Infrastructure Services are definitely undergoing a major transformation. How does one navigate the web of emerging technology trends and stay ahead of the game? Read on to learn more on our Infra Matters blog.

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November 7, 2013

DevOps: Befriending the alien

We are living in interesting times where organizations are re-thinking their commitment to value. There is more focus on the question: "Are we doing this right and creating value?"

 

Globally, production cycle times are getting reduced and time to market for any product is expected to be "quick". There is a concerted focus on automation which has given birth to relatively new jargons such as DevOps, Orchestration etc. Despite decades of process and policy re-engineering, we run the risk of missing out on success without automation systems to support us. 


So what are we trying to bring in our lives?  


DevOps is an interesting practice that has silently invaded the IT professional's sphere of influence - almost like the friendly neighborhood alien made famous by Steven Spielberg.

Let us figure out for a minute on what is DevOps and why it makes a difference to us here?


"DevOps is associated with a collaborative set of practices that "influences" IT Development, Testing & Operations/Service Management staff to join hands and deliver high quality IT Services/applications to the end-users "more frequently & consistently".


Based on my recent experiences with clients and prospects, I can say that nearly every global IT organization has heard about it and is interested to explore this 'jargon' (I say this is a jargon since there is no official framework which is authoritative enough to set a global definition and prescription to implement DevOps).

 

I have a rather radical observation and interpretation here. Innovations in technology mainly around Cloud, Mobility & Social space has taken a big lead compared to people practice maturity levels. There are expectations now to roll out frequent application/service releases - in some cases, a daily release.


This has resulted in the need of more "people centric" development methodologies that sometimes need radical shifts in organizational philosophy. For e.g. how many of us have actually seen  application development and IT operations members sitting together in the same room working daily to rollout regular releases?

 

In the next couple of years, this debate is likely to continue about how much of local collaboration is required to make DevOps a realistic goal. Again, technology has moved ahead in the game here, and it can be actually seen among the DevOps tool vendors where they aggressively claim to make this happen.


There are tools in the market that claim to automate the entire software delivery provided the developer writes the code (many a times using re-usable components), tester has uploaded the test cases at the same time when code is written and the environment/infrastructure is readily available on-demand. In a nutshell, you can check-in the code into a repository and go home; the rest is taken care of by the systems to make the new release available to the end-users.

But reality is different. It will not be so easy to adopt this disciplined practice - it is like applying moral science lessons in a chemistry lab!


The success of this concept hinges on the level of understanding of all the stakeholders involved and befriending this concept - however alien it may sound. (In the end, even the scientist ended up liking ET!)

September 26, 2013

7 steps to a smarter IT Front End

 

We often praise a particular front end as compared to another. The world of Graphical user interfaces has transcended from PC's to Mac's to smartphones. But quite often the IT department ignores the 'Front End' that the modern user expects from IT. Most are fixated on the Service Desk as that all empowering front end. Even ITIL has prescriptive definitions. One can argue that this is not at all the case especially from an end user perspective.

 

We often hear the complaints of IT being slow, ineffective or behind on support commitments. Though there may be some truth to this, there's much to do with ignoring perceptions that have built up over time in user's minds. So what is that 'Front end'- I would define that as a cohesive combination of Resources, Service Desk response times, average speed of resolution, automated Service Catalog and a comprehensive Knowledge base.

 

So how does an organization build up that smart IT front end? Here are 7 steps to get going-

 

1)     Handle all actionable Service Requests through a single service catalog- Basically 100% of Service Requests should go centrally into one service catalog. Insist that the service should not exist if it does not exist on the Service Catalog! Obviously this requires a major change to sunset all kinds of tools and manual services, but the effort to consolidate on one clean interface is worth the time and effort.

2)     Support the Service Catalog through an automated back end - All actionable Service Requests should flow through an automated back end working their way through approvals, procurement, provisioning and fulfillment. Of course automating all of this is ideal and the holy grail! But make the move towards that goal and measure progress. Again shoot for 100% of backend processes; you will reach a high mark. E.g.-new user accounts, requesting a development environment, licenses, adding application access etc.

3)      Enable Problem to Incident (P2I) conversions- Resolving a problem is not the end of the day. Confirming that Level 1 teams understand what to do if the incident rears up again is a must. Consistently enforcing this policy of P2I connection and conversions will work wonders over a defined duration resulting in more incidents resolved faster and efficiently at Level 1 itself.

4)      100% self service for user induced incidents- Setup a Self Service gateway to manage all such common incidents. This will dramatically reduce time to improve speed of response. Examples include Account Lock Out, Password changes and resets, information /document upload, profile changes etc.

5)     Setup and maintain a corporate Wiki- Information discovery and ease of information consumption should play a key role in the roadmap of the IT Front end. Too often we see lack of information on how-to's, problems with finding the right document and obsolescence. An annual check on all key docs, along with the user's ability to edit and update docs will foster a sense of shared ownership within the user community. Enable access through all devices, especially smartphones. Experts will bubble up to the top and become allies of IT.

6)     100% of software installs via End users- through the self-service capability and service catalog automation, enable users to receive a temporary download link to software that they are allowed to install. In the long run, diminish the need for this install capability through adoption of Software as a Service and/or internal web applications. E.g. - Office 365, Sharepoint Online and Lync

7)     Periodic user engagement- IT often gets flak for not being there when it matters or simply not being around. Enabling user feedback, technology awareness sessions and formal internal training periodically can go to a great extent in bringing IT closer to the business community.

 

The organization of tomorrow requires a smart technology front end. Transforming from now to then requires investment of time, effort and resources. These steps can get you started. And there may be more. Do you have a take on additional steps- then do write in.

