From The Expert Feature Article
April 29, 2013

MSP Advises IT on Strategic Shifts to the Cloud

As a managed services provider using the cloud for delivery, it is in Stratalux’s interest that IT shift from on-premises to cloud computing. But that does not mean it is not in IT’s interest as well.

In a new white paper, “7 Principles of Highly Effective Cloud Operations”, the company argues that shops should shift from focusing on IT operations (ITOps) to CloudOps. By moving to the cloud, most operational duties are lifted from IT shoulders. This requires a move to the public cloud as private clouds still require lots of IT time and attention.

By moving to CloudOps, IT can become much more strategic, and a true business enabler.

“IT’s role will change from one which configures and manages infrastructure, to one that develops infrastructure, enabling services such as Infrastructure-as-Code, Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment, and self-healing infrastructures all of which fall under the broader “DevOps” movement,” Stratalux argues.

This is much the same sentiment expressed by Nemertes Research in a recent MSP Today article.

Like Stratalux, Nemertes recently released a white paper, this one called “Shift to ‘Enterprise Technology’ Relies Upon Vendor Partners for Managed, Cloud Services” by Robin Gareiss, founder and executive vice president of Nemertes.

Instead of moving from ITOps to CloudOps, under Nemertes nomenclature shops move from Information Technology (IT) to Enterprise Technology (ET). “Not only does this shift change the way business leaders view IT, it also alters the organizational structure of IT itself,” Gareiss wrote. “In the ET world, the technology team becomes more strategic, and as a result, it relies more heavily on trusted partners to handle tactical functions—and in some cases, assist in strategic direction of the company.”

In the analysis of both reports IT should rely more heavily on partners, and here MSPs, who remove that IT management burden, are best equipped.

As Gareiss put it, “Managed and cloud services are playing an increasingly important role in enterprise organizations, with the network itself serving as the foundation for effective and strategic ET policy. IT leaders must define a new operating model that allows for innovation and adapts to the changes in the business climate and in the demand for services.”

Stratalux is on the same page as Nemertes, it just uses different words. “The cloud can move IT beyond technology, as an enabler for the evolution of business and company strategy,” Stratalux believes. “While some ITOps organizations have embraced public cloud computing, others have either implemented private cloud solutions in an attempt to bring the cloud into their organizations or done nothing at all. However, this only solves part of the problem. While the private cloud addresses hardware/workload inefficiencies and improves IT agility, it still requires a lot of resources to manage and maintain. ITOps still has to manage the network and hardware infrastructure, virtualization software, vendor selection, licensing issues, and associated administration.”

Again, Stratalux doesn’t think private clouds provide for this CloudOps transition. “Only until the organization embraces the public cloud can it free itself from the management of

physical devices. It is at that point that the Operations organization can transform itself into a

CloudOps Organization, enabling it to align with the company’s business strategy,” Stratalux argues. “CloudOps organizations utilize public cloud resources like IaaS from Amazon, PaaS solutions from Heroku, and SaaS services like Google mail, Zendesk and (News - Alert). In effect, the CloudOps organization has outsourced the procurement and management of its infrastructure to public cloud service providers who can provide a better service at a lower cost due to their specialization and economies of scale.”

The result of all these services is that CloudOps can become a revenue center where IT is too often a cost center.

Stratalux offers seven bits of advice to make this transition.

  • Stop Being Fixated on Hardware: Here IT must release itself from loyalty to its on-premises hardware, nor should it be overly concerned about what hardware the service provider users. That should be viewed as akin to a black box.
  • Focus on Instrumentation: When function is largely in the cloud, IT no longer has to fret about capacity planning and such. Instead IT “instruments” or automates repetitive IT tasks.
  • Build or Architect for Failure: The idea here is that cloud providers’ hardware infrastructure is less reliable than your old dedicated servers so the applications have to be made highly resilient to accommodate hardware failure.
  • Orchestrate and Automate: These two items are what make private clouds work and the same is true for having a good public cloud experience.
  • Don’t Fear Destruction: Similar to the economic notion of creative destruction, in the new cloud order destroying older non-optimum approaches to supporting the business is necessary to keeping that business vital.
  • Developers are Your Friend: The move to the cloud actually increases the need for software development, while Platform as a Service (PaaS) at the same time eases this development.
  • IaaS is Better than PaaS: PaaS is an approach where your software development is in the cloud, while IaaS is an approach where your infrastructure is in the cloud. When it comes to deployment, Stratalux believes IaaS is better as PaaS can lock you into using a certain set of tools. 

There are many, many different PaaS options, MSP Today would argue, and there is movement where IaaS solutions are adding PaaS and vice versa. And in today’s complex world of services, there is plenty of gray area between the two.

Edited by Rachel Ramsey