How Cloud Is Changing IT Operations Management

IT leaders are confronting a sea change in the expectations placed on their organizations in terms of velocity, innovation and automation. Much of the attention has been placed on IT infrastructure. Whether you believe the private vs public cloud polemic is helpful or not, the key thing is that it is about cloud. Nobody is arguing that IT should stick with legacy approaches to data center infrastructure.  

It is a truism that management tools and techniques always lag the deployment of new infrastructure technologies. However, in the cloud world, that doesn’t have to be the case. After all, web companies -- that were the progenitors of cloud, DevOps, and SDN -- perform IT operations in a fundamentally different way from traditional IT groups. It's not too early for IT teams to consider how the cloud revolution is -- and should be -- changing IT operations management and visibility.

The most obvious way to see how cloud is impacting IT operations management (ITOM) and visibility is to look for which categories of tools now have a major SaaS player. Most everyone is familiar with the fact that SaaS offerings now lead for many traditional end-user applications like CRM. IT service management (ITSM) has followed in those footsteps with the likes of ServiceNow, which is a major SaaS player in ITSM.

However, ITOM as a whole is still largely dominated by traditional enterprise software offerings. Application performance management (APM) stands out as the main ITOM sector that has a major SaaS offering in NewRelic. When it comes to other portions of the ITOM market such as infrastructure management and network visibility, we’re still in the early days of the move towards SaaS. Saas-based companies are springing up in multiple ITOM segments, including IT device management and network performance management.

Yet, the presence of SaaS tools isn’t the only way in which we can measure the impact of cloud on ITOM. Cloud isn’t just about commercial product offerings; it's a whole way of approaching IT delivery. A major tenet of cloud and other new technologies innovated by web companies is automation.

Automation is one of the key requirements to be qualified as a “cloud” form of infrastructure. Software-defined networks’ whole raison d’etre is programmability. In fact, the primary use case for SDN cited by carriers like NTT Communications so far has been automating provisioning for speed, cost savings and accuracy. Web companies like Amazon, Google and Facebook are famous for their aggressive, industrialized approach to automating everything they can.

This extends to IT operations management, and it goes far beyond just initial provisioning. This is why web companies rely so heavily on APIs versus GUIs. APIs offer the ability to automate configuration, updates and remediation IT assets. APIs are just as effective at automating the collection and analysis of metric and instrumentation data for effective operational visibility.

Why is this so important? There are two major reasons. The first is that best practice IT is moving towards a service model of doing business that promotes user enablement, the breaking down of siloes and cross-functional collaboration. The second is that the availability, performance, and other metric data that is collected in ITOM can be valuable to so many other teams. If developers can easily access network and infrastructure performance, availability and other data in a programmatically friendly way, they can incorporate analyses into their design and produce better quality software outcomes.

Today, many ITOM practices and their valuable information is trapped in siloes, but that is starting to change. The lesson of SaaS applications, AWS and other public cloud providers that have turned the IT applications and infrastructure world on its head tells us that broader and deeper change is only a matter of time.