By Martin Yates
Cloud technology offers a flexible way you to provide applications and computing resources to your customers and users. But it changes the way IT operates, transforming the IT organization from a back-end supplier to the business to a front-line partner. Those customers have precise expectations of the cloud: It must be always-on, fast, flexible and easy to access. For your cloud to meet those expectations and fulfill your organization's business objectives, it must be managed well with processes that you adapt to the cloud itself.
Manageability must be built into the cloud from the very beginning, starting with these seven best practices:
1. Organize your IT operation to manage customer-oriented services.
With a cloud, IT starts to function like a service provider and becomes much more customer-facing than ever. The cloud must be managed from the customers'—that is, users'—point of view. This requires service level agreements (SLAs) for availability, capacity, performance and speed of provisioning for each cloud-based service. You also need a customer-oriented IT service management (ITSM) framework. The ITSM framework will encompass all of the policies, standards and processes necessary to manage an end-to-end service in the cloud.
2. Adapt your staff and your processes to run an always-on infrastructure.
Some users need full, round-the-clock access to the cloud. Others only need access to certain applications 24-7. And some users can tolerate some planned downtime. Key to running an always-on infrastructure is knowing what kind of access various user profiles need and allocating IT resources to meet them. This requires structure and discipline in the IT organization, so your staff can redistribute support tasks as necessary.
3. Integrate automated and manual tasks.
Automation enables speed and flexibility of a cloud. As a result, there are far more automated processes in a cloud than in traditional IT configurations. Still, some manual processes must exist for activities that are too complex and varied to automate or that need intelligent, human intervention to complete. The manual processes must be able to stand alone and interact with the automation layer without disrupting any of the automated processes. Also, it's smart to have manual processes that can be used to restore the automated ones, in case an automated task fails.
4. Manage the interdependencies between software and firmware.
In a cloud, each component of the infrastructure is part an interlocked web of resources, from hardware to software to firmware. Any change to one element can affect countless others. If you update an application, you may need to also update the operating system and associated firmware, or risk bringing down the entire application. Your approach to software management must take into account all of the many interdependencies of the linked parts of a cloud.
5. Match cloud performance and capacity to user demand.
The cloud is dynamic by nature. And, as customers provision new services and access existing services, the demand on the cloud can change in a matter of minutes. In such cases, your cloud needs to have capacity in reserve. IT needs to understand the demand and potential demand from the business, which means becoming more integrated in the business process from a planning and management standpoint.
6. Step up security in the shared environment of the cloud.
Security in the cloud is even more important than in a traditional IT infrastructure because of the shared nature of the cloud. Resources, data, storage and applications are shared, often between different business units that have different security requirements. Your policies, tools and procedures for encryption, authentication and intrusion detection must maintain these different levels of security. Ensuring security in the cloud requires frequent auditing and active management of your security policy.
7. Continuously make service improvements.
The cloud is never finished—the technology behind the cloud will keep changing, business requirements will change and the number and type of IT services delivered from the cloud will change. Constant change and adaptability is required by both the cloud and IT operations. The roles and responsibilities of the people managing the cloud will also change. They'll need to be flexible, too, as they continue to monitor and measure the operation of the cloud against your SLAs and the business objectives. The goal is to proactively develop service improvements to close gaps and meet new business requirements.
- Read Seven Keys to Success in Managing Your Business-Critical Cloud
- Find out about cloud-related sessions and keynotes at HP Discover 2012
- Learn about HP Mission Critical Services
Martin Yates is a business development manager focused on Strategic Initiatives and is responsible for support solutions development and readiness for: Cloud, Converged Infrastructure and Integrated Systems. He is a certified ITIL Expert in IT service management (ITSM) and, a Distinguished Professional of Service Management with both the priSM Institute and the Institute of Certified Service Managers.