownfield environments giving you a single place for managing existing as well as new deployments.

The CloudBolt Service Catalog is where end users get what they need

If simple and powerful cloud management sounds appealing, try it for yourself.  Just download the CloudBolt virtual appliance.  It’s free to use for lab environments.  Deployment and setup are fast and easy.  Before you know it, you’ll be providing real cloud services to your users.

“Inconceivable!” you say?  Think again.

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Topics: Cloud Management, Automation, IT Self Service

You are not expected to understand this

Posted by Ephraim Baron

8/12/15 10:30 AM

I love the history of technology.  My favorite place in Silicon Valley is the Computer History Museum.  It’s a living timeline of computing technology, where each of us can find the point when we first joined the party.

It’s great to learn about technology pioneers – the geek elite.  Years ago I took a course on computer operating systems.  We were studying the evolution of UNIX, and we’d gotten to Lions’ Commentary on UNIX 6th Edition, circa 1977.  (As an aside, the entire UNIX operating system at that time was less than 10,000 lines of code.  By 2011 the Linux kernel alone required 15 million lines and 37,000 files.)  As we studied the process scheduler section, we came to one of the great “nerdifacts” of computer programming, line 2238, a comment which reads:

* You are not expected to understand this.

Daunting technology

That one line perfectly expresses my joys and frustrations with computing.  The joy comes from the confirmation that computers can do amazingly clever things.  The frustration is from the dismissive way I’m reminded of my inferiority.  And I think that sums up how most people feel about technology.

“Your call is important to us. Please continue to hold.”

In the corporate world, end users have a love-hate relationship with their IT departments.  It’s true that they help us to do our jobs.  But rather than giving us what we need, when we need it, our IT folks seem to always be telling us why our requests cannot be fulfilled.  Throughout my career I’ve been on both sides of this conversation.  Early on, I was the requester/supplicant who’d make my pleas to IT for services or support, only to be told to go away and come back on a day that didn’t end in ‘y’.  

notYes

Later, I was the IT administrator, then manager.  In those roles I was the person saying ‘no’ – far more often than I wanted.  It wasn’t because I got perverse pleasure out of disappointing people.  That was just the way my function was structured, measured, and delivered.

Almost without exception, the two metrics that drove my every action in IT operations were cost and uptime.  Responsiveness and customer satisfaction were not within my charter.  Simply put, I got no attaboys for doing things quickly.  While this certainly annoyed my customers, they knew and I knew that they had no alternatives.

The Age of Outsourcing

Things began to change in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s (yeah, I go back a ways) when large companies decided to try throwing money at their IT problems to make them go away.  So began the age of IT outsourcing, when companies tried desperately to disown in-house computer operations.  Such services were “outside of our core competency”, they reasoned, and so were better performed by seasoned professionals from large companies with three-letter names like IBM, EDS, and CSC.

Outsourcing question

Fast-forward 25 years and we find the IT outsourcing (ITO) market in decline.  There are many reasons for this.  The most common are:

  • Actual savings are often far less than projected
  • Long-term contracts limit flexibility, particularly in a field that changes as constantly as IT
  • There is an inherent asymmetry of goals between service provider and service consumer
  • Considerable effort is required to manage and monitor contracts and SLA compliance
  • New technologies like cloud computing offer viable alternatives

Just as video killed the radio star, cloud computing is a fresher, sexier alternative to ITO for enterprises searching for the all-important “competitive advantage”.

Power to the People!

Cloud computing isn’t just new wine in old bottles; it’s a fundamental change in the way computing resources are made available and consumed.  Cloud computing focuses on user needs (the ‘what’) rather than underlying technology (the ‘how’).

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) defines five essential characteristics of cloud computing.  One of these is ‘On-demand self-service’.  Think about what that means.  For the end user, it means getting what we need, when we need it.  For business, it means costs that align with usage, for services that make sense.  And for IT, it means being able to say ‘yes’ for a change.NIST cloud model

For too long, we have been held captive by technology.  Cloud computing promises to free us from technology middlemen.  It enables us to consume services that we value.

