Many large companies and administrations have already made great progress in applying the logics of industrialization, consolidation and mutualization associated with the Cloud. Whether they retain control of their infrastructures and their operation, or whether they have outsourced them, those that have made the most progress are now confronted with the need to define the next stage.
by Bruno Pinna, Director for Cloud Computing, Bull
What to do once everything has been rationalized and optimized? The answer to this question that Cloud pioneers are now asking themselves is being carefully monitored by most of the companies that are applying this approach.
Consolidation, but then what?
Spontaneously, and quite logically, attention is turning towards applications and services.Instantiating some non-strategic services in the public Cloud, appears indeed to be a good means of pursuing cost reductions while refocusing enterprise IT on the core and/or sensitive business applications, where its added value is most significant.
General purpose tools such as office technology, e-mail or time management are therefore excellent candidates for outsourcing.
This approach must be applied in a global perspective, where cost reduction cannot be the sole motivation. Of course, enterprise IT, like all elements in the organization, is currently subject to very strong pressure. And the Cloud being fundamentally a response to the endemic under-use of resources, which is itself the main IT cost factor, it is only natural that the question of finances is never very far away. But the Cloud is much more than a simple opportunity to make savings. It now offers an opportunity to develop a 360 degree approach to the company services portfolio, and to take advantage of the fundamental attributes of the Cloud (flexibility, elasticity, collaboration) to imagine and put in place new business services, without creating new silos in an information system that is now widespread.
“The Cloud is the computer”
It is therefore necessary to take a break or at least some time off to prepare the next stage. After the first phase of the Cloud, that of optimizing infrastructures, the second will involve the empowerment of the IT organization so that it can evolve in an open environment of multiple federated Clouds (private, public, community…) and become a service broker for the enterprise. For, as a last resort, this is really what is required over time – to be able to select and implement, from among all the available options, the resource that will best correspond to the characteristics of the services defined in a catalogue that is being constantly updated. Whether private or public, a Cloud is an environment like any other, with its attributes and functionalities (defined by APIs), its advantages and disadvantages, among which a choice needs to be made, exactly as we used to choose a computing stack comprised of a server, an operating system and a database. We could today say that “The Cloud is the computer” to paraphrase John Gage.
This second phase is all the more important as is it is no longer guided by mainly technical considerations (virtualisation, consolidation…) but by an in-depth reflection on what businesses expect and how this can be delivered to them. What constitutes a service needs to be defined with precision (what granularity? what level of abstraction?), what are its characteristics (service levels, security, user rights) and, maybe the most important, how to implement it. For applicative services, key questions that are still not fully understood will in effect inevitably arise - how to efficiently expose applications in the Cloud? What development, integration, deployment, maintenance context? How to manage the user experience from technical indicators provided by the infrastructure and the applications? In short, defining the technical context which enables instantiation of the applications within a Cloud model is a major challenge for enterprise IT.
Enterprise IT, a service broker
Although the “Cloud Management Platforms” that we see being created today will undeniably play a key role in future, they will be unable to deal with all these questions on their own. The IT organization must first see itself from now on as a service broker. It must equip itself with all the technical and operational means (including therefore in terms of technical, business and organizational skills) needed to deploy services and control their quality. Whatever the Cloud platform chosen, the most important aspect is the capacity, via the service catalogue and the formal description of these services, to deploy and manage them to provide the end user with the promised QoE (Quality of Experience).
Cost reduction must not therefore be the sole assessment parameter of enterprise IT. In recent years, it has often earned its place within the organization as a business innovation partner. Although it is by nature a tool of economic efficiency, the Cloud must also be for it an opportunity to strengthen this status. The Cloud(s) must enable the IT organization to offer its clients richer and more suitable services, with new functionalities and added value. This will be possible if, as of now, it organizes itself around a services portfolio and develops all the capacities needed to ensure their deployment by controlling the QoE.
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