Managing cloud politics

Managing cloud politics

BMC CIO Mark Settle discusses the non-ICT challenges CIOs face in implementing ‘the cloud’.

Despite all the talk about cloud computing, there are no standards for integrating cloud computing systems. Do you see that as a big challenge for CIOs? It’s true that there are no universal management solutions for integrating public cloud resources with the internal assets located within a company’s existing data centre. We are still in the very early stages of public cloud computing. There is a variety of emerging public cloud providers and each one has its own architecture, operating model, pricing, etc. I think it’s premature to expect management standards to exist anytime soon but I don’t think that’s necessarily a deterrent to leveraging the capabilities of the public providers.

A cynic might argue that many companies have failed to establish integrated management practices for the resources that currently exist on their data centre floors, so it’s a bit of a stretch to assume that standards will emerge to govern the management of public cloud resources within the forseeable future.

In my opinion, current obstacles to public cloud adoption are more legal and financial in nature. Most of the cloud providers are not prepared to sign contracts that commit them to specific performance service level agreements (SLAs) or to financial indemnities for security lapses.

Standard technical interfaces for integrating public cloud assets with internal data centre resources would undoubtedly speed the adoption of cloud computing, but I’m not sure that the lack of standardisation is a major obstacle to public cloud adoption. Some of the larger and more sophisticated public cloud vendors are establishing public interfaces for integrating the management of their resources with the ‘private cloud’ resources that exist within a company’s existing data centre. The vendors are also developing technical procedures for managing security and performance within the shared ‘public cloud’ environment.

What are the real challenges CIOs face in implementing cloud computing, before during and after implementation?

There are two flavours of cloud computing in most organisations: the construction of a private cloud that makes maximum use of internal data centre assets and the ability to procure public computing assets on an ‘as needed’ basis.

As you go about constructing a private cloud, you start taking equipment away from individual functional groups and pooling those assets so that they can be optimised for use by the overall enterprise. You are trying to achieve the maximum return on the capital that has been invested in those assets by using virtualisation techniques to achieve the highest degree of capacity utilisation.

The biggest hurdle in this process isn’t technical – it’s political. You have to break down the sense of ownership that the functional groups have over the equipment that has been purchased to support their systems.

A second key challenge, post-implementation, is agreement with your CFO to purchase additional capacity in advance of demand. If you don’t maintain surplus capacity in your internal cloud, those same functional groups will demand dedicated resources the first time you are unable to satisfy their requirements from the shared pool of internal resources.

There are two key challenges in leveraging public cloud resources. The first is in the management arena. You need to develop operational procedures for procuring public cloud resources; you need to impose your standard authentication and authorisation procedures on individuals attempting to access those resources; you need to monitor their performance to ensure that they are supporting the SLAs you have established with your internal business clients; you need to monitor their utilisation to ensure you aren’t paying for something that isn’t being used; etc. You really have to manage the public resources in the same way you manage your internal resources.

The second challenge is financial. You need to figure out when it is more cost-effective to buy additional resources for your internal cloud using your capital budget versus buying access to public cloud resources on a temporary basis with your operating budget. Depending upon the pricing you’ve negotiated and your scenarios for using the public cloud, there will be a ‘cross-over point’ where it is more effective to buy more equipment for your private cloud than procuring temporary access to resources in the public clouds. You obviously need to figure out where that cross-over point really is.

One of the downsides of cloud computing is that it lacks standards about data handling and security practices. Do you agree? Are there workarounds?

There are definitely workarounds. There are a variety of encryption techniques and aliasing procedures that can be used to camouflage sensitive data being transmitted to the public cloud.

You may recall that most IT organisations had similar concerns regarding the initial use of software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications. However, over the past three years, there has been widespread adoption of SaaS tools to support critical and non-critical business functions in many different companies. I suspect a similar evolution will occur with the infrastructure-as-a-service capabilities being delivered by the public cloud providers – private companies and public organisations will become increasingly comfortable moving sensitive data in and out of the public clouds over the next two to three years.

What is BMC doing with regard to cloud computing?

BMC has been very aggressive both internally and externally in advancing its cloud computing capabilities. We recently announced a set of enhancements to our standard products that we refer to as Cloud Lifecycle Management (CLM). CLM extends the capabilities of BMC’s conventional product offerings to specifically address the management issues that are encountered in hybrid (private + public) cloud architectures.

Internally, 60 per cent of the servers used to support our product development activities consist of virtual machines, and we have achieved significant reductions in data centre floor space and power consumption through virtualisation. We have also established procedures for accessing public cloud resources for short bursts of time to support some of our product testing activities. We are employing cloud computing concepts on a routine basis to support critical software development programmes within BMC.

What are your plans for the Asia Pacific in terms of this technology?

BMC has roughly 1,000 software engineers in Pune, India. They now have access to a global pool of about 17,000 servers that exist in India, North America and Israel to support their development activities. They will also shortly have access to public cloud resources to support the scalability testing of new products. Cloud computing is critical to our ability to provide our India developers with the resources they need as quickly and cost-effectively as possible. MIS Asia

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