Cloud Management

This is a continuation (well, at least sort of..) to my previous blog text, Cloud Services – the Business perspective.

Like I wrote, Cloud Services have rushed into the markets relatively rapidly and they have been able to fulfill some key expectations, for example in terms of Cost Efficiency, Scalability etc.

But who actually manages Cloud Services? And if Cloud Services are called “Services”, what kind of services are there available and why should anybody care about them?

From IT Services to DIY approach

According to Wikipedia, “Cloud management is the management of cloud computing products and service”.

 

DIY Cloud ManagementFor more than two decades, IT Service Management has been the way where organizations have striven for. Simply because managing the IT Services has not usually been the core business for organizations. IT Service Management is mainstream nowadays and people seem to be quite confident with it. Someone takes care of your problems (Incident Management) and requests (Request Fulfillment) and you can concentrate on doing what you are being paid for.

if Cloud Services are called “Services”, what kind of services are there available

If so, why is it that I keep hearing from several companies offering Cloud Services: “There is this nice&neat User Interface where you can easily start new virtual servers and also ramp them down when you don’t need ’em anymore”.

Self-provisioning, Self-help, Self-this-and-that?

Now that we have finally reached the level where a user does no longer need to solve his/her IT-related problems on his/her own, for some reason Cloud companies are accelerating the pace with providing more and more tools for the user to start/stop virtual servers and handle storage capacity in Cloud environment!

“It’s easy, just like that.. just click this, define this and that and you’re good to go!”

  • Thanks, I’ll give it a try.. but what if
    • I need an L3 connection from my internal network to this cloud environment which lies in a public internet? I’m not even sure what is the correct source IP-address.
    • I’m not quite sure how much more capacity I need for this certain system?
    • There are 2000 users who should be able to access the system in the cloud environment? Who grants accesses for them and takes care of the overall Access Management?
    • I want a comprehensive, formal report in some other form than the one being available. How do I get it?

Doesn’t seem to be so “easy, just like that.. just click this, define this and that and you’re good to go!”

As long as you are using some software you are buying as an SAAS (Software-as-a-Service) model and you don’t need any integration to your other systems, using Cloud is a trivial thing as everything is usually ready-made for you. You only need to start using the Software (as-a-Service). But when it comes down to integrations, it’s totally different story.

Doesn’t seem to be so “easy, just like that.. just click this, define this and that and you’re good to go!”

User-Friendliness?

In my opinion, the problem with lack of User-Friendliness is built into the history of the IT industry: Too often we tend to take a sole technical viewpoint to new things. Yes, we do recognize the pros and benefits behind a new tech, but we often fail to take the end-user’s perspective into account.

The irony is, that for at least some 20-25 years, the IT Industry has been speaking highly for IT Services, and now we are suggesting that for some unknown reason users should start managing the cloud environment more or less themselves?

Too often we tend to take a sole technical viewpoint to new things.

Who needs Cloud Service Management? No, who doesn’t!?

Ok, say, you have a small IT-company with <10 personnel: in your case it might be a good idea to handle the Cloud Computing issues yourselves. For any other company my suggestion is simple: Use your IT Service Provider’s helping hand! Just like TechTargets puts it, A distinguished IT Services provider can use cloud service management and cloud monitoring tools to maximize performance, reduce costs and differentiate their cloud services.

Services

The Cloud Services Management includes a set of services that are already mostly known from traditional IT Service Management:

 

  • Cloud Service Level Agreement
  • Cloud Capacity Management
  • Change Management
  • Configuration Management
  • Incident Management
  • Access Management
  • Reporting (including billing)
  • etc.

 

Quality Service ProvisionIn other words: Cloud Service Management expands the existing ITSM repertoire. It’s not the 7th wonder of the World, but a significant part of the modern IT Services Package. In short: there’s usually no point in provoking customers try managing the Cloud environment themselves. It just doesn’t pay off the effort.

 

 

 

Common Misconceptions of Cloud Services

I was participating the annual Social & Healthcare ICT Conference here in Finland on May this year. There were a large number of phenomenal speeches from heavy-duty ICT Healthcare professionals. But I also happened to hear some basic-level Misconceptions of the Cloud -related issues when speaking with Healthcare professional on the corridors.. To this end I’d like to take the chance to address ’em and provide some corrections. So here we go:

  • Data Centres? We don’t need data centres at all any more because we are using Cloud Services!
  • – Ehm.. what do You think, where’s the actual computing done, and where’s the Storage? Somewhere over the rainbow, in the Stratosphere perhaps?
  • – Seriously speaking, computing, storage services, database operations etc. are still taking place in some physical place and that is a surprise for some people.
  • We are only using Virtual Servers, we don’t need to deal with hardware servers on any level any more.
  • Yeah, right.. At the end of the day also Virtual Servers are running on physical servers and not in an empty space..
  • I can take everything to the Cloud – there’s no need for an on-premise solution whatsoever.
  • Not so fast.. Some of the computing must still happen on-premise. For example Network latency might hinder you from using an autopiloted car and that’s why the AI service must be placed somewhere in the car and not in some Cloud Environment (Data Centre) some ~10000kms away from your car.

