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.

License Management – trick or treat?

Sailing through the murky waters of License Management can be frustrating. I’ll share some ideas and pitfalls I’ve gone through with the topic in question, and I’ll make one suggestion which would help people dealing with License Management issues.

That was then…

Once upon a time there was a customer who needed certain software to run his/her business. Back in time everything was relatively easy: customer bought a software (application), which was delivered on a media like 5.25” or 3.5” floppy disk. Customer used the software as long as it was needed and later on bought perhaps a new application.

In case there was no proper software available, customer most probably contacted a software company to help specify the requirements and develop the software in question.

Plain and simple, neat and tidy. Development of hardware was so rapid that one didn’t usually reach a new version of the software until his/her workstation was already outdated.

floppy-disk-214975_640At that time, if there was need to run the software on more than one workstation either you bought another piece of the same software or (probably) violated copyrights by installing the software into a new workstation. But who was ever going to know about that, as your workstations were not networked?

Somebody then came with the idea of licensing: why to demand customers buy yet another copy of the same software, when you could just sell a ”licence” (for example a string of letters and numbers) and grant customer install the software to n pcs of different workstations?

Around the same time more and more workstations joined the network called the Internet and the first concurrent user licenses appeared to the market.

…this is now!

Nowadays it’s a jungle out there! As long as you have a small business with <5 workstations and less than 10 applications you’re doing OK. But once you run even a little bit bigger business – not to mention global scale enterprises, it’s a whole different story.

Let’s dig a little bit deeper into the world of licenses.

Licensing models

Let’s assume you are a CIO in a global scale company and it’s in your best interests to grab the best license agreement with your software vendor(s).

  • ”What should I do?”, you may ask.

Well, I have a rock solid answer that usually works: go to the basics. You should first define and specify certain basic information about the usage of the software you’re about to buy licenses for. Start with i.e. something like that:

  • amount of total users
  • amount of concurrent users
  • geographical locations of your users
  • number of servers
  • number of processors in servers running the software
  • number of cores in processors in servers running the software
  • pretty much anything, all the available information!

 processor-583695_640

Number of total users is often used as a pricing basis, but there may be other situation factors as well.

Concurrent user licenses

You have operations, say, in Australia, Poland and Argentina. Your total number of users for this particular software is 9000 users. But the user base is split between the three office sites in different countries, different continents. In this case you should find out if you could agree on paying only for the concurrent users and actually save money by buying software license for 3000 concurrent users instead of 9000 total users.

Concurrent user licensing is relatively fair model of pricing the licenses. The downside is it often requires almost continuous network access. Normally it’s not a problem, but in certain field services –based work it can still be an issue today. The licensing service, which lies on a license server pings workstations at certain intervals to make sure there’s a license in place. It releases unused licenses from workstations and reserves licenses to workstations whenever needed. If you run out of licenses, you usually have to wait until someone stops using the software and the license is released into the license pool. Or you go out to buy some more concurrent user licenses.

Other licensing models

There’s a number of software where licencing costs are calculated regarding the environment they run. In other words you may need to report very detailed-level information describing your data center: number of servers (installed/using the software in question), number of processors (in the server that is running the software in question) and the number of processor cores (in the processors residing in your servers that have the software installed or are using it).

Now, I’m not going to go further into the world of different licencing models. But I want to make a question:

Why has license management been made so god damn difficult!?

It’s everything but straightforward to manage your licences. Buying can be relatively easy, if you have very deep pockets and you are willing to throw your money away. But buying just the licenses you need, for the time-period needed, and the correct amount of ’em.. you name it. It’s like a jungle out there.

 3rd parties showing up

There are companies performing license auditing in favor of the IPR owning companies. For example Microsoft performs – or their license auditing partner company does the job – a so-called ”true-up” auditing for an organization and then they report to Microsoft about the situation, and MS then tells the amount of needed new licences. In the world of volume licensing, true-up –stylish approach is quite good because the idea is that software can be installed wild and free, and then the auditing is conducted once a year to calculate the number of required new licenses. So one doesn’t necessarily need to purchase new licenses at the same time when installing new software, but accounts are being balanced annually.

