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Cloud Computing: a threat to IT production?

25 April 2014 by Jean-Pierre Le Treut, Business Development Director, Le Cloud by Bull

Cloud computing is turning IT upside down, and not just because it is opening up whole new way of using technology. It’s affecting everyone: from the general public to business users…and, of course, the providers of digital technologies.

In companies and organizations, the teams responsible for IT production are in the front line. They are seeing a massive potential shakeup their jobs and roles with the arrival of the Cloud.

So, given that it’s better to identify the risks in advance if you’re going to be well prepared for them, here is a quick review of these technologies that are having such a profound impact on ‘the production guys’. All the more so since, as well as the possible risks to the IT Department, we’re also seeing many new opportunities emerging.

SaaS is gradually eroding the scope of production
With Software as a service (SaaS), applications are no longer hosted and administered by the organization’s IT Department, but by the very software publishers that created them. Users access these applications on line, on a pay-per-use basis.

With one immediate consequence: the scope of traditional IT production suddenly shrinks. Of course, new applications have always come along, and old ones have often disappeared from the IT Department’s portfolio. But now entire swathes of them are being shifted out the scope of operational production because they are being used in SaaS mode. Take Human Resources as an example: because here SaaS is a natural extension of the traditional outsourcing of payroll. It’s also happening – for virtually the opposite reason – in customer relationship management: a relative new area which has immediately taken on board the SaaS concept as promoted by some of the market leading ISVs.

Systems integrators (the other big providers of applications), for their part, are adopting the principles of ‘saassification’. And not just when it comes to developing generic applications, but also if they develop specific applications for a particular customer. Integrators are keen to complement their research and systems development propositions with on-going production services for their newly developed applications, designed to run on Cloud infrastructures and based on their own private or public Cloud environments.

DevOps shifts from production to research
The DevOps (Development and Operations) model speeds up the production of new versions of an application, for IT that is more responsive to the organization’s business needs.

One of the issues addressed by the DevOps model is the traditional opposition between the development and production teams.
•    The former develop, test and qualify applications. Their main motivation: to deliver lots of new functionality.
•    The latter put applications into production and manage their workload. Their main motivation: to ensure the stability, availability and performance of applications in the production environment.

Support, who deal with incidents, problems and changes, rely on both of them when it comes to dealing with complex issues, often going backwards and forwards between them many times. The two entities don’t share the same objectives, the same working pace or the same challenges: although they’re so close to each other, they inevitably often find themselves in conflict with each other.

The promise of DevOps is to bring these two approaches together, by aligning their goals and processes, and optimizing the resources allocated to these activities: but this convergence is sometimes achieved at the cost of increased involvement of development teams in on-going operations. Doesn’t it make sense that whoever developed an application is the best qualified to deploy that application in production? Again, there is a real risk that production teams’ accountability is eroded once more.

The automation provided by Cloud management suites is transforming job roles
Good news. The Data Center becoming more industrialized. Although, in the past, many tools have helped to automate a number of production tasks (supervision, batch automation, package implementation), they have often been limited to a single function, used in a ‘silo’ by a specific group of users, and without integration or communication.

Cloud management suites are powerful tools that include numerous automation features: from workflows, provisioning and orchestration, to infrastructure and application deployment. The organization needs to think holistically about these tools, and integrate them in a very specific way based on libraries and scripts. New job roles are being created around these tools, so the responsibilities covered by existing job descriptons are evolving, with some being transferred from one person to another.

Service catalogues and portals: the relationship with the user is shifting
Portals and workflows enable user requests to be managed, by offering a catalogue of services that have been subject to rigorous qualification and reverse engineering.

Key elements of Cloud solutions, the services catalogue and portal are fundamentally changing the relationship between the ‘user’ (reseach managers, business project managers…) and production. Because if automation is taken to as far as possible and users have the freedom to manage their own environments, what becomes of the production team members that used to run them on behalf of those users?

The hybrid Cloud: going beyond the Data Center to the heart of the business
Hybrid Cloud solutions combine private Clouds, hosted on the customer’s own locations or by an outsourcer, with external public Cloud solutions.
The future will be hybrid. Indeed, the benefits of the private Cloud model increasingly complement those offered by the public Cloud: control and security on the one hand, flexibility and standardization on the other.

Production teams must be prepared to manage environments that go beyond their own Data Center – located in a partner’s environment as part of a private Cloud or in multiple public Cloud providers – taking an ‘enlightened’ approach to that utilizes the most suitable environments (to deliver on service commitments, costs…) to meet demand at any given moment.

Beyond the risk to the IT Department, new opportunities are emerging
With the solutions offered by Cloud computing , major changes are underway. The best production teams will anticipate and support them: as the more they do so, the more they will be able to reposition themselves within the company as a vital driver for added value.

Because the Cloud, automation, hybrid environments… will all generate new job roles and will facilitate things that have so far been difficult to achieve. So production must take on the role of an integrator of services, both those provided internally and externally (eg SaaS applications). It will guarantee the consistency and flexibility of the overall model, as well as ensuring the security and communications between applications that are increasingly built on a SOA model.

Ultimately, these models will ensure that production is truly business oriented. Which will guarantee that SLAs are met in complex delivery models, ensuring that applications get into production faster and more frequently in a optimized infrastructure which has been the subject of an effective capacity management process.

Application and financial performance: the fundamentals of production never go away, even in a changing environment. And there are real opportunities for production teams who successfully understand how to support this transformation.

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