I know, it’s so easy to laugh at people’s misunderstandings and misconceptions. Even though I listed those three examples above with a little bit of sarcastic touch on them, I definitely absolutely don’t want to laugh at anyone. Given the way in which Cloud Services are advertised nowadays, it’s not so surprising. Maybe we Service Providers could be more clear in Cloud Services advertising and communications..

 

Pictures are from Pixabay.

Cloud Services – the Business perspective

Cloud Services have rushed into the markets relatively rapidly. It’s only been a little more than 10 years ago when we first learnt about the cloud computing.

Cloud computing – where do we stand today?

Last year
(2016) the Cloud computing revenues jumped 25%, and the year 2016 was the first in which cloud computing started to dominate many IT market segments according to GeekWire’s article. In addition to that, Operator and vendor revenue for six segments of cloud computing reached $148 billion during that period, so it’s safe to say Cloud computing is totally mainstream today.

Operator and vendor revenue for six segments of cloud computing reached $148 billion

We all know the recent history of data centers emerging and customers buying monthly-basis fixed priced data computing volume, in volumes. Some customers even ended up building their own data centers instead of using the IT providers’ data centers.

skyscraper-90560_640

 Cloud computing vs. Data Centers

Today there’s an ongoing battle between the Cloud computing vs. Data Centers. I’ve seen many articles addressing the issue, for example Atlantech’s blog has a pretty good, albeit short, comparison between the Private Cloud and Data Center, written by Tom Collins (any relationships between him and the famous cocktail drink are unknown to me! 🙂 )

Cloud Services – the Business perspective

Having said that, I just can’t get over it, that in my opinion most of the above mentioned comparisons seem to lack something. Yes sir/ma’am, you’ve got a number of rows of text explaining the difference between the choices, and features are been unwrapped in tiniest details. But often these comparisons lack the true Business perspective of Cloud computing! Instead of listing the features and differences, one should try to see the world through the customers’, the business’ point of view. And that’s where I’m putting my 20 cents now.

these comparisons lack the true Business perspective of Cloud computing

The business is just so easy: buy low, sell high. Or, produce something (goods, services, whatever) people desperately want or need. The key question is: How can Cloud computing help make me more successful in my business operations?

Business wants answers to the right questions

What the business really needs is for example:

  • Cost efficiency: Business is willing to pay, but only for the time period the business requires, and only the required amount (+ perhaps a little bit more than that, just in case) of services, like computing power, storage, network connections etc.
  • Just in time: Business needs the services right on time! Not two months ahead and most certainly not two weeks, let alone months, too late.
  • Easy buying: transparent pricing, klick-to-buy (limited amount of ready-made choices or _very_ user-friendly configurator tool).
  • Scalability: during the night-time there is might be less usage than during the daytime, and when getting a number of new users to the system, it should be possible scale the platform up very easily.
  • Continual improvement and development: there should be tools available to support the r&d of the system, when necessary.

businessmen-2010021_640

These are only a few key factors that the business is looking after when thinking about Cloud computing. Of course there are other factors as well, like user accessibility, security issues, multi-site data replication and so on.

Oh yes, the recommendations!

Now, I never do this, I have never done that before – but I’m about to do it. Do what? Give recommendation! And guess what? I’m going to recommend the Cloud services of my employer, Fujitsu Ltd! This probably ruins my credibility, but as of today, 2nd of February 2017, I’m confident that Fujitsu’s Enterprise Cloud Service K5 is the best Cloud based solution available in the world! Simple as that.

Hyping up the K5 – seriously

No, I’m not getting paid for advertising my employer’s stuff. I just stand behind my opinion, that the Fujitsu K5 meets all the Business requirements I listed above: thoroughly transparent, hour-based pricing, getting the Cloud computing up’n’ running in a few minutes*, ready-made computing packages that are easy to configure, very good scalability options, supports OpenStack and offers an application execution environment service based on the open source Cloud Foundry.

* Means that if you want to run the K5 Cloud in parallel or as part of your own data center’s internal network, then of course it takes more time than a few minutes, but it’s also up to other actors than the K5 itself.

Imagine what you can do, if you are developing software on open source tools, use PostgreSQL, and would like to pay for only the amount of computing power and storage you really need, for only the time-period you need. In K5 you can find support for your sw development and DevOps, yet there’s support for OpenStack, VMWare and Bare Metal. So it’s fare to say you really got options.