At its core, cloud computing is technology made understandable.

CloudBolt is a cloud management platform that enables self-service IT.  It allows IT organizations to define ready-to-use systems and environments, and to put them in the hands of their users.  Isn’t that a welcome change?

Learn more about self-service IT

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Topics: Customer, Cloud, Services, Agility, IT Self Service, Self Service IT

Three ways to prevent IT complexity from hindering cloud computing

Posted by Justin Nemmers

8/26/14 3:49 PM

Is IT environment complexity standing in the way of your ability to make better use of cloud computing technologies?  You’re not alone.

My daily conversations with prospects frequently have an undertone: “we’ve got a complexity problem,” they’re saying. Often, these IT organizations are not merely looking for software to help bridge this gap, but are looking for ways to help strategically alter the direction of IT at their business. Ideally, doing so in ways that help them to reduce complexity, unwinding a bit of the tangle that they have created in order to solve problems for which no single-package solution existed at the time.

IT Complexity makes implementing cloud more challenging
Successful IT organizations also tend to be ones that implement simpler solutions.

Cloud computing infrastructure technologies themselves are not necessarily simple, but the ways that IT organizations interface with them often are very well understood and defined. IT organizations want to move away from existing methods of end user access, and toward a more seamless, integrated (i.e. cloud-like) look and feel to their IT enterprise. Ironically, the very complexity that organizations want to solve with cloud-backed technologies becomes a relatively large chasm that must be crossed in order to be successful. The only real answer to this problem is a game-changing approach to how solutions are designed, implemented, and procured.

There are three ways IT organizations can help bridge the complexity chasm in their environments:

Reduce risk with simple solutions

IT risk is incurred when a project requires a significant investment of time and/or money, and has a chance of failing to meet the original business need. The more expensive and time consuming a project is, the higher the risk should it ultimately fail. For this reason, reducing the time and cost required to implement a solution can significantly reduce the risk of that solution. Restated, simple solutions that can be rapidly vetted, installed, configured, and put to use by the business reduce risk by saving time. Restated again, don’t be afraid to fail fast. 

Avoid typical enterprise software buying cycles

With the swipe of a credit card, IT consumers compete with their IT organizations by access a multitude of resources. Shadow IT is certainly costly, but decision makers should take note not just of the technologies their users are purchasing, but also how they’re purchasing them. Look for products that provide needed capability, but that also allow you to break out of the traditional negotiate a huge contract and pricing mechanism (only to have to be repeated in a year). These buying cycles are at odds with the ease-of-access expected with cloud.

Select technologies that ease troubleshooting

Effective troubleshooting is a challenging skill to master, yet complex solutions absolutely require this to be the most developed of an administrator’s skillset. Why is it, then, that many enterprise technologies pile on the complexity in ways that force organizations to rely even more on their staff’s troubleshooting skills? Selecting tools that are able to short-circuit long workflow dependency chains will help IT teams unwind some of the complexity inherent to solving challenging IT needs. For instance, an orchestration event constructed in a hub and spoke model is far easier to diagnose than a branched linear process, as there’s a common point of reference that can indicate exactly what, where, and why a process failed.

In summary, there are frequently many possible solutions to nearly every technical problem, but although they may solve your initial problem, those that are needlessly complex are more likely to create a pile of their own. Conversely, technical solutions that are simple tend to show value quite quickly, enabling the IT team to field a significant quick-win technology to grumpy end users.

Reducing overall complexity in the IT environment removes barriers to new technology adoption, including cloud, and is a critical success requirement on the journey to becoming a more agile IT enterprise.

Need a cloud manager, but scared of the complexity presented by other solutions? Look no further than CloudBolt. Request a download today, and you'll join our happy customers in saying "CloudBolt's power is in its simplicity."
Schedule a Demo
or try it yourself
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Topics: IT Challenges, Agility, IT Self Service

New Release of C2 Controlled IT Self Service Portal

Posted by Justin Nemmers

11/11/13 3:45 PM

C2 v4.2 of Controlled IT Self Service is Now Available

Our latest version features a new UI, and steps up the awesome from there.

