CloudBolt Software Logo

CloudBolt Blog

The People Side of Cloud Computing

Posted by Justin Nemmers

3/26/14 2:55 PM

 (Originally posted in the In-Q-Tel Quarterly)

The cloud-enabled enterprise fundamentally changes how personnel interact with IT. Users are more effective and efficient when they are granted on-demand access to resources, but these changes also alter the technical skill-sets that IT organizations need to effectively support, maintain, and advance their offerings to end users. Often, these changes are not always immediately obvious. Automation may be the linchpin of cloud computing, but the IT staff’s ability to effectively implement and manage a cloud-enabled enterprise is critical to the IT organization’s success and relevance. Compounding the difficulties, all of the existing legacy IT systems rarely just “go away” overnight, and many workloads, such as large databases, either don’t cleanly map to cloud-provided infrastructure, or would be cost-prohibitive when deployed there. The co-existence of legacy infrastructure, traditional IT operations, and cloud-enabled ecosystems create a complicated dance that seasoned IT leadership and technical implementers alike must learn to effectively navigate.

In-Q-Tel Quarterly Image

In the past five or so years, and as enterprise IT organizations have considered adopting cloud technologies, I’ve seen dozens of IT organizations fall into the trap of believing that increased automation will enable them to reduce staff. In my experience, however, staff reductions rarely happen.  IT organizations that approach cloud-enabled IT as a mechanism to reduce staffing are often surprised to find that these changes do not actually reduce complexity in the environment, but instead merely shift complexity from the operations to the applications team. For instance, deploying an existing application to Amazon Web Services (AWS) will not make it highly available.  Instead of IT administrators using on-premises software tools with reliable access—and high speed, low-latency network and storage interconnects—these administrators must now master concepts such as regions, availability zones, and the use of elastic load balancers. Also, applications often need to be modified or completely re-designed to increase fault tolerance levels. The result is that deployments are still relatively complex, but they often require different skillsets than a traditional IT administrator is likely to have.

A dramatic shift in complexity is one of the reasons why retraining is important for existing IT organizations.  Governance is another common focus area that experiences significant capability gains as a result of cloud-enabled infrastructure.  Automation ensures that every provisioned resource successfully completes each and every lifecycle management step 100% of the time.  This revelation will be new to both IT operations and end users. I’ve also frequently seen components of the IT governance mechanism totally break down due to end user revolt—largely because particularly onerous processes could be skipped by the administrators as they manually provisioned resources.

Cloud-based compute resources will dramatically change the computing landscape in nearly any organization I’ve dealt with. For example, one IT Director worked to automate his entire provisioning and lifecycle management process, which resulted in freeing up close to three FTE’s (Full Time Equivalent) worth of team time.  Automating their processes and offering end users on-demand access to resources helped their internal customers, but it also generated substantial time savings for that team. The IT director also recognized what many miss: the cloud offerings may shift complexity in the stack, but ultimately all of those fancy cloud instances are really just Windows and Linux systems. Instances that still require traditional care and feeding from IT. Tasks such as Active Directory administration, patch management, vulnerability assessment, and configuration management don’t go away.

Another common learned-lesson that I have witnessed is that with shifting complexity comes dependence on new skills in the availability and monitoring realms. Lacking access to physical hardware, storage, and network infrastructure does not remove them as potential problem areas. As a result, Ihave seen organizations too slowly realize that applications need to be more tolerant of failures than they were under previous operating models.  Making applications more resilient requires different skills that traditional IT teams need to learn and engrain in order to effectively grow into a cloud-enabled world. Additionally, when developers and quality assurance teams have real-time access to needed resources, they also tend to speed up their releases, placing an increased demand on the workforce components responsible for tasks such as release engineering, release planning, and possibly even marketing, etc.

I’ve encountered few customers that have environments well suited for a complete migration to the public cloud. While a modern-day IT organization needs to prepare for the inevitability of running workloads in the public or community clouds, they must also prepare for the continued offering of private cloud services and legacy infrastructures. Analyst firms such as Gartner suggest that the appropriate path forward for IT orgs is to become a broker/provider of services. The subtext of that statement is that IT teams must remain in full control over who can deploy what, and where. IT organizations must control which apps can be deployed to a cloud, and which clouds are acceptable based on security, cost, capability, etc. Future IT teams should be presenting users with a choice of applications or services based on that user’s role, and the IT team gets to worry about the most appropriate deployment environment. When this future materializes, these are all new skills IT departments will need to master. Today, analyzing cloud deployment choices and recommending the approaches that should be made available are areas that typically fall outside the skillsets of many IT administrators. Unfortunately, these are precisely the skills that are needed, but I’ve witnessed many IT organizations overlook them. 

