Cloud computing has become a more integral part of IT infrastructures, but enterprises are just now looking at how resources are being consumed and tracking them back to specific business units and users.
To help enterprises bring more accountability to their cloud computing deployments, BMC Software has introduced new capabilities within its BMC Cloud Lifecycle Management (CLM) and BMC Cloud Operations Management offerings.
Lilac Schoenbeck, senior manager for cloud solutions marketing at BMC Software, said the latest version of CLM fuses together the benefits of traditional IT management such as automation and service delivery models with the flexibility of cloud architectures, including the ability to support a broad range of platforms. "Our customers are running diverse IT environments."
BMC CLM enables administrators to define cloud service offerings, including infrastructure, platforms and applications, that are stored in a flexible service catalog. These offerings are supported by service blueprints, which pull together a functional description of the single or multitier cloud service, one or more possible deployment models for the service, and a set of configurable options that can be selected by the user at the time of the request.
Administrators are able to design and configure service blueprints and manage the cloud environment within the cloud administrator portal, which provides them with a better of view of what's being consumed by different users and business units. This information can not only guide future service deployments, but it can also support what Schoenbeck called "nuanced chargeback."
Implementing chargeback has been a longstanding challenge for IT--even as cloud management tools and platforms evolve to better handle metering and chargeback, IT continues to face ongoing pushback from business users.
Bob Laliberte, a senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, says that even if IT isn't ready to truly charge back for services, it should be doing trackback for the purpose of cost awareness. "As private clouds become more prevalent and users leverage a self-service portal and a service catalog, then it will be more important to understand what the costs are for all of the different levels of service," he explains.
Since cloud computing is a consumption-based model, Laliberte says, IT should use trackback to make business units more aware of the resources they are using and condition them for eventual chargeback. That's particularly true as organizations build out multitenant data centers to support these different business units--they need a mechanism to apply costs appropriately.
Laliberte adds that many vendors, such as VMware, Oracle and SolarWinds, include chargeback features in their offerings.
The InformationWeek Report "Private Cloud Vision vs. Reality," published in April, found that out of 123 organizations starting private cloud projects, only 20% plan to charge departments and projects for resources. Thirty-eight percent plan to charge back, but only for monitoring and cost awareness; 27% had no plans to do so; and 15% didn't know. The report also found that 51% of 414 respondents with private clouds surveyed don't use chargebacks, and that it is the least-desired feature.
Report author and Network Computing Editor Mike Fratto noted that while many companies' accounting systems aren't set up to actually charge businesses, they can still use chargeback capabilities to track resource usage and generate reports to inform business units about their IT consumption. IT can also use chargeback data to make IT more efficient by revealing systems that are using excessive resources, showing the CFO how IT assets are being consumed and as a justification when it comes time to develop budgets.
Fratto concludes that 58% of those building private clouds that plan to actually charge or use chargeback data for cost awareness are on the right track, as IT will likely find that users consume resources more responsibly because the cost isn't hidden in a profit-and-loss statement. However, IT will need to charge for services competitively, neither overcharging to inflate budgets nor undercharging to make internal IT look more efficient than outside providers.
Joe Onisick, founder of Define the Cloud, takes the position that chargeback/trackback is a necessity. "IT chargeback/trackback systems are just as important to private cloud success as they are public," he wrote recently for Network Computing. "Regardless of whether or not business units are directly billed for IT services, having visible usage metrics provide a great deal of benefit and can help keep your private cloud journey on track." The key benefits of IT chargeback/trackback systems to private clouds are visibility, prioritization and accountability, he noted.
IT chargeback/trackback will help validate and promote a private cloud deployment, Onisick concluded, and properly understanding and utilizing an IT chargeback/trackback tool set will assist in both deployment and operation of private clouds.
Even if IT doesn't actually charge back for cloud services, having insight into how resources are consumed is necessary to plan and model cloud deployments, says Dennis Drogseth, VP of Enterprise Management Associates.
Moving IT resources into the cloud should not mean less visibility into what services are running and how they are consumed, whether it's a private cloud or a public cloud delivered by service provider, he says. "If cloud is all about choice and cloud is all about optimization, how are you going to optimize or make intelligent choices if you can't see what you're doing?"
As IT moves more services into the cloud, tools such as those provided by BMC inform decisions about what services to run and where and how to run them, Ronni Colville, VP and distinguished analyst, IT operations management, at Gartner. "BMC is appealing to those organizations that are ready to think about not just the workloads but the service and how to get the best placement, positioning, performance and demand that's cost efficient."
A full listing of BMC's new cloud management features is available on BMC.com.