Investing in Cloud: What You are Up Against and Why

I’m waiting for the time when it becomes a “groan” to talk about cloud computing, but that time clearly isn’t yet. As of last December, 48 percent of our surveyed respondents from our February report, Optimizing Cloud for Service Delivery, viewed cloud as essential to their business (among cloud adopters that is) versus 33 percent from the same population just a year before. This covered all the obvious variations: internal and external cloud, as well as SaaS, IaaS and PaaS.

Cloud is popular not only for cost cutting in operations and capital costs, but also for the speed with which new and existing services can be provisioned and created, and the resiliency it can bring to the infrastructure to support better service availability and performance. On the other hand, difficulty and cost of implementation remains the No. 1 barrier experienced by cloud adopters. Why is that?

Preparing for cloud can require a lot of planning. Even if cloud capabilities are fundamentally enablers (versus ends in themselves) and cloud is creating a “shopping mall of services,” you can return from that shopping mall with shoes four sizes too big, or a pair of glasses that make you squint. Good for a clown act, but not for a CIO.

Planning your cloud investment

The first thing to do when planning a cloud investment is to separate out what services you are shopping for and those you’re trying to enhance. Realize that SaaS services ranging from e-mail to CRM, to desktop productivity to custom-developed applications to wireless, SOA, external revenue-generating services, to BI and business planning, to telephony, to supply chain, to mainframe-based, etc., etc. are all going to require different types of commitments, capabilities, SLAs, and OLAs, and have fundamentally different kinds of interdependencies. Therefore how you use cloud technologies, and how you choose and work with cloud services providers will need to vary as well.

All this needs to be done before you can get ready to invest in tools to manage cloud. But once you are clear about your priorities, your service interdependencies, and how cloud choices both internal and external can advance your options, selecting good management software is key.

Four rules for cloud adoption

Rule No. 1 – Good service management capabilities are a must for effective cloud adoption. Our data rather dramatically shows that investing in good service management tools — from service level management (SLM) and user experience management (UEM), to application dependency mapping, to chargeback and accounting, to unified service desk, to CMDB/CMS, to load testing — all contribute to heightened benefits in all categories when assimilating cloud.

Rule No. 2 – Good management software for cloud is generally not specific to cloud, but allows for management of services in cloud, virtualized and physical environments. Since cloud is supposed to increase your flexibility and versatility, treating cloud as a niche can easily become counterproductive. Most of the exceptions involve unique capabilities for advancing cloud (e.g., blueprinting, cloud-bursting appliances, converged infrastructure) that may extend into the management arena, but are not in themselves service management tools.

Rule No. 3 – Think broadly about your management options. For instance, monitoring APIs programmatically for capturing application-to-application interdependencies is becoming significant in optimizing cloud investments for service delivery, as are more mainstream approaches to service performance.

Rule No. 4 – Realize that service management investments for cloud will tend to cluster in what might be called “mutually supportive ecosystems” for lack of a better term. Moreover, each management investment tends to have its own patterns. I’ve singled out two for this column (pretty much at random): cross-domain configuration automation and unified service desk.

Cross-domain configuration automation (in support of cloud) is fairly evenly spread across different size enterprises, businesses and organizations, compared to many service management technologies that favor mid-tier and larger enterprises. It is indicative of broad support for a wide range of business services (e.g., e-mail, CRM, etc.), albeit CMDB/CMS deployments in support of cloud are likely to correlate to the single broadest range of services. And on the heels of the CMDB/CMS, cross-domain configuration automation is likely to show the most progressive commitments to cloud adoption — IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS — for internal cloud especially, but not exclusively. Deployments with cross-domain configuration automation in support of cloud are twice as likely to also have cloud-supporting deployments of chargeback and usage-based accounting, CMDB/CMS, capacity planning analytics, and SLM/user experience management.

Unified service desk (in support of cloud) is most closely associated with drivers for cloud adoption relating to accelerating the deployment and provisioning of new and existing services, and accelerating the creation of new services. Like cross-domain configuration automation, and CMDB/CMS in particular, it is likely to indicate and/or facilitate a much broader array of business services delivered over cloud, as well as more progressive adoption of cloud technologies, especially internal IaaS.

If you have a unified service desk deployed in support of cloud, you are also more than twice as likely to have service catalog and CMDB/CMS adopted, as well. And, as with all service management technologies, you are more likely to be very successful in assimilating cloud for the delivery of business services by a factor of two.

If you’re more curious about what makes IT organizations “very successful” in their adoption of cloud technologies for the delivery of critical business services, here are a few more lessons learned from EMA research.