 Sniffing through the environment

The auditing itself usually consists of investigating the environment. Normally the party that performs the check-up asks for certain figures (numbers of workstations, servers, cores etc.) and they often come up with a small software that sniffs through the agreed networks and creates a report regarding all the foundings (for example, databases).

Quite often the license auditing ends up with the software company presenting a bill to the customer and the customer usually doesn’t have any other choice but to pay the price, whatever it is.

Every license has its price tag

There is basically nothing wrong with this: if you want to use licensed software, you ought to pay for it. But..

..what bugs me in this scenario is the fact that customer pretty seldom has any real possibilities to question the calculations regarding the price tag. Unless customer happens to be one of the Fortune 500 companies or similar size, they don’t have a department filled with software license architects and lawyers.

Customer pretty seldom has any real possibilities to question the calculations regarding the price tag

So the set-up is often like a David and Goliath where David in fact has nothing to fight with. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be a price to be paid if you use licensed software, but the customer lacks the possibility to really check the calculations in many cases.

In addition to that, there are certain loopholes that make it possible to save some money in software licenses. For example, if a customer can prove that usage for certain software is intended to be only temporary, a very short time, or usage of the software differs somehow greatly from regular usage of the software, there might be a possibility to negotiate lower price for licenses under such use cases. However, there’s again need for department of software license architects and lawyers.

In my opinion, the ICT sector is clearly in need of actors working in favor of a customer! There should be consulting companies who take role for the customer regarding licences. These companies could provide end-to-end service for customer companies, all the way from designing and specifying the need for licenses (by evaluating the required platform solutions), then they could play the center role in purchasing required licenses, and yet they could be analysing and evaluating license auditing in favor of customer companies.

The ICT sector is clearly in need of actors working in favor of a customer

For sure, that wouldn’t be cheap. But then again, it’s very easy to waste money by buying i.e. enterprise licenses instead of standard licenses or too much licences ”just in case” etc.

If there were such actors, I’d definitely recommend using their services!

Yadda yadda

This must be – by far – the most hazy, fuzzy, unclear, inconsistent and frustrating blog text I’ve ever written. Partly because the License Management is very treacherous area and partly because I might have tried to swallow and elephant on one bite. I believe I’ll get back to this topic in the future with more specific approach to a limited section of world of License Management.

Pictures are from Pixabay.

SIAM – toolwise considerations (reporting)

Tools in the multi-supplier environment

I was watching a video ”Talking ITSM & SIAM in different languages” on Cherwell web pages with PhD Ms. Tuuli Sutinen as a guest and AllthingITSM’s Simone Jo Moore, Kirstie Magowan, and James Finister were the other participants. They were discussing about various things, but what I paid attention to was Tuuli’s notifications about SIAM and the question of different tools in the multi-supplier environment.

I think Tools is one of the most essential things that make a difference between success and failure in SIAM.

Why’s that?

Let’s assume you are the SIAM Operator, responsible for delivering end-to-end services to the customer. Everything is ready: customer knows what they are doing and why, their business requirements have been carefully considered, and all the SLA contracts and underpinning contracts with suppliers and other stakeholders have been agreed on. Just like discussed in my previous blog text SIAM – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

Customer reporting

The Governance model says you are reporting to the customer once a month, and it’s time for you to prepare the very first service level reports. In order to simplify the issue a little, let’s focus on the idea of reporting about services performance.

Now, what do you actually do?

Suppliers deliver the reports to you. As this is the first time you haven’t probably managed to agree about the common design and layout, not to mention the details just yet and you will receive reports with different styles with different number ratios, dimensions, charts etc. etc.

Ok, you probably manage to collect the reports and manually edit a slideset which will somewhat satisfy the customer’s needs. And the numbers are good, of course, it helps here. J

As this is the first time you haven’t probably managed to agree about the common design and layout, not to mention the details just yet and you will receive reports with different styles with different number ratios, dimensions, charts etc. etc.

balance-sheet-241711_640

At the same time you know that this practice has absolutely no future whatsoever. You can not be editing n pieces of different reports templates on Excel, and/or PowerPoint or KeyNote every single month. There’s no way you could do it and neither makes it any sense.