Controlled IT Self Service Dashboard

Look and Feel

Already hailed as "the most intuitive" IT Self Service Software available on the market, C2's new user interface brings a modern look to the C2 Controlled IT Self Service Portal you know and love.

The new UI elements and organization will allow us to add additional capability into C2 that would have been troublesome to do in our existing UI. Interested in learning more about our roadmap? Drop us a line.

C2’s new look also includes a number of significant backend performance improvements. You should notice that overall, the UI is more responsive, loading pages faster, and filtering results quicker.

Dashboard

This latest version of C2 also introduces the C2 Dashboard. The C2 Dashboard provides an overview of things that are relevant to the user, including server statuses, order history, and information on the latest jobs. By default, the C2 Dashboard also serves as the landing page users are directed to upon login. As is the case with everything in C2, users will only see information on items that are relevant to them, and that they have permissions and access privileges to.

Reporting

Controlled IT Self Service requires reporting. Although C2 included a separate external advanced reporting system, customers asked for, and we have delivered some significant additional reporting functionality. 

C2 v4.2 now includes integrated reporting. C2 will now produce charts and graphs right from the UI, and also gains the ability to directly export the source data as CSV, which can then be opened and further analyzed in a spreadsheet program of your choice. C2 v4.2 ships with a number of embedded reports today, and we’ll be adding more with every update. Also new with integrated reporting: regular users also gain access to reporting capabilities. When run by a non-administrative user, the reports will only display and aggregate information about the servers, groups and logical data center environments they have access to.

Controlled IT Self Service Reporting Pie Chart

C2 Integrated reporting is also now available to C2 VE customers, including those that are using C2 VE at no-cost in environments under 100 VMs.

Controlled IT Self Service Report Highest Cost Servers

For those customers that have implemented C2’s advanced external reporting (which is provided by an external Jasper reports instance), those reports are now displayed to administrators directly in the UI. To ease the installation and configuration, CloudBolt also now provides the external Jasper reporting server as an OVA download. Contact support for more information.

Orchestration Hooks

Orchestration Hooks are how C2 interfaces and automates external systems that either do not have or need a connector. Every job type in C2 has multiple points where Orchestration Hooks can be configured to run, automating every last manual process and procedure in your IT Organization. While C2 has had this impressive capability since inception, we’ve made a few important changes in C2 v4.2.

We’ve made the power of C2 Orchestration Hooks even more accessible with an all-new UI. Additionally, we’ve also made it possible to select External Orchestrator flows from configured and integrated External Orchestration tools, including HP Operations Orchestration and (coming soon) VMware Orchestrator. Just select the appropriate job type, and then pick the hook point, and choose the flow(s) you’d like to run.

LDAP/AD Integration

C2 has directly integrated with multiple LDAP and/or Active Directory instances for a while now. In C2 v4.2, we’ve updated some of those fields to provide the room necessary for filter and search of larger, more complicated LDAP/AD environments.

The Upgrade Process

Good news! It’s as easy as ever.

Ready to get started? Request a download today.

Download C2

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Topics: Feature, Upgrade, Release Notes, IT Self Service

IT Organizations Want Cloud, but Need IT Self Service. Here's Why.

Posted by Justin Nemmers

10/30/13 9:20 AM

Most end users of IT Organization services have one thing in common: They just want access to the resources they need. They don’t like waiting, and frankly, the more you as an IT organization make them wait, the more likely they are to just go around you and create a nice little shadow IT environment. And even if they don't branch off on their own, they're likely to let you and others know they're not happy.

egnMy lovely daughter reminds me of some users I've worked with. They'll definitely let you know when they are not happy, and you'll probably come to regret whatever it was you did to piss them off.

In my travels, it seems to me that most IT organizations get—at least at some level—that they need to improve the level of service to the end user, but from there, they tend to lose their way about how to actually make that happen.
Path to the Cloud?

