The Cloud

An Engineers POV: Service tiers are the new hotness!

FEB 17, 2015

Enabler or obstacle? Rob Nolen, Trace3 Practice Architect has an opinion.

Oh boy!  Talk about something everyone wants to discuss.  Forget cool stuff like NSX and micro-segmentation, or vVols or other cool technology.  Service tiers are the new hotness!

As an IT organization tries to develop itself into a service based solution provider, instead of a cost center, creation of service tiers and definition of those services is VITAL to be able make that work.

Why is that?

Behavior.  How do you incentivize business users into behaving correctly?  Money.  Money talks.  Telling the user how technically complicated a solution they are asking for is not going to change their mind.  Instead, you become an obstacle, and in our results-oriented culture, they will find a way around you.

The problem is – how do IT teams become ENABLERS of business, not an obstacle?  We switch from providing servers, networks, and storage to providing SERVICES.

AWS is simple to business users because they see a defined service, and a defined cost.  SLA and unpredicted costs aside, AWS provides a service.  The users consume it, and go about their day. When they have an outage, AWS will own up to it but they don’t really apologize.  People accept that.  It’s a reality and an upfront communication of a term of the service.

When was the last time someone was as nice to you about an unplanned outage?

So how do we transform ourselves into something that provides rapid value, while maintaining high service levels and quality to ensure our business can grow and have predictable costs, and ensure the protection of our critical data?

We offer services!

If someone asked you what services you provide, you might answer “Well, we provide Exchange, SQL Server, Mongo, Apache, etc”.  The truth is those are tools that provide services such as e-mail, databases, web services.  But even those are components of larger services typically that provide intelligence to sales forces, parts databases to maintenance teams, logistics information to shipping and warehouse staff.

By classifying our offerings into services, we’re able to granularly show our users what we can offer, and allow them to self-select what capabilities they need for their tools and applications.   We use these services and capabilities to help define a consumption model that can be forecasted and budgeted just like other resource each business unit needs.

This then enables IT to no longer be a cost center and a black hole for money, but rather a key member of the team that brings value back to the company.  IT resources are now integral part of initiatives to grow our business rather than simple costs to be cut when things get lean.  A very smart customer said this in a meeting I was in recently – “IT can’t just arbitrarily cut 20% in costs, that isn’t an actionable business decision.  We need definition and accounting of what we spend in order to make the right choices.”

By offering services and showing your users what THEY are consuming, these choices are now for the management of each unit to make, rather than IT taking the hit because we don’t have the ability to say otherwise.  When we need more, we can show where the current footprint has gone, and who has consumed it.

We’ve enabled our users for a long time to act as they do now, and consume resources from IT without thought for costs.  Developing services and tiers of services is a start in the right direction.

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