Improving reporting

A quick win might be to agree with suppliers to deliver the reports on templates you have provided them. That might help a little bit and at least those different reports might be of the same style, so your manual reports compiling work might go down ~ 80%.

Now that’s a lot better and you could maybe live with the situation.. No, you don’t want to settle with that arrengement.

A Finnish IT Company Tieto has stated it quite clearly: ”Good SIAM (Service Integration and Management) tools support the wide range of SIAM processes in a multivendor environment. Because the integration layer needs to support all vendors, present and future, industry-standard interfaces are a must.”

I’d recommend make the necessary integrations between your reporting tool and the suppliers’ systems. Don’t think about ”saving money” here!

Reporting relies heavily on the ITSM tool in order to gain necessary ticket data. In addition to that you most probably need another tool (hopefully integrated with the ITSM tool) or a comprehensive add-on with extensive data analysis capabilities to be able to report an overall situation of the services to the customer.

I’d recommend make the necessary integrations between your reporting tool and the suppliers’ systems. Don’t think about ”saving money” here!

Don’t forget about the status of the other services: You might also need reports about server/services availability, information security, response time of your services etc.

You might actually drown into the river of ever-growing reports. That’s why I would try to agree with the customer about 4-6 the most important reports and make sure those will always be handled, while the other reports might be stashed into the nice-to-know pile.

Customer’s dashboard?

But how about customer’s view? Should your customer have an own view on the tool to be able to check the situation every now and then – and ask questions about their observations?

What’s your opinion?

[ ] Yes!!! Of course they should! They could monitor the situation whenever they want to and they might notice something the SIAM Operator doesn’t.

[ ] Why not. Who would it hurt?

[ ] They don’t need it because they can always ask about the current situation from their SIAM Operator.

[ ] Absolutely not. Customer doesn’t even want it.

What is the correct answer? I don’t know! There are some issues I can address, though. Customer has decided to go with the SIAM model, so you can jump to the conclusion they don’t want to be actively monitoring the situation all the time. They rely on their SIAM Operator. Then on the other hand, I wouldn’t be too surprised if your customer would some time want to see or check out something, so maybe categorically denying the possibility might not be a correct answer either.

grid-817366_640

There’s no clear-cut simple answer. If your customer wants the view on the dashboard, that can probably be arranged, but if they hate the idea, they have the right to do just that.

Please note: I was only discussing about reporting –related tools here. There are much more into it than this, for example CMDB tools, Asset Management, centralized Event Management, Capacity, Demand and Licence Management tools. I might write about them someday.

Recommendations

So you have read all the way down here and I haven’t told you what is the best tool money could possibly buy? Sorry to tell you, but it depends on so many things it would be impossible to list all the available reporting tools let alone the situation factors here. I would, however, lean on to Remedy’s ITSM tools, or maybe ServiceNow toolset, and power them with some rock solid BI-reporting tool. But what suits for me might not suit for somebody else.

However, one thing is for sure: Tools themselves won’t do the job for you, but without proper tools you are doomed to fail. So don’t underestimate the importance of tools!

Pictures are from Pixabay.

SIAM – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Preface

Lately I’ve been writing about Cost Optimization in my blog, see 7 ways to improve your Cost Optimization and Cost Optimization .. continues posts.

I haven’t said anything about SIAM (Service Integration and Management) yet. So now it’s about time, because one of the reasons why organizations choose the SIAM model is – surprise surprise – Cost Optimization or ”being more Cost Effective”, which in my opinion means pretty much the same thing: making certain adjustments to optimize the costs to correspond with the business like I stated. Naturally there are other factors behind that as well.

economy-437509_640

While SIAM is getting more and more popular, there are some issues to deal with when implementing it, and in fact a number of things must be clarified already in the early phase of planning.

