Monday, January 11, 2010

CA buys Oblicore: contracts & SLAs are pivotal for cloud computing

One of the most interesting aspects of cloud computing is that the conversation about what’s important for IT to deliver shifts to what’s really important: the service you’re trying to provide.

With the cloud, no longer is it sufficient to simply talk about the ins and outs of your technology stack; in fact, the idea is for many of those underlying details to drop down into the mists of irrelevance.

So far, cloud providers have been pretty careful about sticking their necks out, barely offering any sort of SLA that you can take to the bank. The result? "Best efforts" by the cloud vendors to keep things running, but downtime situations similar to what users faced last week.

However, as cloud computing matures, this has to change. And as it does, being able to track and manage the service level obligations you have with providers – internal and external – will be crucial.

What CA’s acquisition of Oblicore could mean for cloud computing

This is one of the reasons that CA’s just-announced acquisition of service level management innovator Oblicore could be so intriguing: the company has set the bar for managing business-relevant SLAs.

The Oblicore technology is best known for its ability to take technical information about what’s going on in your IT environment and correlate that with the business-level information held in your service level contracts. The company’s name is an appropriate summary: service level “obligations” are at the “core” of your business.

The business-level information is a way for Oblicore’s customers – from CIOs to managers of the IT services you’re buying from external vendors – to get a real handle on what they or their service providers are truly delivering. Oblicore has a bunch of integrations with technical third party tools (including with CA products from our partnership in customer engagements with them, but also with many others from the likes of HP, IBM, BMC, Oracle, SAP, and Microsoft) that can give customers the detailed input needed for comparison. And, adding Oblicore to CA’s existing service management solutions should be a nice complement.

More details and roadmaps will become clear as we work with the Oblicore team (all of whom are joining CA, by the way) on integration plans. But having their contract management capabilities helps CA’s service management capabilities today – and as we broaden our cloud computing offerings – makes a lot of sense going forward.

EMA and Gartner on the importance of service management in the cloud

Lisa Erickson-Harris, research director at analyst firm Enterprise Management Associates (EMA), fleshed this out a bit in the press release:

“EMA believes cloud computing trends will further increase the demand for service-based management including service level and service value management. Customers are demanding solutions like Oblicore that can offer business-oriented service management including details related to the service contract, collaboration during the negotiation process, and analytics to represent service delivery results in a dashboard format. Oblicore's strengths are well-suited to bridge the IT/business gap by capitalizing on existing management data, business-driven service definition and analytics to demonstrate service delivery results at each service lifecycle phase.”

This IT/business gap that Lisa mentions was one of the key points in the keynote that Donna Scott and Ronni Colville discussed in their Gartner Data Center Conference keynote last month in Las Vegas. Their advice for IT? “Until you become a driver in the alignment with the business, you are not going to be critical to the business – nor to the CEO."

“You’ve got to know what you have,” said Colville. “You have to have visibility to your services” in business terms. Scott reiterated the same point: “You have to know what you have and what’s effective” so you can “figure out whether they are the appropriate investments.”

Oblicore’s top-down, business-level approach (as opposed to the bottoms-up, technical details which are useful if translated and given context, but can be useless by themselves) can be a big help here. If you want to manage business value, a contract-based view of service levels is an innovative and effective way to start.

For more on these topics, there are some interesting blog entries on service management and cloud computing at the community site.

Broader implications for CA’s recent cloud-related acquisitions?

I have always thought of CA as a bit of an acquisition machine. That’s certainly been the company’s reputation (and certainly not always to its benefit). However, this is the first CA acquisition I’ve been part of from the inside, and I’m hoping those on the outside will start to see a strategic thoughtfulness in CA’s recent moves, especially in the area of cloud computing.

To recap some of interesting ones of late, CA has picked up Cassatt, NetQoS, and now Oblicore. Add to this the organic development underway and there’s certainly some stuff to be watching as we move through 2010. (What? There’s organic development at CA? To which I answer: surprise! Yes, indeed, there is.) More comments to come as things happen.

The Oblicore acquisition press release from CA can be found here.

No comments: