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Helping Customers to Build an IT Structure That Works for the Cloud

As a cloud services provider (CSP), you deploy many types of clouds for your customers. In most cases, they’re concerned about security and they’re evaluating whether they can afford private cloud architecture. The problem is they want the security of private cloud while getting the agility and flexibility they’d get from a public cloud. As their understanding of cloud possibilities evolves, those wants and priorities may change over time.

 

Cloud computing is dynamic by nature. CSPs offer a variety of cloud enabled and virtualized solutions to suit any company. However, many companies don’t organize their IT departments in a way that makes private and hybrid cloud support possible. In fact, 74 percent of organizations surveyed by Gartner indicated time, staff resources, budgets and internal politics were the major impediments to private cloud adoption.

For this reason, CSPs should think about offering IT organization assistance to their private and hybrid cloud customers as a value-added service. Since 70 percent of companies want to deploy a hybrid cloud infrastructure by 2015, CSPs can help to transition not only machines, but also personnel, thus providing a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

What’s Wrong With Current IT Organizational Structures?

Traditional IT departments have more vertical organizational structures in which employees are segmented according to an operational function. They oversee certain parts of the IT infrastructure according to their operational functions, but they interact little with other IT verticals. These silos often happen because IT departments are used to overseeing technology maintenance and servicing in non-shared and non-standard environments. They aren’t agile enough to handle the cloud computing’s fluid and dynamic nature.

Instead of focusing on operational functions and projects, an IT department designed for the cloud works to deliver services in a shared environment. Silos that were tolerable in a primarily physical environment won’t work in a cloud setup. In most cases, the IT department recognizes the Windows and Linux administrators can’t operate cloud initiatives as secondary parts of their job descriptions. CSPs can step in and guide their customers through some of the following reorganization steps.

Start With a DevOps Approach

In the cloud, application development and operations personnel have to work hand in hand, especially when code changes are made multiple times a day. Developers work on defining features, developing code and testing applications while operations simultaneously design the configuration based on application requirements. As the relationship matures, APIs between development and management functions create instructions based on application description so that the application can properly execute. DevOps integration is one example of how IT infrastructure has to become more interconnected in the cloud environment.

Create a Cloud Operations Center of Excellence (COE)

A cloud operations COE is a team of cloud infrastructure operations specialists overseen by an executive sponsor. This team consisting of a leader, architects, analysts, administrators and developers works with other IT stakeholders that include OS specialists, enterprise architects, security teams and physical infrastructure teams. If current IT personnel lack the cloud operations expertise, then organizations should consider bringing in skilled outside hires. The COE should have a clear charter as well as carefully outlined roles and responsibilities.

Establish a Cloud Tenant Operations Team

The cloud tenant operations team is the heart of evolving to a service-oriented approach. Roles and responsibilities can include:

  • Customer relationships manager. In a service-oriented IT department, the end user is the customer. The customer relationships manager is the first point of contact for end-user issues and determines customer demand for new services in the cloud environment.
  • Service government and lifecycle management unit. This unit, which may consist of several members, creates descriptions for offered cloud services and assembles a service catalog for customers. They also develop service-level agreements and operational-level agreements for each service.
  • Service design, development and release team. This team designs, deploys and updates services as needed, including both policies and service blueprints.
  • Service operations. This group manages the day-to-day deployed services for the organization.

Changing machines and software is one thing; asking employees to make changes is another. Throughout the process, executive buy-in is needed. IT personnel should have access to the training and support they need to navigate a different IT organizational paradigm.

About the Author: Sharon Graham is an IT consultant who has worked with organizations ranging from SMBs to Fortune 500 companies.

Image by EMSL from Flickr’s Creative Commons

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