Open clouds and the need for a service catalog

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I wrote this when, we added newScale to the list of supporters of the Open Cloud Manifesto.

I’d like to explain why this manifesto is important to the IT service management community and to us at newScale.

In simple terms, when we talk about “cloud-computing” we are speaking of the next generation Data-center-as-a-service. Which is exactly the point of an IT Service Catalog: turn IT assets and activities into services which hide the underlying complexity of the supporting technology from our internal customers.

I’ve written about this before in “Amazon has Written Your Technical Service Catalog,” and it’s also what drove our recent product announcement.
First a word on the what and why of cloud computing.

The cloud is economically and operationally different from our traditional data center . A cloud provides the ability to scale and provision computing power dynamically, in a cost efficient and cost variable manner without the customer having to manage the underlying complexity of the technology. Cloud providers rigorously define their server, storage, network, service levels, prices and allowed variations to make provisioning fast and cost predictable.

A benefit for service catalog practitioners is the market-ready packages and prices defined by the cloud providers can then be used as components to define higher level business services. They are also useful to benchmark internal data center services for quality, price, and comprehensiveness.

The purpose of the Open Cloud manifesto is to frame a discussion about what we mean by cloud computing, what services we should expect from cloud providers, and what challenges and obstacles need to be addressed. It is not a “standards” document.

The four goals of the manifesto are to establish open standards that enable customer choice, flexibility, agility, and skill-transference.

The point of choice is that over time, IT will need to change or add providers. If the organization needs to change providers because of new partnerships, acquisition, customer requests or government regulations, they should be able to do so.

IT will also need flexibility, because it will have different cloud providers, private cloud and its traditional data centers. I don’t see cloud computing replacing traditional data centers, but rather augmenting them for scalability, testing, security, disaster recovery and for non-critical applications in the next two years.

And we can’t take 180 days of architecture review to get an app-hosting environment deployed or our customers will dial their sixten digits to freedom. Speed and agility means IT can deploy new solutions that integrate public clouds, private clouds and current IT systems. And this means that we need really well structured and rigorous service definitions in our service catalogs.

While many think of cloud computing as a techie thing, in fact it has significant ramifications for governance and management. The manifesto addresses this directy.

As IT departments introduce cloud solutions in the context of their traditional datacenter, new challenges arise. Standardized mechanisms for dealing with lifecycle management, licensing, and chargeback for shared cloud infrastructure are just some of the management and governance issues cloud providers must work together to resolve.

With cloud computing, we will still need to define standards, workflow for authorizations, manage lifecycles, and chargebacks. We will need to provide self-service portals for our user to request and get provisioned; portfolio and financial management to our business customers to make visible service levels, costs, and usage drivers. We will need to have system of record to define our service bundles, underpinning technical and professional services, automated provisioning, subscription life cycle management and billing.

In other words, we’ll need an actionable service catalog that can work with the internal data center, the private cloud and the public cloud.

We’ll need to put aside our cynicism and vendor distrust that sometimes permeates this type of conversations. Cloud computing presents a financially and operationally compelling new addition to the IT portfolio. It’s not ready to replace our traditional data center and it may never be; but it will provide marginal competitive advantage much sooner than expected. We’ll need to have standards and governance to take full advantage of it.

I think this community, by defining IT services and standards, can have a big impact in this conversation. This is why I felt it was important to add our voice of support on behalf of both newScale and the community that has grown around IT service catalogs.

What do you think?

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