June 29, 2013

Outcome Sourcing - Buying results rather than services

 In his interview with DNA India magazine, Chandrashekhar Kakal, SVP and Head of the Business IT Services unit at Infosys, talks about the rise of outcome based sourcing as opposed to the traditional mode of 'outsourcing'. Traditional IT outsourcing has been focused on cutting input costs with the buyer seeking to offload repetitive activities to a third party. However, organizations today are already looking at the next big thing.

As enteprises continue to spend majority of their budgets on running and maintaining the IT infrastructure, they need to look at new ways to innovate and transform the business such that it leads to growth.

Outcome sourcing allows organizations to buy results that matter to business growth rather than just focus on reducing the input costs. So, they look for "strategic partners" who can be entrusted with the end to end management of business applications and processes, as opposed to suppliers or vendors. As the emphasis moves towards delivering results that matter to the client, outcome sourcing can foster innovation and a closer alignment of a vendor's incentives with business requirements.

Click here to read the complete article.

May 15, 2013

Automating automation

(Published on behalf of Shalini Chandrasekharan)

 

In their ever present struggle against time and resources, Automation, is one of the most potent weapons being harnessed by CIOs. Small wonder then, to see organizations such as Morgan Stanley plan to spend as much as $ 250 Mn on automation software in order to improve overall customer experience. 

However, simply investing in automation software may not be enough. While basic automation strategies for common repetitive tasks especially monitoring alerts, ticket handling and troubleshooting may be in place for most organizations, an expert system based tool could actually help automate the whole process of automation itself leading to even more efficiencies. The staff engaged in routine activities can be reassigned to high value activities.

It is with this backdrop, that Chandrashekhar Kakal, SVP, and head of Business IT Services unit at Infosys, talks about the implications of autonomics for IT operations in his blog piece on the InfyTalk.

Click here to read the full post.

February 4, 2013

Automation as the key to environment management

(Posted on behalf of Ruchira Anekar)

 

For years, software environments have played a key role in software development lifecycle. Now, with demand for agile software delivery and increased testing demands, there is a frequent need to build and test environments in order to support rapid delivery timelines and maintain quality.
 
However, the applications and infrastructure landscape has become much more complex. This has increased the challenges of managing software environments including planning, provisioning, configuration, deployment and testing of an environment.
According to Gartner, 40% of estimated effort during the software development lifecycle is wasted on resolving environment related issues. CIOs, therefore, will look to reduce the cost involved in managing the complex environments and keeping it up-to date so that business gets the required support.
Automation can play a major role in enabling organizations to cope with these challenges. Automation relevant to environment management includes a combination of pre-configured tools and scripts supporting the end-to-end environment management lifecycle.

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December 21, 2012

Onward to 2013- IT Infrastructure's home is more important than ever

A couple of weeks ago I attended the Gartner Data Center Conference 2012.  It is by far one of the largest conferences focused on infrastructure services and the Data Center market. The conference had about 2500 visitors and was very well organized on all fronts. Through that time and after discussions with clients and partners, some trends are becoming more evident than ever as 2012 comes to a close.  I won't try to expand on each of these observations in this short blog, however suffice to say that numerous examples around these areas exist today and are growing rapidly. Call it a crystal ball or some food for thought for the year end reading so here goes-

·         The emergence of the software defined and software managed modular data center

·         Enterprises' growing struggles to realize public cloud benefits within an enterprise construct

·         The expanding PaaS-ification of Public Clouds-note the announcement of Amazon Redshift earlier this month to challenge the likes of IBM in the Data Warehouse market

·         The Infrastructure automation market looks to be quite diverse and just getting started- no single pure play company is likely to wield any significant influence

·         Data Centers are growing and growing - more space is being put out for DC's inspite of virtualized infrastructure and converged infrastructure.

·         Data center operators' greater reliance on the power grid and self generation measures are inviting more scrutiny from power regulators

·         Converged Infrastructure is enabling faster and more frequent application rollouts- expect more on the lines of dev-ops. Also fueling faster private cloud adoption

·         Converged and commoditized infrastructure is starting to find it's way into the enterprise

·         Fully operational and scalable hybrid clouds are still more of a hype than reality

·         Converged Cloud Services is SaaS-ifying and commoditizing CRM, HRM, Financials and related business functions- eg Oracle Fusion cloud

·         Lots of initiatives planned within enterprises on Big Data. The emergence of Big data only startups- eg Horton Works

·         Big Data leading to the 'Internet of things' - eg sensors & cameras recording vehicle license plates at toll booths-Questions on what to do and how to store this data tsunami

·         Talent within IT organizations is getting redefined- more cross skilled, senior resources within Infra dealing with cross skilled developers. Forecasts of talent crunch to meet demand.

·         Increasing impact of Flash players in the storage market- Fusion IO, Violin Memory, etc. Major changes in storage backend is expected to lead to faster apps in general. And perhaps faster business cycles

So, one thing is really clear. Businesses continue to see IT Infrastructure services and the Data Center as the center of gravity for all technology operations, whether that is a 2 person startup or a global corporation. And as a result, things are looking really bright for technology professionals in 2013 and beyond.

 

December 3, 2012

Why automating your datacenter makes sense

Over the years datacenters have come a long way from the days when behemoth machines were housed inside large rooms with tonnes of cabling and traditional power hogging air-conditioning systems. With the complexity of datacenters increasing by the day and the kind of diverse infrastructure landscape prevalent within today's datacenter, the emphasis on the governance and maintenance of datacenters has gained importance.

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