One of the challenges for enterprises in adopting new technology is the effect of unintended consequences – no am not talking of serendipity here but of excess or extended usage in ways totally unintended. I was in a corporate discussion recently where someone was mentioning within his enterprise business has empowered the users the most,in ways where IT could have never done. I probed a little further to find that he was referring to . user self-provisioned applications and even user self-provisioned migrations to new operating systems such as Windows 7, made possible by a client hypervisor. This very thought that users could successfully self provision Windows 7 migration would send shivers down the spine of corporate IT – what about security , compliance issues. What about configuration and app compatibility issues- whose responsibility would things like these become, screamed an IT guy –my job there was to just to listen. This conversation set me thinking a lot (thought this was an open issue when self provisioning apps became a reality).
In the early days of SaaS implementation (not long ago –say 5- years back), I found that several departments wanting to cut throught the perceived inefficiency of internal IT, would opt for departmental SaaS applications ( either surreptitiously or in a brazen manner irritating corporate IT) – Their argument was that they are just paying for a service and they havenot moved any IT assets internally and so don’t see the need for involving internalIT.I know ofsales guys in those days talking amongst themselves how their strategy of carefully avoiding IT and going directly tobusiness helped them win deals! The practice ( of under the radar SaaS investments)hit roadblocks when the need to extend and integrate those departmental apps arose and in some cases CFO began to see how to align those departmental apps with the compliance frameworks ( corporate IT role becomes important therein).
Today I see this trend repeating itself in cloud services adoption. s for cloud computing services, business users tired of waiting for IT to provision a new application or service are tapping cloud providers and bypassing IT along the way, much as they have for many Software as a Service applications over the past few years. And some cloud providers are having a field day. They are not calling on the IT department, but rather going to department heads to pitch their wares. Technologies in some way allow these first level indiscretions, so to say. Powerful virtualization techniques allow IT to be disaggregated in a way to pass control from the vendor lockdown model to the IT department, but more practice centric approach would do enterprises more good. Vendor pitches today promise an Amazon like iTunes like facilities to configure solutions and businesses –mostly long tired from IT inertia tend to jump at these – atleast in the early stages of cloud adoption. Some IT departments are not exactly thrilled with this prospect of user control — or the cloud, for that matter. Business in many cases tend to think of this differently. Not only is this entry made easy, some in the business side of things begin to think that this is a journey where power gets transferred to the users and this satiates their instant gratification or genuine needs depending on which camp you listen to.
As I see it, as business begin to invest moreand more in cloud computing,amongst a few things that get underinvested in attention and efforts is the central role of IT chargeback. The metering solutions are very critical in cloud solutions assessment –in the contest of one s own business, the ability to measure when you are using resources, at what level, and for how long, becomes very important IT cost allocation becomes a different ballgame in adopting cloud for specific business purposes. Now businesses are asking for the same “IT as a Service” approach that they get in the consumer world from their IT organizations as well. Today, corporate IT precisely use this as a weapon of defence and veer business to look at willingly pay more to set up and run the internal / hybrid clouds than the public cloud price in order to get the security and manageability of an internal cloud service – at least for now. See now cloud is now slowly modulating itself to act and behave in a varied form,
In any cloud journey – irrespective of the nature of the cloud, it becomes very important to layout in advance as an agreement between business and IT in terms of how to measure, monitor and charge for cloud services- clearly what you see in brochures and slide decks do not convey the actual cost of embracing clouds-its not just do-it-yourself stuff – in so far as larger and medium business are concerned. The nature of business that such IT supports can also influence in many ways the type of chargeback that needs to be put in place. For example, for those wanting to use IT to close the loop – transaction-analytics-decision- transaction, the mechanisms can be quite different. Many tend to ignore taking these carefully taken steps before embracing clouds, only to find them hitting hard to get this fixed. It would be more prudent to look into such issues beforehand and have them laid out comprehensively.
Traditional chargebacks divides budget by number ofunits served – the inequity there is quite unknown.With cloud, the problem gets more complex – like in an energy grid,the rate and time of consumption can tend to vary the charge rates.
In heavily virtualized environments ( Read-most corporate IT today), both metering and system failure possibilities need to be interlinked – many virtual clusters crash when overuse so one way to prevent overuse is to charge heavily for oveuse – so one can see the level of complexity and sophistication needed to design a right process and solution. An ideal scenario envisages setting up a service catalog with all pricing published in advance for business users to know the full details and help them take right decisions to evaluate, track, and audit their internal cloud expenses.
Having a good process that captures accurate usage details, precanned, predefined, monitoring and billing processes , a good dispute monitoring mechanisms all are part of what enterprises need to demand as they begin to embrace cloud. Bringing more transparency to IT costs is a cherished but that involves preparation, well laid out IT plans and a mature IT and Business Organizations to effect this. Its very important for IT to demand these even if business does not care for at the start of the program – as again many times the service level expectations can potentially bring about many changes in the choices that can be exerted be it storage, access, collaboration etc. Making these changes at the start of a cloud project can be far less expensive than making them retroactively. Now this one is for chargeback – extend this for security, compliance, integration, analytics etc.. the choices and issues are enormous- this where consulting firms bring in a lot of value, Based on global experience, best practices, success stories, processes and assessment on supply side- how different technology players and features pan out – their future roadmaps etc , good consulting firms can help institute good cloud governance mechanisms. Enterprises wanting to jump headlong without adequate foresight and planning , will end up having to endure lot of pain and too often they may turn to be very costly fix later or on an ongoing basis.
Bottom line – getting good planning, governance mechanisms are key ingredients in creating a successful cloud program.