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Understanding the Cloud/Ops Disconnect

Apr 8, 2009

Rob England


The Cloud may well spread your infrastructure to new countries. You will need to check whether your existing auditors can service that. They will of course want to know about the security, privacy, continuity and other capabilities of your XaaS providers, too. Will ISO 20000 or other certification for the providers suffice? If not, what information is required and are you confident of the availability, timeliness and quality of the answers from the XaaS provider? They could fail your audit for you.


Scenario 8: A new version of the application is in stress testing. Your application testers are getting a puzzling performance bottleneck. What tools are provided for them to see into the Cloud? Who from the XaaS provider will work with them to assist? What will it cost? What does it cost to generate really large temporary datasets or transaction rates for volume testing?


Scenario 9: Your company has changed its strategy and is now expanding into Europe. Remember all those data privacy regulations you dismissed as irrelevant?


Sorry to present you with such a long list of questions. There are answers, but you won’t find them in the ITIL books. They are policy decisions that need to be taken in the context of your organisation. Some of them can be decided in-house and some will need to be thrashed out as part of an agreement with the service provider(s).


You will be pioneering. Gartner says that Cloud computing is in its infancy and will need seven years to fully mature. There are a very small number of agreements in place for Cloud computing, and no test cases of them ending in tears. There is no common architecture, no standards, and precious little operational guidance.


There was one other type of scenario: total disaster. The service provider goes broke. Their CEO falls out with your CEO. This is a known risk of the Cloud (or any external service provider) but probably beyond the scope of an ITSM process discussion. At a business level, there had better be escrow and other mechanisms in place to give you some hope of getting your data back quickly enough for you to stay in business.


Blinded by the Shade


It is all too easy for IT to see a technical solution as a solution. The process, business and cultural problems are generally larger than any technical ones. Here we have only looked at the ongoing operational issues of a Cloud platform. We have not considered implementation, data migration, staff redundancies, training, or resistance; and a raft of other hurdles to be overcome to get there.


Operations ought to be a stakeholder in any considerations of “going Cloud”. Try to raise these operational issues early and raise them high, because developers and ex-technical managers are apt to see them as administrative concerns to be resolved after the decision is taken. See my recent article on Dead Cat Syndrome for discussion of the wider problem of development-operations disconnect. Get your senior managers to raise the business issues. Once these factors are in the equation, the benefits of a Cloud infrastructure might not seem so attractive nor the business case so compelling.


Rob England (a.k.a. The IT Skeptic) is an IT industry commentator best known for his blog. He lives in a little house in a little village in a little country far away.