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How Do You Manage the Cloud with ITIL?


April 7, 2015 - 0 Comments

ITIL is simply a set of best practices for IT service management (ITSM). Over many years, IT practitioners have followed ITIL to manage the lifecycle of traditional IT-services. However, with the rise of cloud services, it’s changing how we launch, support and retire services.

With it, comes the question about how relevant ITIL is: “Can ITIL still help to manage cloud services?”
Recently, I attended a training course: “Professional Cloud Service Manager” offered by the “Cloud Credential Council” to address this very topic.

Note: For those who cannot attend the 3-days training here is a 60min snapshot: “Controlling the cloud with service management

The course was attended by customers (Maersk – the shipping/oil-drilling company) and vendors (i.e. Cisco). The course material was developed and presented by Mark O´Loughlin who has extensive theoretical (ITIL-master) and practical expertise (Microsoft Azure partner) to explain the challenges of managing the cloud with ITIL.

hybrid cloud

Besides the question of “How does the cloud impact ITIL ?”, I had a particular question as a Cisco employee: “Where are the opportunities for Cisco to better serve cloud customers?”
As I learned during the 3-day training course, the “cloud” actually has specific characteristics (5 total). They are:

• Rapid elasticity
• Resource pooling
• Network access
• On demand self-service
• Measured service

So, how do these 5 Cloud Characteristics affect the 5 Strategic Areas of ITIL?

1. Service Strategy: Cloud strategy (as part of IT strategy) needs to support the overall business strategy. IT departments that are not closely aligned with their business run the risk of “shadow IT”. As a first step, Cisco can recommend a Cloud Consumption Assessment and help IT become a cloud broker (and eventually move to a profit instead of a cost center) and align with other internal organizations (HR, Procurement, Legal, Finance) for better cloud governance.

2. Service Design: With a plethora of cloud providers coming on board (who do not always offer robust enterprise, standard service levels – see 10 tips for cloud SLA management) plus an array of legacy suppliers, it has not become easier for IT to build federated SLAs for their users. Some examples of how Cisco can help:

3. Service Transition: Building an accurate Configuration Management System (CMS) based on one or many Configuration Management Databases (CMDB) is one of the most daunting tasks in IT Service Management. As workloads move to the cloud, Asset and Configuration Management might become a smaller but also more complex job. While technologies and practices like auto scaling, auto provisioning, orchestration, spot instances, etc. provide extra capacity quickly, how can IT easily control the actual usage of cloud services and avoid over-billing? Once this extra capacity is no longer needed, who monitors the billing? Here, an adapted change management process with pre-approved thresholds for extra capacity and a mandatory validation if services are still used can provide value. Many cloud brokerage tools provide this functionality already.

who ya gonna call

4. Service Operation: “Who ya gonna call ?” was the theme song from the movie “Ghostbusters”. In a even more complex hybrid cloud environment, imagine the following scenario: N2C is a mid-sized, consumer goods company with international presence. Their marketing department has noticed a performance degradation in their CRM application. They have sourced the app from a Microsoft cloud partner, who is leveraging the Microsoft Azure platform. N2C is also a Cisco customer and a local Cisco partner has implemented a small datacenter solution on premise for them. Finally, N2C is leveraging an international service provider to give them WAN capabilities and connect their international offices. So, in order to resolve this CRM performance degradation the question for N2C is: “Who ya gonna call ?”: The Cisco partner, the Microsoft cloud partner, the IT department, the service provider? Here is an opportunity for Cisco with our multi-vendor, solution support capabilities to develop an integrated support service.

5. Continual Service Improvement: “You can only improve what you can measure and you can only measure what you can see”. On one hand, the customer´s view into the cloud is limited. On the other hand, the focus on the actual outcome or value of the cloud service should be even greater. From a business perspective, some key measurements are: ROI, Time to Market, Cost Reduction, etc. From an IT perspective, some key measurements are: Availability, Utilization, etc. What´s interesting is that both cloud suppliers and consumers share a common interest to “Drive maximum outcome” (see also B4B). IT´s role could become essential here in measuring outcomes and working with suppliers and businesses to constantly improve them.

In Summary

IT Service Management (ITSM) that is properly executed and supported by the right tools and adapted processes can help manage the cloud. There are many opportunities for Cisco to engage with customers and help them adapt.

What are your thoughts? Let’s continue the conversation on LinkedIn.

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