by Guillaume Leroy
Guillaume is a graduate of ESC Dijon with a Master’s degree specializing in consultancy, management and change, and he holds an MBA from Henley Management School in the UK. He was a Major Account Manager and then Infrastructure Manager at IBM and Fujitsu Siemens, before joining Bull’s storage division in 2007, where he specialized in complex systems and data lifecycle management. In October 2010, he was appointed to head up Bull Advisory Services – Bull’s new consultancy unit dedicated to infrastructure optimization.
Nowadays everyone is talking about Cloud computing, and for IT Departments it is becoming one of their real priorities. Passing fads and clever marketing campaigns by some suppliers are not enough to explain the interest it has generated. If Cloud computing seems to be the inevitable next step in the IT industry, that’s because is it a logical extension of a long-term trend: the rationalization and sharing of IT resources to respond in the most appropriate way, at the best possible cost, to users’ needs. As a way of paying-per-use resources (such as servers, storage and applications) that can be configured and accessed on line, Cloud computing is the natural continuation of the industrialization, sharing and outsourcing approaches that have been a feature of many IT strategies for a number of years now. More of an evolution than a revolution, above all Cloud computing represents an additional technological option available to IT Departments. Provided, of course, that they are really ready for it…
Nine different forms of Cloud computing
Traditionally, there are three main approaches to implementing Cloud computing:
- The ‘Public Cloud’, where an independent operator sells its services, hosting them on it own platform
- The ‘Semi-Private Cloud’, where the platform may be shared between the members of a specific, community (in a particular profession or region, for example …)
- The ‘Private Cloud’, where the services platform it restricted to a single organization.
In addition, there are three main types of services accessible via the Cloud:
- Software as a Service (SaaS), where the operator offers a complete application, with only limited customer personalization
- Platform as a Service (PaaS), where the operator offers an environment on which customers can deploy their own applications
- Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), where the operator provides computing resources (such as storage, servers…), enabling customers to build their own information systems.
So these are the nine principle modes of Cloud computing representing a much wider choice than is commonly believed, given the most widely publicized and simplest manifestations of public SaaS (Salesforce.com, Google) or public PaaS (Amazon EC2 and S3). Each of the nine modes corresponds to different needs, constraints, skills or uses… but what they all have in common is that they are presented in the form of on-line, pay-per-use services. No matter what approach is chosen, though, Cloud computing will only really enhance the technological breadth offered by the IT Department if the latter has organized itself as a true service provider to its internal customers.
An essential pre-requisite: a services-oriented structure
Part of the ITIL approach, ITSM (IT Service Management) describes this approach of structuring IT Departments according to the services they provide. This involves a fundamental transformation, which affects the way it is organized, its governance, the relationship between the IT Department and the business… and among the programs of work that are needed, there are two especially important areas to consider if the move to using Cloud computing is to be fully effective.
The first of these involves technology. Consolidation, virtualization, adopting service-oriented architectures (SOA)… all enable you to prepare the information system for this whole new way of meeting users’ demands, as well as making it easier to evaluate each service being delivered. No matter what the chosen mode of Cloud computing, there is no real point in IT Departments doing it unless it helps them improve levels of service delivery and/or reduce their costs. To effectively evaluate whether it is a genuine alternative solution, it has to be assessed against the other available options (buying new hardware, outsourcing…) using comparable criteria.
In addition, this technical evolution should enable you to create an inventory of the services being provided, to identify gaps (or over-provision), and to analyze the maturity of your infrastructure and its capacity to deliver the services required by the business over the long term.
Finally, it should also enable the skills and culture needed to manage these services to be developed within the IT Department, especially if external offerings sourced from Cloud operators are added to the catalogue of available services.
And drawing up such a ‘catalogue of services’ is precisely the second fundamental piece of work that is needed before a move towards Cloud computing. The catalogue of services sets out numerically defined units of work (memory capacity, availability, implementation timescales…) and the corresponding prices. Presented using terminology that relates to business needs, rather than in technical language, the catalogue of services lets customers choose the service that best meets their needs.
Combined with a benchmark technical architecture, the catalogue of services enables the necessary configuration to be defined, to ensure the require service levels as a function, for example, of how business-critical an application may be or the confidentiality of a particular set of data. It is this correspondence between business needs, technical solutions and tariffs that will enable you to assess whether or not it is appropriate and beneficial to turn to a Cloud solution.
Bull: supporting customers as they join the Cloud
Many organizations have already embarked on the path towards Cloud computing either through their infrastructure optimization initiatives, industrialization via the adoption of ITIL, or increased flexibility thanks to outsourcing.
But no matter how far they have got, Bull Advisory Services, Bull’s new consulting business focused on infrastructure evaluation and optimization, helps its customers move towards using Cloud computing. This can involve helping them prepare their infrastructures and organization, structure their relationships with their internal customers and, depending on the latter’s needs, evaluate the opportunities offered by this new way of distributing computing resources.
To achieve this, Bull Advisory Services provides IT Departments with evaluations, analysis and recommendations on the full range of infrastructure components (servers, networks, storage and archiving). Our consultants form an accurate picture of user needs and the maturity of existing elements: architecture components, procedures and service levels. The new business unit also defines medium and long-term areas for improvement, prioritizing them in transformation roadmaps, identifying and helping to launch virtualization and consolidation projects for existing architectures.
All the consultants at Bull Advisory Services are ITSM certified and use the proven methodologies developed by GlassHouse Technologies, the leading US consultancy firm specializing in infrastructure transformation and optimization, with whom Bull signed a strategic partnership agreement aimed at jointly offering infrastructure consulting services across the whole of Europe in March 2009.