Imagine what you can do

Of course it’s not always possible to do that, as quite many enterprises are using Oracle of Microsoft databases and end up paying for millions of €uros to these bloodsuckers I mean distinguished IT companies yearly. Sometimes it might make sense to start thinking of converting the databases towards more cost efficient db solutions.

It’s about a time to change. Why not?

Personally I have, from time to time, given a thought to why do so many enterprises really pay carriages of money to these distinguished IT companies. I’ve only figured out two reasons:

  • “We have always done that” -> that is of course the most rock solid explanation. Why change anything, ever?
  • “No one has ever got fired for recommending IBM” -> this was the key guideline to all the investment bankers during the ‘70s and ‘80s, and is still occasionally a good emergency fake.

To the end I’d say: take a chance! If not anything else, you might find yourself saving loads of money in terms of licence costs.

Pictures are from Pixabay.

Consumerization: Customer satisfaction surveys

Consumerization: Customer satisfaction surveys

Everybody receives ‘em, from every kind of services: whether it was a hotel accommodation or a booking of concert tickets or anything.. In the era of consumerization the end customer is a king and their opinion counts. But what’s the point of customer satisfaction surveys if they fail to reach the most crucial thing: customer satisfaction?

My case: Invoicing gone bad

Last week I received an invoice concerning the maintenance service of my car. I knew for sure I had paid the bill in question already a month ago.

I called to the service desk and after waiting for around 10 minutes (I was not happy with 10 minutes response time!) my call was answered. The customer support person was polite and yes, the invoice was a double invoice and according to the customer support person I could just ignore it. There would not be a reminder of an unpaid bill coming afterwards.

When the phone call ended, it took less than 1 minute to receive a customer satisfaction survey (later on just “Css”) as an SMS. I could either answer Y(es) or N(o) to let the service provider know if my case was solved or not.

So let’s wrap up what really happened:

  • I got an unfounded invoice concerning a service I had already paid for.
  • I waited for ~10 minutes on the phone for response.
  • I got a Css in less than 1 minute.
  • I could just answer “(Y)”es or “(N)”o describing about my satisfactory on my case.

When the phone call ended, it took less than 1 minute to receive a customer satisfaction survey as an SMS.

Case closed?

The customer support person told me on the phone that the unfounded invoice had already been credited. However, it took three more days until I got the credit note and a so-called explanation of what had happened. Until I finally received it, I didn’t want to answer the survey: I had no tools to verify if they really had handled my case properly or not – and what’s even more serious: I didn’t trust them at this point.

By the way, do you want to know the root cause for the incident in this case? 

Ta-da-daa… Surprisingly: “system failure”! That’s really enlightening and I’m sure their customers can feel themselves relieved now..

Measuring customer satisfaction?

It’s interesting that the only answering option I got was a binary 0 or 1 (Yes or No) to the Css.

What’s the point of conducting Css’s if the only information you get is just Yes or No? Sure, you can do advanced mathematics and calculate the percentage of all the Css’s and compare the Yes-No results. That gives you something, but it’s almost nothing.

Wouldn’t you like to receive even a little bit more information? For example:

  • How likely would you be to recommend our customer service to your colleagues and friends [0-10]?
  • How would you rate your experience of our customer service in general [0-10]?
  • How quickly did you get through to a customer service specialist [0-10]?
  • ..

There are loads and loads and loads of examples of the Css questions in the internet, so there’s no need to list more of them here.

My point is: why to conduct Css’s if the only measure is a percentage of solved cases vs. all the cases?

Timing is everything

And finally, about getting the Css in advance: the problem is that if you answer to the Css too early (= before you are certain your case is handled properly and closed), you might

  • give unnecessarily good feedback of the service, if it later on turns out that your case was actually still unresolved
  • have to go your problem all over again, calling or otherwise contacting the service desk and dealing with yet another customer support specialist, because your earlier incident has already been closed and thus is not active any more.

Why? Because you answered Yes to the Css you received too early.

There is a collision between the Service Desk’s point of view and the end customer’s experience: from SD’s point of view the case is closed, but the end customer has no possibility to verify if the case is solved, they can only trust the Service Desk.

ITIL® & Consumerization: B2C business model

B2B vs. B2C business model?

How does the B2C business model differ from B2B model and what’s the ITIL® and ITSM point of view?

I’ll focus on two new (post-2000 era) phenomenons which are often mentioned in connection with B2C business model (later on BM): On-Demand and Pay-as-you-dosomething

On-Demand

The idea behind On-Demand services is that you basically can have your needs fulfilled whatever they are, whenever you want it, regardless of where you are. Exactly the right amount and just in time. In practice there are naturally many obstacles on the way, but that’s the basic idea.

