Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Thinking about IT as a supply chain creates new management challenges

CA World has wrapped up, finally giving me time to post a few comments about the major product news of the week from the CA Cloud Products & Solutions Business Line: the announcement of the CA Cloud-Connected Management Suite. (You can catch up on the other supporting announcements, the launch of Cloud Commons and the formation of a consortium to create and drive the Service Measurement Index, in my previous post.)

I heard a lot of very positive feedback about CA Technologies’ plans, many from customers, partners, and industry watchers & experts that we’ve been talking to quite a lot for advice and feedback.

However, I think it’s always a good idea to start from the beginning, especially for those who didn’t make it to Vegas to hear the CA execs (or comedian Jake Johannsen, Maroon 5, or James Cameron, for that matter) in person. I think the premise behind this forthcoming product suite warrants a bit of color and background, especially since the implications for IT are pretty significant, if all goes as described.

Cloud computing means IT loses its monopoly

The premise is this: cloud computing enables you to run IT differently than before. IT has had a type of monopoly. It has, for the most part, been a monolithic provider of IT service to support an organization.

Enter cloud computing. As cloud computing matures, it breaks IT’s monopoly. Business users now have a choice: they can certainly go to their IT teams for support with new initiatives as they have been doing. But, they can also investigate SaaS or many different types of cloud services directly.
As in, without IT’s involvement.

I’ve talked about business users “going rogue” in a couple previous posts. Business users are investigating cloud services on their own more and more frequently given the increasing ubiquity of cloud capabilities, their pay-as-you-go models, and the speed you can get something up and running.

As Chris O’Malley, CA’s EVP for Cloud Products & Solutions, said in his CA World cloud track opening session last week (video replay here), “IT faces a rather stark choice: either add value to the acquisition of cloud services by business users, or risk becoming increasingly less relevant.”

Instead, IT can be the manager of a supply chain of services

So what things would IT need to be able to do in order to help business users make the best IT sourcing choices, regardless of what the final answer is? They’d need to do less of what they’ve typically done – manually making sure the low-level components are working the way that are supposed to – and become more of a trusted adviser to the business.

The big shift here is how the business is getting its services: those services are now potentially coming from many disparate sources. And the source of a particular IT service can (and should) change over time.

The result? IT needs to manage – and constantly improve – a changing IT service supply chain. Gartner analysts Ben Pring and Allie Young published a paper last May about these "service value chains," saying they "will be at the heart of cloud services." Their research updated Gartner's model for "understanding the ways in which multiple components sourced from multiple suppliers will come together in the new service delivery models loosely defined as 'cloud computing.'"
"Cloud computing isn't your future," said Forrester analyst James Staten in his more recent post, "it's a new part of your overall IT portfolio." IT will use internal capabilities, external ones, or a smart mix of both. And that is something it can’t manage with existing tools.

To be clear, things like security, service assurance, virtualization management, automation, and other similar capabilities that are extended to take into account cloud-connected environments are still critical (CA Technologies provides a portfolio of solutions for this, as do other big & small vendors). However, they don’t help you understand, control, and constantly improve this new IT supply chain.

Delivering on the new IT supply chain requirements

We decided to do something about this. We started by figuring out what pieces would be needed to make this possible. In other words, what are the new requirements if IT is to take on this role?

O’Malley rattled them off in his CA World presentation. We think the list includes these things:

· Gain insight to compare. First, you need insight into your IT services – both internal and external. You need to discover who is using what, and you need a standard way to describe and evaluate those services, based on important business-related metrics – something that could be used for apples-to-apples comparisons.

· Connect to expert knowledge. Second, you need access to relevant data about cloud services, feedback about those services, and best practices from a community of both peers and experts. This helps you decide if, when, and how you should use cloud computing for a particular application or capability. Customers told us that they need and want a place to share experiences with likeminded people on many, many cloud topics to overcome the huge information gap -- a gap that comes from the rapid changes driven by innovation itself.

· Cloud-enable applications. Third, you need an environment where you can make changes and act on this information. You need to enable both existing and new applications and IT infrastructure to be more flexible by abstracting them from current physical dependencies. This will make it easy to move workloads to an internal or external cloud environment and back again, if you decide that is the right thing to do.

· Challenge your choices. You also need to optimize the choices you’ve made while selecting and implementing available options. You need to constantly challenge and reassess those choices to take into account both new information and changing business goals.

· Deploy, manage, & secure those decisions. Finally, you need to be able to deploy, manage and secure services that leverage the choices you’ve made to meet enterprise-grade, industrial-strength requirements.

Once you have these core capabilities, you need to use them over and over again, making sure you are constantly improving over time. Because in this scenario, the right answer is going to change as time goes on.

As you might guess, we took this list as a good starting point for the capabilities of our new CA Cloud-Connected Management Suite. The suite will have 4 components: CA Cloud Insight, CA Cloud Compose, CA Cloud Optimize, and CA Cloud Orchestrate. For a summary of what each of these will be, you can look at this short paper or the press release. But you’ll notice they follow this list pretty closely.

How do you turn ideas for cloud management into reality?
CA Technologies is now in the midst of making the concept I just described real. We’ve been focused on organic development efforts, and have also found a number of innovative companies in the market with some core technologies to help deliver on this.

For those of you who have been following the string of acquisitions that CA has made in the cloud computing space in the past 11 months, you can probably see how this suite weaves together technology from the acquired companies. You’ll recognize core capabilities of Oblicore Guarantee as part of CA Cloud Insight, 3Tera AppLogic at the heart of CA Cloud Compose, and Cassatt in CA Cloud Optimize.

But, these technologies alone don’t fully flesh out the requirements I listed. Nothing in the industry does yet. That’s why, even after the acquisitions, there’s a bunch of development that’s on-going to deliver what customers need.

Understanding the IT supply chain: using Cloud Commons and the Service Measurement Index

To help get a handle on the components and management of this IT supply chain idea, we believe that IT needs not only a new set of product capabilities, but also a place to do research on the many cloud services and capabilities – and a way to measure them. Thinking it through, in order for customers to get what they need out of those functions, it seemed much smarter to have them exist separate from CA.

So, we set up Cloud Commons as an independent community and website. And we collaborated with Carnegie Mellon University to get the Service Measurement Index (SMI) started, and then placed SMI in the stewardship of their consortium, so it wouldn’t be tied to CA alone. These moves hopefully get the ball rolling, helping make both useful to the industry as a whole, regardless of whether someone is a CA Technologies customer or not.

But, put all these pieces together – a community of expert information, a standard way to evaluate cloud services, and this new suite of products – and you have the beginnings of a new set of tools and capabilities to help IT manage this new supply chain. And, in fact, a new, expanded role for IT.

Where are we now? Both potential and pitfalls

CA World was our first stake in the ground. The industry has been wondering how we were piecing all of our acquisitions and other work together. We intended the announcements and various sessions at CA World to at least provide the strategic framework for what we’re doing.

Now comes the hard part: delivery. We’re back in our offices, hard at work on that, only a little sad not to still be in Vegas (a week there is quite enough, though, I have to tell you).

Meanwhile, customers can get started with things like the Oblicore and 3Tera products now, giving them a taste of what’s to come, with a convenient upgrade path to the new suite later.

The first deliverables (CA Cloud Insight & CA Cloud Compose) are due by the final quarter of the calendar year. You can be sure we (and I) will keep you posted on our progress.

Until then, we want, expect, and welcome lots of feedback on every piece of this. It’s probably not what people were expecting from CA, but that’s just fine with me. Please feel free to chime in.

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