Cloud computing recasts everything as a service, from infrastructure through to software applications and application building blocks. This doesn’t mean that IT departments’ service responsibilities reduce. For an enterprise-wide cloud computing strategy to be truly successful, the IT team should keep a firm hand on the cloud services portfolio for its end users.
If anything, an IT department dealing with cloud services will find IT service management (ITSM) becoming more of an issue. For a start, they are likely to be dealing with more than one cloud provider along with in-house infrastructure.
ITSM can be challenging enough in a customer’s own environment as IT departments deal with increasingly complex hardware and software ecosystems. Adding extra service providers into the mix introduces another layer of complexity.
The dangers of hands-off cloud computing
A hands-off approach could see these services unravel. Letting the business partners who consume cloud services manage everything themselves can lead to inconsistent governance structures that in turn create security vulnerabilities and efficiency problems.
One example here is the growth of server sprawl, in which users create and then forget virtual machines. This can leave the cloud infrastructure littered with undocumented operating systems. Folding system provisioning into a service management portfolio can help mitigate such problems.
If each departmental user of cloud services creates and maintains its own cloud provider relationships, then an organization’s overall IT services will not be coordinated. This will make it more difficult to maintain a consistent user experience or pull together a set of cohesive goals.
This disparity in service agreements can also affect other areas such as performance. If central IT departments leave different business functions to monitor their own cloud service performance, then service levels will be patchy, creating hidden inefficiencies.
A lack of visibility can also lead to cybersecurity issues, with different data protection policies emerging. That can create knock-on compliance issues for the company.
Finally, a hands-off approach can create financial problems. If different departments maintain different service agreements, IT departments can lose visibility and cloud costs can quickly spiral out of control.
A robust ITSM strategy puts the IT department back in control, enabling it to pull together a set of consistent, functional services that will better serve users overall. The IT department can work with cloud providers centrally to create comprehensive service interfaces that pull together performance, governance and financial metrics into an easy-to-manage set of dashboards.
The IT department can also work centrally to manage multi-cloud service integration, ensuring that data and applications work together seamlessly across private and public cloud systems.
How can you build an effective ITSM strategy to take care of tasks like these? Tools alone won’t solve your ITSM challenges because you will need to streamline complex processes. These processes invariably involve people, and factoring them into your service management plans is crucial.
Building a cloud-based ITSM strategy for the future
IT services, such as change management and incident management, must now span multiple organizations, and end-users expect a seamless service, regardless of how many moving parts it has. As the central steward for an organization’s IT services, it is up to the enterprise’s IT department to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks.
The customer must make sure that the cloud service provider has the experience, processes and tools to deal with incident management. End-to-end incident management also needs to be designed correctly. The relationship between the various environments that contribute to end-to-end availability must be designed carefully.
This involves close collaboration between customer and cloud provider IT service teams. Cloud computing environments may be elastic, but large changes to cloud infrastructure can still be disruptive, and need careful planning.
If you introduce some new services, like big data for example, it has a big impact on cloud infrastructure. Not all cloud infrastructure can cope with a big data application because it has specific requirements for storage performance.
When the IT department has created an ITSM strategy and service relationships spanning its different internal and external cloud environments, it can use this as an opportunity for continuous improvement.
Continuous improvement is a process that we pay a lot of attention to. Evolution and flexibility of their service is very important, because every year or two, most enterprise customers have new things to add to their cloud environment.
The beauty of an ITSM strategy based around cloud services is that IT departments can now design these enhancements natively for a virtualized environment. Companies can begin experimenting with containers, extending them beyond DevOps to production environments with microservice-based applications.
ITSM isn’t a turnkey process. Even with the right tools, customer IT departments must work hard to understand and organize service processes across their entire cloud portfolio. When the project is complete, though, their cloud infrastructures promise better visibility of their IT services than they ever had in a legacy environment.
Download our cloud ebook ‘Create a cloud experience your business can depend on’ to find out more about IT service management best practices in cloud and overcoming the most common cloud challenges.
Maher is Head of Cloud Application Management at Orange Business Services. He has 21 years’ experience in the IT and telecoms industry, following his PhD in telecommunications and networking awarded by the Université de Rennes. His specialties include professional services, consulting, project management, service management, operations, managed services, product management, in addition to network, smart city and cloud solutions.