Service Management is an Imperative in the Cloud

Whether the Cloud is the next big thing or simply an extension of how we work today, one thing is certain: it can optimize service delivery and support with transparency into the processes and metrics surrounding those services. Cloud computing changes the landscape for service consumers, service providers, and the businesses that rely on them. The technology is evolving quickly to deliver secure, reliable services.

Also important to keep in mind is that Cloud computing is no short-cut to process maturity. Before setting off towards initiatives in the Cloud, both providers and consumers must understand their respective goals and objectives. Without a clear understanding of the business processes and supporting IT processes they have today and will need in the future, success will be difficult to come by. You need to know what to expect and where you hope to gain efficiencies and savings before you dive into the deep end.

Service value chain management in the Cloud-connected enterprise exposes the hidden and explicit costs, performance issues, and consumption and availability details about the Cloud-provided services whether their services are delivered via private, public, community or hybrid Cloud environments. When service management is in play, combined with Cloud computing, the end-result is better customer service and improved productivity.

If we approach Cloud-provided services as we would any other outsourcer model, it’s clear there are many challenges when managing these services. Based on other outsourcing experiences, companies know that governance, policies, and compliance frameworks have to be established to drive success. Whether through Cloud computing providers, managed service providers, internal IT departments or some combination of all or any of these, service consumers need effective means to contract services, modify services, and measure the quality, performance, availability, consumption and costs associated with them.

Someone within the organization still needs to own the service and to ensure that it’s meeting the business requirements and that they have the right level of transparency into what’s happening inside the Cloud (or inside other provider environments) to quickly resolve issues. Without this, Cloud-provided services expose businesses and their customers to a high degree of risk.

In Cloud environments, it’s paramount that services are able to securely connect and reliably communicate with internal IT services and other public services. Service value chain management also requires that resource usage and consumption be monitored and managed in order to support strategic decision making. By understanding exactly who is using a service, along with when and how, service providers can determine the intrinsic value that the service is providing to the business, and IT can also use this information to compute the return on investment for their Cloud computing initiatives and related services.

Incident, Problem, and Change Management

The core focus of service management is to support the business and IT when it comes to outages and changes. A Cloud provider must ensure that all outages or exceptions to normal operations are resolved as quickly as possible while capturing all of the details for the actions that were taken. Moreover, change management becomes critical for a Cloud provider whose revenue is based upon the delivery of a highly available and stable environment. Strict change management practices must be adhered to and all changes implemented during approved maintenance windows must be tracked, monitored, and validated.

Additionally, a CMDB provides Cloud providers with a deep understanding of the relationships between configuration items (CI). Knowing the details of CI relationships empowers change and incident managers to determine that a modification to one service may impact several other related services and the components of those services. This provides more visibility into the Cloud environment, allowing consumers and providers to make more informed decisions not only when preparing for a change but also when diagnosing incidents and problems.

As technology and services move outside of the internal IT organization into the Cloud, the IT department still needs to support how their employees use these solutions and services. If a sales person cannot login to the CRM system or an employee from finance sees an error when running an opportunity report, they still need help from their local IT department. Therefore, IT must not only provide the first line of support through the service desk function, but they also must provide detailed knowledge regarding how to address common requests and solve common incidents.

Configuration Management

Just as it is vital for a restaurant to understand the source of the food it serves, so, too, must Cloud service consumers and providers understand the location, source, cost, availability, stability and governance practices surrounding your data and the service components received or delivered. If something goes awry, they will need to discern the root cause quickly, resolve all problems efficiently, and provision and maintain services cost effectively.

Asset Management and License Compliance

In a Cloud computing scenario, companies need to manage the lifecycle of IT assets especially when it comes to the desktop environment. While it is a given that higher-ticket data center assets may not require traditional asset lifecycle management by the Cloud consumer, the cost and vendor management aspects will still be a priority. For businesses that pursue a hybrid approach and decide to deliver some services on-premise and others via the Cloud, a clear strategy must be mapped out regarding hardware and software license management to ensure companies can meet their governance and contractual requirements.

Service Contract Management

Another key to successfully working in the Cloud has to do with the contract established between the business or service consumer and the service provider. As with all outsourcer relationships, service level and contract management in the Cloud world is imperative since, ultimately, on-premise IT departments are accountable for the quality, performance and availability of services provided to their end users. Like the fulfillment of a request, service levels and service level monitoring must be transparent and accessible to the end users.

Service Financial Management

Ensuring that costs are optimized is a critical responsibility for any successful business, and IT has specific challenges here. Often projects lose funding and costs are cut without knowledge of the potential impact to other IT projects and existing services, as well as impact to the business as a whole. This is just as true from a Cloud perspective, and it can be even more complicated as the service value chain adds more links.

Melissa Borza is a VP of Product Management for the CA Virtualization and Service Automation business unit. Melissa focuses on service management strategy and product planning. With nearly 20 years of professional experience, Melissa writes articles on service management, change and configuration management, application life cycle management, IT trends and best practices. Melissa alos presents at IT seminars and conferences throughout the world. Melissa is responsible for combining her strategic business expertise and customer outreach with her knowledge of technology to highlight the imperative of managing the service value chain within the Cloud-connected enterprise. .