You can now have your food delivered, you can exchange small services with your neighbours, get your car parked and see loads of your favourite movies  as you wish.

I’d still call this phase an On-Demand v1.0. You have a variety of different services available, but you

  • a) still need to use them by yourself,
  • b) one after another. There is
  • c) no integration nor
  • d) a common platform where all those different services could
  • e) provide interoperability to the users among themselves.

So at the moment you can not have your house cleaned automatically every time while going to the movies etc. unless you order the services by yourself.

I’d still call this phase an On-Demand v1.0. 

On the other hand a lot of consumers might also resist that kind of automation at least in the beginning, because it would take away the control – or feeling of it – of those little things in their everyday lives.

Pay-as-you-dosomething

I have paid for a continuous travel insurance for a few years. I used to pay for it even though I only travelled abroad for around 3-5 times a year. I stopped paying for the continuous insurance when I realized that I was actually paying for it unnecessarily; you see, I always use my credit card when paying for flights or reserving hotel accommodation and the travel insurance is a built-in feature in my credit card.

But even if I hadn’t got my credit card, I wouldn’t like to pay for a travel insurance for 24/7/365 when only traveling around ~25-35 days a year. And that IS changing rapidly thanks to those pay-as-you.. services.

I wouldn’t like to pay for a travel insurance for 24/7/365 when only traveling around ~25-35 days a year.

So now you can i.e. have your car insured with a pay-as-you-go-car-insurance. Cool! You can also have your pay-as-you-go-mobile-phone and pay-as-you-go-cloud-computing.

The main idea behind the pay-as-you-dosomething is simply put: charges are based on usage.

Payment model

In many cases, paying for On-Demand or Pay-as-you-dosomething services seems very fair: no need to pay for a three years licence if you only are using the item for a couple of months.

In reality it can also backfire you: it’s very easy to buy a number of these services, since the one-time payment is usually quite low. The downside is, that you can easily end up paying for those bills i.e. every month. For instance I have made a one-time investment and bought an Adobe Photoshop Elements 11 software + licence around three years ago for my iMac, and I can use the software as long as I want to (or can, depending on the requirements of Mac OS X operating system). I’m not interested in paying for a monthly fee for the software I only use a few times per year, neither do I need all the new features there are in the newest version(s). It’s obvious, that some people do.

The downside is, that you can easily end up paying for those bills i.e. every month.

But that’s also an example, that in many cases, pay-as-you-dosometing and on-demand services are still not minute-usage-based services but rather monthly usage based services.

ITIL & ITSM perspective in B2C business model?

While in my earlier blog texts here and here I have listed a number of reasons why ITIL should pay much more attention to the consumerization as it does nowadays, I would say that the ITSM perspective is actually not so different in B2C BM compared to the B2B BM.

Some differences surely do exist: In B2C one might have much more (end) users and thus one shall implement enough ways for the end users to communicate with the service desk (self-service tools, chat, phone numbers etc.). Also some other things are done very differently: there are no meetings on regular basis  with the customers, where different metrics would be shown and/or a prearranged agenda would be gone through. Instead, the metrics and developmental issues would most likely be available in the internet. Then on the other hand, customer feedback is just as necessary in B2C BM as in B2B BM and one should maybe put even more effort in expounding it, since there are no filters in between the end users and the service provider, and the end users are not so limited amount of people but are more like whoever.

customer feedback is just as necessary in B2C BM as in B2B BM and one should maybe put even more effort in expounding it

But from the service providers’ point of view the ITIL life cycles are there no matter if the BM is B2B or B2C: Service Strategy, Service Design, Service Transition, Service Operation and CSI – they are there. Perhaps the biggest differences happen in the Service Operation life cycle. It’s totally another thing to serve customers with devices and applications running in a standardised environment than serving end users all around the world using pretty much every single possible equipment, operating system, version, configuration etc.

It’s totally another thing to serve customers with devices and applications running in a standardised environment than serving end users all around the world using pretty much every single possible equipment, operating system, version, configuration etc. 

All in all, in B2C BM all kinds of Continual Service Improvement and Managing Over Life Cycle -related processes and functions are run primarily by the service provider itself. In B2B BM, customer tends to have at least something to say about how the supplier manages the services even they’d have totally outsourced the services. But in the B2C BM end users are usually quite scattered group of people and they lack the forum to present their ideas and requirements. Of course people can always send feedback, but that’s not the same thing as meeting the customers’ IT and/or business representatives on regular basis. And if the end users are not happy, they can always express their feelings in a social media, as was discussed in the previous blogtext..

Consumerization is shown also in the sense, that the BYOD (here: Bring Your Own Devices) is getting more and more popular, and also some previously strictly standardised environments are getting more heterogenous. That brings some elements from B2C business model to the B2B as well.

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