Characteristics of SIAM

Jan Vromant, Product Manager at Fruition Partners has stated the characteristics of SIAM very nicely as follows. Quotation: “The main goal of SIAM is to coordinate internal and external suppliers and their services in a cost-effective way to achieve the end-to-end service levels needed to support the goals of the business functions.

 

SIAM is a layer between the suppliers and the IT functions that supports and enables the integration of the services offered by multiple (internal and external) service providers.”

 

It’s been said SIAM enables a true end-to-end service/supply chain and hides all the mess from customers’ sight. That’s what customers love so much and rave about. What would be better than being truly able to focus on the core business areas and let someone else handle all the supportive IT processes behind the scene? And it works at least theoretically. I also personally like the idea, but let’s take a closer look inside the characteristics of SIAM. Are you ready?

That’s what customers love so much and rave about. What would be better than being truly able to focus on the core business areas and let someone else handle all the supportive IT processes behind the scene?

SIAM – The Good

Customer: It’s great to have someone taking care of the end-to-end daily basis IT –related issues. Now we can finally focus on our core business areas. We can also be sure our business requirements are seriously taken into account.

SIAM Operator: We can add value to our customers’ business by taking care of all IT burden, end-to-end. We will work on our customer’s best interests and achieve the agreed SLAs. At the same time we can also seek to grow our business by examining all the areas of our customer’s business where we can be of assistance.

Suppliers: We are happy there is only one customer interface to be dealing with and they are good at what they do (hopefully!).

That sounds like a deal made in heaven. Unfortunately it’s not that simple, keep on reading:

SIAM – The Bad

Customer: this costs us money. Are we benefiting from this or not? Where are we now? Are the suppliers now developing things according our roadmap and in co-operation with our business? How to measure what and/or how much we are gaining from this? How to be sure this was the right decision?

SIAM Operator: There is vast number of different – small and big – players on the ice. They all seem to have different contracts, different SLA’s, different expectations from customer’s business organization and vice versa. It’s not clear if the customers’ objectives are met.

It’s not clear if the customers’ objectives are met.

Suppliers: We are not being heard anymore. We are just been told to do this-and-this and there’s no real negotiation with our customer. We cannot help customer’s business development with our solutions and we cannot get more business for ourselves either.

SIAM – The Ugly

Customer: We don’t trust anyone. We are questioning our SIAM Operator’s activities and we are establishing new direct communication channels with our suppliers aside, one by one.

SIAM Operator: Customer seems to make very questionable actions and operations; they are spending more and more money but they are not involved enough on this. At the moment they are implementing an overlapping Governance model and bypassing us when dealing with suppliers and other stakeholders.

Suppliers: We don’t want to co-operate with other suppliers, because we are competing against them. We make everything we can to bypass the SIAM Operator and get our customer buy Services from us. We need to refresh our fruitful, direct co-operation with customer’s business department.

Doesn’t sound like a stellar, bullet-proof success story anymore, huh? It’s the same old story: if everything goes well, it’s like a walk in a park on sunny Sunday afternoon. But when things go bad, all the hell may break loose.

How to make sure things don’t start going on wrong direction?

I know I’m a bit boring person because I have a bad habit of always starting with the absolute basics. And exactly that I’m doing right now.

if everything goes well, it’s like a walk in a park on sunny Sunday afternoon. But when things go bad, all the hell may break loose.

Preparations

Have you ever heard of an athelete who won the Olympic Championship gold medal on Javelin with a zero preparation prior to the contest? Me neither.

Have you heard about the equestrian who came third in the US Nationals some ~ 15 years ago? She also never trained. Me neither.

Have you heard that a few weeks ago a random drunken woman won the poker game against a local well-known semi-pro poker player? They say it was a lucky shot and I believe that.

