Monthly Archives: April 2012

The Key to Private Cloud Is Removing IT Stratification

One of the leading problems plaguing IT organizations is the high costs of operations and maintenance.  The industry average is roughly 70% with some organizations going as high as 90%. Picking apart these costs one often finds a stratified organization focused on narrow bands of computing with little crossover between the bands. Moreover, the weighting of political density between layers often makes it too risky for basic collaboration between the stratified layers. Hence, when problems arise, each layer attempts to solve the problems only with the tools at their disposal. The result is the Operation Petticoat wired together with chewing gum and bras that we call IT.

JP’s IT Axiom #124: Design flaws at the top of the stack will highlight limitations at the bottom of the stack. Likewise, the design at the bottom of the stack impacts performance at the top of the stack.

There’s no escaping the fact that a poorly-designed application will put undue burden on the operating infrastructure. A “chatty” application impacts bandwidth. Improperly designed database queries will consume memory and disk capacity. Poorly-designed storage architecture will limit the amount of I/O per second (IOPS) and, thusly, limit the speed of retrieval of data to the application. IT transformation is about moving from a stratified organization to an agile organization through the use of DevOps culture and other collaborative techniques.

Short of correcting this organizational challenge, the stratified layers will attempt to correct issues using the tools at their disposal. Hence, infrastructure & operations (I & O) will scale linearly with memory, servers and storage to correct design flaws in the application. Software engineering will add specialized code to work around limitations in the infrastructure, such as timeouts and latency. Removal of the stratification in favor of collaborative teams means that issues can be rooted out and solved appropriately.

Moreover, this stratification has greater implications for delivery of private cloud services to the organization. Indeed, while many organizations focus on delivering Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) from their private cloud, it begs the question, “What is cloud strategy for the organization?” IaaS implies that the consumer will manage their own applications in the cloud and that IT is simply the supplier of infrastructure services. I posit that this is merely an extension of the stratification of IT with the I & O layer delivering within their swimlane. However, it misses the greater opportunity for the business a whole, which is to deliver reliability, quality, trust and scalability for data and applications in a consistent manner.

Hence, IT organizations should be focused on delivering Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) to the business as this will provide a consistent way to design, build, deploy and manage applications resulting in lowering operational overhead while delivering greater overall agility. By delivering IaaS, the business loses the opportunity for this consistency as engineering teams are now responsible for building and deploying their own application runtime platforms. Even if a single vendor’s application platform is used, the various configurations will make it more difficult to support, lead to longer repair cycles and add undue complexity to operational concerns.

Private cloud computing represents a unique opportunity for the business to reduce operating overhead significantly through the three C’s: consolidation, consistency and congruence. To achieve this goal, IT needs to break down the stratified layers and formulate workload teams comprised of members from various parts of the IT organization and together become responsible for the workload’s availability, performance and consumer experience.