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Cloud-Ops: The Reinvented IT Ops


Cloud-Ops: The Reinvented IT Ops


CloudOpsThe Cloud Changes Everything for IT Ops

Cloud has changed the IT Ops game. Developers can bypass IT with cloud access and setup their own cloud-based servers to deploy to. This presents a new paradigm of NoOps, sidestepping IT Ops.

As recently explained by Ben Rockwood, director of systems engineering for Joyent (public cloud platform), "'A customer can fire up apps that we can flag as abuse.' In one case, Joyent was about to shut a customer application down because of what looked like rogue activity in their account, but the customer's development staff intervened at the last minute. 'They told us that their internal IT guys suck, so they started up a big project with a private credit card.'" (Move to Cloud Makes DevOps Even More Important)

With the drive and push to deploy faster, more frequently and at higher volume, cloud computing offers an enticing opportunity for development to circumvent the IT operations side of the house. As Barb Darrow, GigaOm, takes from a recent Gartner report: "IT staffs used to hold the keys to the kingdom — controlling what applications and data ran where and on what devices. That's all changed — a lot — with the consumerization of IT and the advent of compute power that in-house developers can spin up on Amazon Web Services and pay for out of petty cash — without IT approval." (Gartner to IT: Get a Grip On Cloud Services, or Else)

Cloud's New Opportunities For IT Ops

As the global economic situation remains uncertain, IT spending has likewise become more conservative. Cloud computing holds potential competitive advantages. Cloud computing provides opportunities for IT organizations of all kinds to reduce the risks associated with on-premise IT infrastructure (software and hardware). A cloud vendor's offering typically provides computing resources on demand, automated system deployment and scaling, and pay-per-usage pricing. Leveraging the shared computing resources (hardware and software) of public cloud computing vendors allows companies to save on the costs of IT infrastructure. 

David Cearley, vice president and Gartner Fellow says "a major technology trend that has permeated the market over the last two years. It sets the stage for a new approach to IT that enables individuals and businesses to choose how they'll acquire or deliver IT services, with reduced emphasis on the constraints of traditional software and hardware licensing models. Cloud computing has a significant potential impact on every aspect of IT and how users access applications, information and business services." (Gartner Outlines Five Cloud Computing Trends That Will Affect Cloud Strategy Through 2015)

Where traditionally, IT Ops has worshipped stability and reliability, maintaining the status quo of the data center, this is an entirely new direction for IT operations groups.

Reinventing IT Ops for Cloud

IT Ops needs to transform and become a more innovative IT. For both competitive and technological reasons described, channeling everything through the IT department doesn't work anymore. Now the business needs to start to assume more control over the IT assets. As Susan Cramm notes, "The trick is getting from here to there, to move from a world where IT is delivered to the business to one where IT is delivered through the business." (Put IT Where It Belongs)

Need IT Operations in the Cloud

While the potential for cloud computing is significant to developers, the breadth and depth of the impact are uncertain and will require review by IT Ops. The speed at which IT services can be provisioned and delivered will define the next era of cloud computing, and this will have to happen without expanding the size of the overall IT organization.

This means IT Ops needs to take a leap and redefine its approach to the cloud that will affect the people, processes and tools involved. James Urquhart explains that "up until now, IT has worked from a server-centric operations model; cloud is an application-centric operations model." (What Cloud Boils Down To For the Enterprise)

IT Ops Out. CloudOps In.

It's time for I&O leaders to do things differently. This means doing 'more with less', making less financial investment and organizational change, operating as a small, iterative, and agile organization. The application-centric nature of cloud operations moves the focus of operations away from infrastructure to applications. James Urquhart, vice president of product strategy for enStratus and contributing author to GigaOm's cloud coverage, explains that "If you are focusing on running applications in an environment you may or may not control, you focus on how to keep code running, data available, configuration viable and policy enforced. And, since the only thing you control is the code, data, configuration and policy, you have to start focusing on how to build performance and survivability into the application itself. (OneOps, TwoOps … Exploring cloud ops)

The DevOps philosophy that brought development and operations together, can be amplified in the cloud, offering a richer approach for the way development and operations works. Cloud also drives this relationship by re-organizing the traditional structure of software teams. 

Deployment was traditionally an IT ops task, and for many organizations only the IT department could implement changes in the production environment. Now with cloud's self-provisioning capabilities deployment can fall into the hands of development using Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). Yet IaaS also requires that IT operations develop new tools for automating deployment, and raises the bar in terms of sophistication and breadth. Successful deployments in the cloud require skills and knowledge from both sides of the "fence" between development and operations.

CloudOps Takes on Today's Cloud Challenges

With the recent headline-grabbing outages by Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services, there is concern and hesitation of relying on Public clouds. Yet diversifying between various vendors, would multiply the complexity and complicate keeping track of configurations across multiple cloud platforms. Mark Thiele, EVP Data Center Tech at Switch, notes that "There are inherent risks with putting all your eggs in one basket, regardless of the elegance or marketing of that basket. Any single technology platform brings with it the risk that a single platform specific issue could adversely affect the whole." (There's No Need To Be a One-cloud Company)

In the age of the cloud, IT environments are growing increasingly complex, simply trying to understand what is happening within the environment at any given time is a major challenge. Mike Vizard blogs in ITBusinessEdge that "IT infrastructure will soon span public and private cloud computing environments. On the other extreme, the rise of agile development means that a stream of new applications and related upgrades is becoming continuous. The problem, of course, is that not only does each update change the parameter of the application, but the application workloads will increasingly be moving from one virtual machine to another." (Network Monitoring Becomes a Business-Critical Issue)

Managing Multiple Clouds

IT operations will need to apply new management and monitoring technologies that provide real-time insight into the configuration of applications and services deployed across both multiple cloud platforms, and the on-premise infrastructure. This gives tighter control over the Public cloud platforms, essentially external IT infrastructures. "Such technologies should simplify the overall IT monitoring task by providing visibility of internal and external IT infrastructures from a single, unified view. Intelligent analysis of changes across multiple cloud platforms should be a key attribute of such monitoring technologies in order to efficiently support the cloud's dynamic qualities." (Multi-Complexity Of Multi-Cloud Migrations Means More Complexity And Risk)

CloudOps Will Ensure Stability and Performance

The cloud based infrastructure, or IaaS, does not replace IT operations. Deployment, monitoring, failure recovery, performance management, OS maintenance, system configuration, and more are still needed – critical tasks undertaken by IT operations. A development team cannot simply "switch" to an IaaS approach and expect these tasks to be taken care of by the cloud vendor. Scalability and the greater volumes faced with agile development is better confronted with DevOps and Cloud, or CloudOps. CloudOps allows you to increase the server to admin ratio. This means that provisioning a server is no longer a complicated, time-consuming process, but carried out as actual software. Where your entire infrastructure is virtual, and governed by code, then that code can be aware of anything that goes wrong in its domain.

The ability to absorb new technologies and platforms seamlessly is critical, and the reinvented IT Ops plays a crucial role. Just consider how wrong things could go in a cloud environment where there's no governance, oversight, etc. in place to assist in the process of moving apps from a test environment to production. All clouds will need a strong management tools, newer agile processes, and people ready to rise to the challenge to help automate and manage deployments.

Selected articles around the Cloud Ops discussion

Your Turn
What do you think? How does the cloud impact IT Ops? Are we entering a new CloudOps era?

About the Author
Martin Perlin