The Way Ahead

While IT staff can save significant time when the entirety of provisioning and lifecycle management is automated, there are still many needs elsewhere in the IT organization.  The successful approaches I’ve seen IT organizations use all involve refocusing staff to value-added tasks. When IT administrators are able to spend time on interesting problems rather than performing near-constant and routine provisioning and maintenance, they are often more involved, fulfilled, and frequently produce innovative solutions that save organizations money. Changing skillsets and requirements will also have a likely affect on existing contracts for organizations with heavily outsourced staffing.  

Governance is another important area where changes in the status quo can lead to additional benefits. For example, manually provisioned and managed environments that also have manual centralized governance processes and procedures typically have significant variance in what is actually deployed vs. what the process says should have been deployed: i.e. processes are rarely followed as closely as necessary. No matter how good the management systems, without automation and assignment, problems like Virtual Machine “sprawl” quickly become rampant. I’ve also seen scenarios where end users revolt because they were finally subjected to policies that had been in place for a while, but were routinely skipped by administrators manually provisioning systems. Implementing automation means being prepared to retool some of the more onerous policies as needed, but even with retooled processes, automated provisioning and management provides for a higher assurance level than is possible with manual processes.

Automation in IT environments is nothing new. However, today’s IT organizations can no longer solely rely on the traditional operational way of doing things. Effective leadership of IT staff is critical to the organization’s ability to successfully transition from a traditional provider of in-house IT to an agile broker/provider of resources and services.  Understanding the cloud impacts much more than just technology is a great place to start.  This doesn’t mean that organizations that are currently implementing cloud-enabling solutions need to jam on the brakes, just realize that the cloud is not a magic cure-all for staffing issues. Organizations need to evaluate the potential impact of shifting complexity to other teams, and generally plan for disruption. Just as you would with any large-scale enterprise technology implementation, ensuring that IT staff has the appropriate skills necessary to successfully implement and maintain the desired end state will go a long way to ensuring your success.  


 

Justin Nemmers is the Executive Vice President of Marketing at CloudBolt Software, Inc.CloudBolt’s flagship product, CloudBolt C2, is a unified IT management platform that provides self-service IT and automated management/provisioning of on-premises and cloud-based IT resources.  Prior to joining the team at CloudBolt, Nemmers has held both technical and sales-focused leadership roles at Salsa Labs, and Red Hat, where he ran government services. Nemmers resides in Raleigh, NC with his wife and daughter.

Read More

Topics: IT Challenges, Cloud, People

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!

Read More

Topics: Challenges, People, IT Self Service

VMware Lab Manager is going away and CloudBolt C2 can take over.

Posted by Justin Nemmers

1/24/13 6:11 PM

I happened to catch Brandon Butler’s article talking about the replacement choices customers have now that VMware’s Lab Manager product is being discontinued.  There has been no shortage of vendors to quickly put their hands up with claims such as “no net new costs” or offering new cloud service provider options to help those customers move to something new and better.  Some of these solutions still require you to upgrade from vCenter 4 to 5.  Others are overly complicated, or require you to use something different than vCenter-based virtualization altogether.

VMware Lab Manager discontinued
Your Lab Manager installation will be far less functional (or colorful) in a few months.

Beyond self-service provisioning, this is a great opportunity for a VMware Lab Manager customer to extend their capabilities while:

  • requiring a minimum of both effort and changes to their process
  • allowing the organization the option of utilizing public cloud resources 

Too good to be true?  Hardly!

For starters, CloudBolt Command and Control (C2) is amazingly easy to install and configure.  Download the virtual appliance, import it into your vCenter cluster (it even works on version 4!), and you’re off to the races.  With most installation and configurations taking less than 20 minutes, CloudBolt C2 can start deploying instances in your vCenter environment almost immediately.  Not only can your users easily provision their resources using CloudBolt C2’s self service interface, but you’ll get the easy ability to seamlessly use public cloud resources, if desired. 

CloudBolt C2 is much more capable than that, too…  but I’ll save the best for last after a recap, of course…

  • You have VMware Lab Manager
  • You have vCenter
  • You need to rapidly and repeatedly provision instances

Of course, CloudBolt C2 do all of that, but we’ve got a special treat.  CloudBolt C2 Virtualization Edition is free to use for up to 100 managed VMs.  I’m not even saying no net new cost.  I’m saying no cost.  How’s that for an option? 

Get C2 Product Overview
Read More

Topics: Management, Consumability, VMware, IT Organization, People

Gartner Research & Linthicum: CIO’s Need to Deploy Cloud Management

Posted by Justin Nemmers

1/24/13 12:51 PM

In a recent posting, David Linthicum discusses how a Gartner survey reports CIOs are saying more now than ever that cloud is a top priority.  He continues to say these same CIOs are at risk if they’re not moving their organizations toward Cloud Computing.  As he says “No surprise there.”

CIO House For Sale

CIOs - Either figure out a way to leverage cloud technology, or get into real estate

 

I think that there are several thoughts worth digging into a little more:

  • The average CIO’s IT organization is under a full-frontal assault by public cloud technologies which show users that a highly agile IT organization is not only possible, but it’s happening right now. 
  • Even if a business is not investigating or actively using public cloud, internal users still understand how quickly they should be able to get new resources delivered.
  • Groups that already have either public cloud deployments, or public cloud/other internal deployments, the IT organization’s ability to rapidly deliver new resources is key.  Over time, those organizations will look more like broker/providers as they gain significant agility from structural changes, and will be able to support both public and private deployments based on what’s best for the requested workload.
  • Any realistic cloud deployment plan has to include updates to process and procedures—i.e. you have to modify the organizational structure to be successful. 

It’s great that CIOs are (again) making a verbal commitment to investigate and implement cloud technologies, but as Linthicum says, “I suspect some CIOs did not respond to the Gartner survey honestly and will continue to kick plans to develop a cloud strategy further down the road.”

So how do you even get started?  My recommendation to CIOs:  Start by identifying some low-hanging fruit.  Deploy a Cloud Management Platform technology that enables cloud services such as IaaS and PaaS using your existing technology pool.  Then, pick a particularly savvy part of your user base, and push them into a IaaS/PaaS model using a modicum of surplus resources and this new technology.  As you work out the kinks, expand the project to cover more groups and workloads.  It’s a winning model, and I believe that many of these groups will find it considerably easier implement or expand cloud implementations and projects. 

In the end, Dave’s got it right…  Cloud might seem difficult, but I’m guessing that the real estate market is tougher.

Read More

Topics: IT Organization, People, Agility, CIO

Better Leverage your IT Operations with a Cloud Management Platform

Posted by Justin Nemmers

12/17/12 2:10 PM

 

Call it what you'd like: Cloud Management Platform, Cloud Manager, or even a Virtualization Manager, but one fact remains-- technology that unifies the management and provisioning of your IT environment is here to stay.  If you're not already looking at one to help reduce I&O expenses, you should be. 

At a high level, Cloud Management Platforms such as CloudBolt Software's Command and Control (C2) provide a layer of management on top of existing virtual environments.  We drive a greater value from existing virtualization and data enter automation/configuration management tools by unifying the management and visibility.  A world-class Cloud Management Platform provides visibility and control of your IT environment mapped to your business via a single pane-of-glass.  That sort of cohesive internal management makes IT more agile and can lower costs.

Of course, we can't stop there.  In a recent Gartner poll, 47% of IT groups planned to have some type of hybrid cloud deployment by 2015-- so any reasonably capable Cloud Management Platform must also provide the same level of management and oversight over public cloud instances and deployments.

Together, these capabilities allow IT line of business owners to rapidly transform their organization into a more agile part service-provider and part cloud broker.

This, according to Gartner, is the likely path of successful IT organizations that are under a near-constant assault from public cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services and Rackspace.  There is no area of business IT that is safe from this attack.  Public cloud vendors in the US and other countries are even now racing to stand up government-only environments, which meet the copious requirements—which often amount to pages of standards required to host many government applications.

Blue CloudBolt Cloud Manager Hero

Transformation must happen.

To me, the conclusion for any business leader in IT seems to be crystal clear:  transform or be transformed.  This is where effective cloud management comes into play.  By all reasonable accounts, you're either already virtualizing, or have virtualized most workloads capable of being hosted in this model.  The task does not end there.  You must transform your IT organization to be more agile-- more able to respond to the needs of the greater business in less time, and lower cost than the big public providers are able to accomplish.  The only path to this situation is effective cloud management.  

It's a little more complicated than just providing a self-service portal to your users.  There is still significant amounts of policy that need to be updated and adapted to a cloud-enteric world, be it private, public, or hybrid.  You need to continue to provide end-to-end life cycle management, and must be able to deliver the applications that end users need, while doing so in a manner that is controlled and well understood.  

Our recommendation?  Layer in a cloud management technology that will work with what you have in place today.  This way, you have the ability to adopt new technology and adjust your processes gradually, and as it makes sense, vs. the infrequently successful and high cost approach of large infrastructure deployment and vendor lock-in.  Gradually molding your business processes into a cloud-centric model produces a higher success rate, as it provides you the ability to gain immediate benefit: getting resources to users more rapidly, but while also allowing you to plan how best to further implement your newfound flexibility.  This approach solves many common needs:

  • Move dev/test to public cloud resources?  
  • Implement resource quotas? Modify approval processes?
  • Make more public cloud resources available as needed?
  • Implement charge or show-back accounting for resource consumption?   

Have a look at our Cloud Management Platform.  We think you'll find it not only has industry-leading capabilities, but will be easier to use and integrate into your existing processes than literally anything else out there, and at a CapEx and OpEx that cannot be beat by anyone in the industry.  But don't take our word for it-- download it for free and get started today.

Read More

Topics: Corporate, IT Challenges, Consumability, Virtualization, People