IT’s typical response to the end user pain is almost universally “Cloud!” This is great, except for the fact that the term “Cloud” has moved from maximum hype to beyond meaningless. The core issue is that once the concept of building a “Cloud” comes into the conversation, IT organizations invariably start long and convoluted planning processes about how they’ll be re-engineering the entire environment, what they need to buy, and the services they need to implement it. Oh, not to mention fabricating what all of the other Cloud requirements are. There will be negotiations and there will be fiefdoms resistant to change. There will be arguments and disagreements.

IT will finally reach an agreement, and look to begin implementing a large solution stack that will take lots of contracting, money, and professional services to implement. Many months later in the most agile organizations, IT will have something that they can show to the end user.

All the while, end users have been patiently waiting. Even if they’ve been involved in the Cloud planning process, with little to no improvement after months, they wonder how a seemingly simple request of “we just want our resources now instead of later” turned into such a massive engineering effort. 

Tactical Quick-Win

I’ve written before about how IT and Business speak different languages. The end users want IT Self Service. The IT Organization takes that requirement and rolls it into a larger cloud strategy, delaying and over-complicating a simple need.

IT Self Service is at the core of a cloud-enabled organization. What IT fails to understand is that there is significant value in providing a tactical quick-win capability to end users in need. IT values not having to replicate a bunch of work by implementing a tool that can’t grow and mature as their cloud adoption strategy takes shape. End users just want IT Self Service. IT needs and very much wants to ensure that deployed VMs and applications are governed and backed by policy that ensures they’re secure, effectively tracked, and accountable to specific users and groups. And once again, end users just want IT Self Service. IT wants to ensure they remain in control of their environment. After all, their jobs depend on it.

Just in case you haven’t picked up on my theme yet, end users don’t care a lick about Cloud. They just want to be able to get near-immediate access to resources they need to get their jobs done. Cloud to them could mean any one of a thousand different things—most of which are meaningless in the realm of IT.

In the hundreds of customer conversations that I’ve had since I started with CloudBolt, one theme is pretty common: many IT teams think that in order to be successful—and relevant—IT Self Service alone is insufficient. Successful IT organizations, however, share something in common: They know that IT Self Service isn’t just important, it’s everything when it comes to improving the interaction with end users.

Goal: Positively Impact Users

IT Organizations that are embroiled in a long and complicated Cloud strategy and implementation cycle must take steps to rapidly improve the level of service to lines of business. A tactically focused implementation of an IT Self Service software tool that offers immediate benefit to the end users and lines of business will go far to placate angry and disillusioned end users. This quick win helps to keep the IT Organization as a whole relevant. It is certainly important that your IT Self Service solution be not only quick to install but have expanded capabilities as you seek to broaden your organization’s approach to ‘Cloud’ but that immediate response to your IT consumers is paramount to the IT group remaining relevant to the overall organization.

Our CEO John Menkart previously wrote about how IT Organizations need to mature to become broker/providers of resources. The subtext of this is that it is the IT organization that decides who can run what, and where they can run it. End users again have little concern about where something is deployed; just that it is rapidly deployable, and meets performance, access, and (occasionally) cost metrics.

IT Organizations can also enable public cloud capabilities into their IT Self Service Portal. To that avail, IT Orgs with capable IT Self Service portals are much closer to hybrid cloud than they likely think.

Expanding on the normal wins from IT Self Service, controlled IT Self Service offers the needed level of policy-backed automated IT Self Service provisioning, while also ensuring that IT, process, and procedure is always followed. Reporting enables IT organizations to provide critical metrics back to lines of business in ways that have not previously been discoverable or reportable. Lines of business need this visibility and have in most cases been frustrated by the inability for IT to provide this for some time. (Yet another big win for the business.).

The scenario gets even better when the IT Organization realized that a good Controlled IT Self Service Portal will actually afford them the control that they need, and offer a quick-win “your-life-is-getting-better now” solution to end users.

So sit back, and think about what your goals with Cloud are, vs. what they should be. Then give us a call. We'd love to demo the C2 Controlled IT Self Service portal for you.

I want to see it!

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Topics: Challenges, People, IT Self Service