Have you heard of an Organization who decided to go to SIAM model with a zero preparation? Maybe they think they can shoot the lucky shot. Would you support the idea? Me neither.

 team-720291_640

Preparation starts at day one. Customer’s executives must go through a comprehensive determination of their intent:

  • Are we ready to open up major elements of our core business to external Organization (the SIAM Operator, that is)?
  • What’s our own Organization’s mental condition, are we ready, able and willing to let go steering the IT Support Services and relying it to some other party to carry out?
  • Do we know what we are doing – and most importantly why we are doing it?

If there’s any hesitation, it’s better take a time-out and go through all the issues in detail before making any moves forward.

  • Do we know what we are doing – and most importantly why we are doing it?

If the answer is clear ”Yes” then the Customer can proceed to the next step and start planning implementation of SIAM. I’m on the opinion, that you should make a long-term contract with your SIAM Operator. I know it’s like taking a leap of faith, but I would suggest making at least a five (5)-year contract to provide enough time to enable build a true partnership. The SIAM Operator is in my opinion the one single most important supplier from Customer’s point of view.

Bear in mind to bring SIAM into use comprehensively. If you want to achieve the cost effectiveness, there’s no room for overlapping governance models let alone unclear duties and responsibilities. In other words: Implement SIAM totally or don’t do it at all.

 

Planning phase

Be sure to involve all the required parties into the planning phase from day one. That includes the people from your own business organization, your internal IT department, your suppliers and vendors, including obviously your chosen SIAM Operator.

  • Confirm the requirements from your business.
  • Review all your underpinning contracts as well as OLA’s.
    • Investigate the potential gap.
    • Make all the actions you can do to narrow the gap; re-check the business requirements, re-negotiate contracts if/when possible etc.
  • Design a comprehensive and complete governance model. Don’t underestimate the effect of good Governance!
  • Plan a solid communications plan along with the governance model.
  • Keep on mind potential resistance of change and act accordingly.
  • Give your BEST support to your chosen SIAM Operator. There must not be any ambiguity regarding the Governance model and command relationship.
    • It’s your SIAM Operator who will very soon be responsible for running the daily basis end-to-end IT operations.

Give your BEST support to your chosen SIAM Operator. There must not be any ambiguity regarding the Governance model and command relationship.

Implementation

There are many ways to implement SIAM, but I’ll share some ideas how I’d carry out the implementation phase:

  • Big Bang approach: Keep the transition phase as short as possible.
  • Intensive communication: follow the communication plan and remember to inform rather too much than too little especially at the starting phase.
  • Invest some extra effort into the starting phase in order to pursuit quick wins and ensure good customer experience from the very beginning.

Remaining issues

Putting a number of suppliers under the governance of another supplier can be .. well, not in the best interest of the suppliers. Think about it: different suppliers might be positioned into competitive status with each other and they might not be too willing to co-operate under the governance of a new supplier.

It’s also worth noting that while implementing SIAM model, it’s easy to lose the link between the customer’s business unit and suppliers. Why would the SIAM Operator make an effort to boost supplier’s business with the customer? What if the SIAM Operator itself has interests to crab some of the business to itself from different vendors?

On the other hand, it’s most certainly one of customer’s most remarkable interests: to make sure there are suppliers developing their stuff in co-operation with the business!

I would suggest establishing a development steering group with the customer’s business and the key suppliers. That might not solve all the problems, but it would at least help maintain the link between the customer’s business units and suppliers.

I would suggest establishing a development steering group with the customer’s business and the key suppliers.

Here are two pictures illustrating the change:

1 The old world: Customer’s IT Dept works as an interface between the business and suppliers.

Old_World

 

 

2 The gallant new powered-by-SIAM world: SIAM Operator orchestrating the ensemble.

IT Dept’s role has shrunk while the SIAM Operator has taken over.

SIAM

 

Predicting is difficult, especially when predicting the future

I was discussing about the whole SIAM theme with my peer mentor, who works for Canon. I predicted him that SIAM will become even more popular in the coming years, until we notice we have gone too far with splitting the Services into too many small pieces and start rolling back. That might happen around 2026. I’ll check back to this blogwriting in 10 years and see how good or bad I was in predicting the future!

Pictures are from Pixabay.