Part 1: Automating Self Service for the Private Cloud


by: Richard Bourdeau, VP Product Marketing, DynamicOps

As promised, so begins our series on the must have’s for your private cloud deployment and what to look for when choosing your technology providers and partners. You will be in it for the long haul with whomever you choose so it is crucial they can do what they promise and you know what to do.

There are many vendors that offer automated self-service for cloud deployment. However when you start to look at what automated self-service means, the implementations vary greatly. Your definition of automation may not be the vendor’s definition and you will soon see gaps between where your automation needs begin and where theirs ends. At DynamicOps, our deployment experience has shown that most vendors provide a one size fits all automation that does not fully automate the entire process or cannot be modified to accommodate the differences in the types of services being delivered or different methodologies used by different groups. Other vendors provide more flexible workflow automation, but do little to actually automate the tasks that need to be performed. It’s a frustrating experience. You think you have done your homework, your strategy is in place, your vendor selected and before you know it production is stalled as you go through the oh so manual task of implementing an effective automation solution.

Before you select automation software to help deploy your private cloud, make sure that it has the functionality to help you with these most common automation challenges.

1.   Automate the entire process
Automated delivery needs to incorporate both the configuration of the IT resources as well as any pre or post configuration steps that need to be completed to either make the IT compute resource usable for the requestor or complete the “paperwork” required to monitor and track the resource throughout its life. Some think that it is a lot to ask to address the entire process and only seek to automate part of the process. So, many private cloud management solutions only address part of the process and focus only on the configuring of the machine vs. the end-to-end process. 

Partial automation, though better than complete manual processing, will still not allow companies to achieve the service level response times and levels of efficiencies desired.  Best way to avoid this trap is map out your process, soup to nuts. Note where compromises cannot be made on automation and understand how the new zero-touch approach will affect your processes on a whole. The right vendor will address your needs and bring additional suggestions and functionality to the table.

2.   Automate the task not just the process
It seems so obvious doesn’t it? But sadly, many service desk solutions that claim to automate the entire process really only automate the workflow that links a bunch of manual configuration steps.  In order to deliver compute resources to its consumer efficiently and reduce service delivery times, automation needs to orchestrate the configuration of both virtual and physical CPU, memory, storage, and network resources.  Ask yourself: Can the solution allow for pre-configured permissions so that resources are allocated with little to no manual intervention?

 3.  Different processes for different services, groups, or users
Every IT administrator dreams of the day when there is one process that addresses every business group and there is a clear view from Point A to Point B. You and I both know that the chances of this happening are even less likely than pigs flying. It is very common that different groups within the same company use different processes to manage their IT resources.  Because of this, production systems typically require more approvals and utilize different best practices than systems created for development and testing. Then, to make life even more interesting, within the same group different IT services can have different components which can necessitate different deployment processes. And we are not done yet! Every use within that group can have different access needs which limit both the services that they can request and the management functions that they can perform against those compute resources. 

I am exhausted just thinking about it. Bottom line – Automation tools which provide a one size fits all approach will not provide enough flexibility as implementations grow beyond typical lab deployments.

4.  Delegated Self-Service
Even with the appropriate governance and controls in place, some companies don’t feel comfortable jumping to  full service modes where end users directly provision and manage their own IT resources. Instead, these companies prefer a delegated self-service model, where an administrator provisions on-behalf of the user. For this to work the software needs to be able to track the actual owner and not the person who provisioned the machine. Ownership tracking is key  to successful lifecycle management. Look at it this way, it’s no use knowing who made the car when you just want to know who put 100k miles on it.

So be sure to look for automation tools that support an administrator initiated provisioning model that  tracks the owner/user. You will thank me later.

I have only scratched the surface on some of the significant differences you should consider when initiating automated self-service. Hopefully I have given you a sense about what to look for.

But don’t think that just because you have automation a private cloud creates. On the contrary, it is just one of the parts to a successful cloud strategy. But fear not, we will be reviewing more. Next we will look at some of the challenges of sharing a common physical infrastructure and what a secure multi-tenant environment will mean to you.

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