Companies are increasingly confronted with the flexible adoption and use of a wide array of cloud services. Ginkgo recommends the inception of a Cloud Operations Center as the ideal starting point for embarking on the journey towards cloud excellence
Today, Cloud Computing is one of the most relevant topics in the ongoing digitization of organizations across industries. Evermore systems and workloads are being pushed to the cloud and new projects are predominantly conceived with cloud-native character. However, the growing adoption of cloud computing and the transition from pure on-premises hosting to hybrid and multi-cloud hosting variants creates the need for new operational organizations and models. IT departments must position themselves as the central control unit between cloud providers and their internal business units.
Despite increasing adoption, too few companies realize the full potential of cloud computing
The key challenge lies in applying IT and cloud services to strengthen existing lines of business or develop entirely new business offerings. This requires new role concepts, specialist knowledge and adapted service management processes. Therefore, new approaches on how IT infrastructure and services are provided and operated are necessary. The focus must lie on enabling reliable and efficient operations of heterogeneous cloud environments. To avoid vendor lock-in, cloud services from multiple operators should be included to allow for an early and steep transition towards multi-cloud environments.
IT departments are increasingly shifting from classical hardware and software provisioning to managing workflows with on-demand resources supported by a variety of cloud services. This implies a new focus on provisioning, securing, connecting, and operating virtualized resources on demand. Maximal operational flexibility and agility while maintaining cost efficiency are key components to realizing these goals.
The Cloud Operations Center ensures successful cloud operations
To solve the challenges mentioned above, a holistic operating model in the cloud is required. Depending on the size and scope, a dedicated organizational unit, a Cloud Operations Center, is recommended. Corporate IT needs to build up dedicated capabilities in five different areas to ensure successful operations in the cloud.
Cloud customers must be able to rely on efficient IT service management (ITSM) orchestrated by corporate IT. This guarantees that sensitive data is secured and that the cloud infrastructure and workloads are available around the clock. Errors and service requests must be handled reliably and quickly. An enterprise-wide, user-centric, and centralized tooling with uniform and automated processes across multiple cloud landscapes must be the target model for any future-oriented IT organization. However, to be able to act in a customer and user-oriented manner, standardized and fast service processes (including external service chains) are required. In this area, in particular, best practices and a demand-driven cloud service catalog offer opportunities to pave the way forward towards modern corporate IT.
2. Demand Management
Demand management has the goal to understand, anticipate and influence the customer’s service needs. New business requirements for the cloud must be validated against existing security and compliance processes as well as focus on the following questions:
- May data be uploaded to the cloud or shared with other users?
- Can the latest cloud services be easily integrated into an on-premises IT landscape?
The operations team or cloud operations center also plays a central role in these matters and forms the interface between enterprise architecture, security, and cloud providers. It assesses and validates the new requirements in terms of feasibility, costs, and security. In addition, this team assumes responsibility for the development of internal cloud operations processes.
3. Service Excellence
In addition to providing cloud services, corporate IT must make these services available to customers of the highest quality. The following points should be considered:
- Immediate support and problem-solving in case of incident events
- Short-term provisioning deadlines for initiating or changing cloud resources/services
- Short innovation cycles, especially when offering new services and features from cloud service providers
- Highly automated processes for handling relevant workflows
Existing hurdles in the procurement and use of cloud services should be reduced. This requires a team of internal cloud experts who think and act in a customer-oriented way–creating solutions for the company’s different business units, equipped with a clear mandate and end-to-end responsibility.
4. User Experience
The use and experience associated with cloud resources and services should be as fast, consistent, and convenient as possible. Therefore, a self-service portal as the central hub of corporate IT’s cloud offering is indispensable for ordering frequently used services such as, for instance, provisioning. Such a customer portal is particularly helpful in guiding users through cloud procurement and configuration processes. Providing configuration templates enables smooth and easy deployment of right-sized cloud resources. Best practices can be shared quickly and easily within the organization. Regardless of which business units are ordering, using, or customizing cloud resources, the user experience should remain consistent. This is a critical condition for linking cloud services to the core business and overcoming the traditional boundaries between business and IT.
5. Cost Management
The cloud promises a simple, cost-effective, and highly scalable alternative to existing IT services. However, this promise can only be kept if costs are transparent and unnecessary consumption is prevented at an early stage. Cloud instances are often booted up at will and not be taken out of service again after use. In addition, multi-cloud architectures add complexity, as do private cloud components, which do not necessarily follow the pay-per-use model. These circumstances make effective cloud cost management a necessity in modern cloud operations organizations. By providing governance services, such as a holistic cloud consumption reporting, undesired cloud cost explosions can be avoided.
Fig. 1: Ginkgo Reference Model – Cloud Operations
Organizations that do not address the adequate setup and processes regarding their cloud operations quickly face increased shadow IT risks. Business partners can nowadays easily deploy their own (often ungoverned) cloud environments. This brings problems in terms of data security, organizational inefficiencies, and provider governance. Corporate decision-makers should take responsibility for the holistic operation of cloud environments. The rate of innovation in the cloud segment also demands strong internal competencies to manage the rising complexity and sustainably establish and operate a future-oriented IT landscape. Although the establishment and development of a Cloud Operations Center increases the expenditure for companies in the short term, it represents an essential investment for the future of corporate IT and the business it supports.