ITaaS, short for IT-as-a-Service, is one of the more misleading acronyms around. Because it follows the somewhat annoying “XaaS” pattern, many assume that like SaaS, PaaS, or IaaS it’s just another cloud delivery model or technology platform. This mistaken assumption will prove to be very costly for many in enterprise IT.
ITaaS is in fact a new IT business and operating model, not a delivery platform. And despite this week’s pronouncements at VMworld, it’s about more than just software as well. While definitions abound, ITaaS is basically about IT becoming a service provider that offers and orchestrates IT services instead of organizing around traditional technology silos. The model provides users self-serve access to internal and 3rd party services via an integrated service catalog that supports chargeback and billing.
While cloud is a useful enabler of ITaaS, virtualized and dedicated IT services can also be packaged and offered up to users as well. In fact in most enterprises I’ve seen, that’s how the ITaaS model will have to be implemented as many legacy apps and infrastructure aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
While they may not use the specific ITaaS term explicitly, many in enterprise IT intuitively recognize that they’re now competing in the IT services market for business budget, and need to become service providers themselves. But they fail to realize that becoming an ITaaS provider is not a choice; it’s a decision being made for them by their users. By failing to realize this important fact, IT tends to focus on familiar technical issues such as how to build a private cloud IaaS platform, and not on higher level questions around what services need to be delivered or why.
This is reflected by the fact that many enterprises take a bottom-up, infrastructure first approach to “cloud strategy”, with the starting point centered around existing data centers. The focus tends to be on how to deploy private clouds atop current infrastructure, while also providing users access to Amazon AWS or other public cloud IaaS / PaaS platforms as deemed appropriate. This approach follows the classic mistake of focusing on the technology, not the users and their problems.
Organizations serious about ITaaS transformation start instead with business users, applications and services. They focus on answering fundamentally different questions that are out of the traditional IT comfort zone like:
- What services do our business users and developers want and need to drive innovation?
- Is internal IT truly best positioned to deliver these services to users?
- Can IT deliver these services at a market competitive price?
- How will our processes and policies need to change to support the new services lifecycle?
The answers to these questions are what then drive the answers around delivery models and platforms. The answer may be public, private, hybrid cloud models, or god forbid even virtualized or dedicated environment. But it’s user demand and needs that should drive the ITaaS services train, not infrastructure.
ITaaS embodies a new operational model that requires new skills, processes, policies and approaches. Many CIOs will find that these challenges will be far more challenging to overcome than the technical hurdles associated with delivery the model. Describing ITaaS in purely cloud or technology terms completely misses this point.