Customers have often said to me, “Joann, we have virtualization all over the place. That’s cloud isn’t it?”   My response is, “Well not really, that is not a cloud, but you can get to cloud!”  Then there is a brief uncomfortable silence, which I resolve with an action provoking explanation that I will now share with you.

Here’s why that isn’t truly a cloud. What these customers often have is server provisioning that automates the process of standing up new virtual servers while the storage, network, and application layers continue to be provisioned manually. The result is higher management costs that strain IT budgets, which are decreasing or flat to begin with. With this approach, businesses aren’t seeing the agility and flexibility they expected from cloud. So, they become frustrated when they see their costs rising and continue struggling to align with new business innovation.

If your IT department adopted widespread virtualization and thought it was cloud, my guess is you are probably nodding your head in agreement.  Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

So then, what are the key elements an organization needs to achieve the speed, flexibility and agility promised by cloud?

1)      Self-service portal and service catalog
The self-service portal is the starting point that customers use to order cloud services. Think of a self-service portal as a menu at a restaurant.  The end user is presented with a standardized menu of services that have been defined to IT’s policies and standards and customers simply order what they need.  Self-service portals greatly streamline resource deployment which reduces the manual effort by IT to provision resources.

2)      Service delivery automation
After the user selects services from the portal service menu, then what? Well, under the hood should be automated service delivery—which is a defining characteristic of a real cloud environment.  Behind each of the standardized menu items in the self-service portal is a blueprint or instructions that prescribe how the service order is delivered across the data center resources.  This has been proven to appreciably simplify IT operations, reduce costs and drive business flexibility.

3)      Operational process automation
Operational process automation takes the workflow associated with the service order placed via the portal and delivers and manages the service uniformly, consistently and automatically.  This reduces risk significantly, not to mention human error and inconsistency, when setting up resources.  For example: if I order a Linux based test & development environment, IT can be confident that it is set up the same way the first time and every time it is ordered.

4)      Resource management automation
My test & development environment is setup and residing in a shared pool of resources.  The last thing I need is another environment interfering and becoming a nuisance to my environment.   Resource management automation enables a pool of resources to be shared safely by providing isolation to each tenant and ensuring that a noisy neighbor cannot disrupt or conscript my test and development session.  Good dynamic fences make good neighbors!

5)      Service lifecycle automation
All the QA work is now completed on my test & development site and I no longer need these resources.  Service lifecycle automation resets and assimilates these resources back into to the pool from where they originated making them available for another user to consume.  Clouds are elastic because resources can be added and also released and lifecycle automation is the key to making this happen.

So what does this all amount to?  When elements 1 through 5 are implemented, companies can have the speed, flexibility and agility they are seeking because these 5 elements enable IT to align and respond more smoothly and quickly with the business and support more innovation.

The Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud (Cisco IAC) team has created a new video that details how the essential five elements above can deliver competitive innovation to your organization.

If you would like to learn more about Cisco IAC, click here.

(If you would like to read more about the contrast between virtualization and the cloud, go here.)

Heavy virtualization and server provisioning does not a cloud make! But, by adding the right ingredients they can be transformed into clouds that reach the heights of performance expected from the cloud model.  Comprehensive cloud management is the missing ingredient that provides the foundation and adhesion necessary to take a virtualized environment to the next level and begin the transformation process to a real cloud that is dynamic yet simultaneously consistent and reliable to the end user and to IT.  Cisco Intelligent Automation provides the elements 1-5 discussed above, delivering the cloud management that organizations need in order to transform virtual environments into real clouds. Ultimately, IT expedites business innovation through automated management of data center resources and business processes that result in the execution of new ideas, services, or products.


Joann Starke

No Longer with Cisco