Cloud and virtualisation are just tools — ITaaS means “Business”

To deliver agility and savings in the cloud, you need the right operating model says Steve Peskin and that’s IT-as-a-service

It’s understandable that the concept of IT-as-a-Service (ITaaS) is often misunderstood. After all, PaaS, DBaaS, and SaaS all describe services delivered through the cloud, so it would be logical to conclude that ITaaS simply connotes cloud-based IT services. Yet, ITaaS is in reality much more than that — it’s an operating model requiring an entirely new way of thinking to run IT like a business. While to an outsider this concept may seem like a no-brainer, since its inception IT has been run like anything but a business. Let’s examine why.

What a real business looks like

A business aims to deliver products or services that meet a certain demand, at a price that makes them marketable. Traditionally, however, IT has operated as if basic economic laws don’t exist. Based on vague objectives, IT delivered a tech infrastructure that at least theoretically improved various departments’ ability to operate.

But this infrastructure came at such astronomical cost that IT became like the family grand piano: “We mortgaged the farm to buy this thing, so damn it, someone had better start taking piano lessons!” Even marginal improvements came at the expense of flexibility, with entrenched infrastructure dictating the future direction of the company, rather than supporting it. But things change fast in business, and sometimes “piano lessons” just aren’t what you need.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss…

Enter cloud computing and virtualisation, and people started investing in as-a-service applications. Unwittingly, however, they were saying bye to one dictator and hello to a new one: vendors. By getting locked into long-term contracts, they were creating new architecture every bit as rigid as the old one. Furthermore, the change process was so ill-defined that in most cases the cloud — rather than replacing legacy architecture — just added a new layer of complexity. The promised agility of the cloud largely failed to materialise.

A broken model won’t create agility, no matter how good the technology

In theory you can bring on as-a-service resources as you need them, in any desired quantity, managing a steady pipeline of interoperable services as an auto manufacturer manages a supply chain. When one service outlives its usefulness, you drop it, and if you discover you need it again, you easily reinstate it. When a vendor flexes a little too much muscle, you get a better deal from a competitor.

There’s only one problem: IT departments have been built and reinforced over the past 50 years under a completely different model — one that has absolutely nothing in common with the rest of business. To create agility and cost-savings, IT must reinvent itself under a model that delivers the right services at the right price in line with consumption.

The right model: ITaaS

Companies can accomplish this through an ITaaS model that combines elimination of non-critical infrastructure and transforming of legacy applications into consumable services; avoiding inflexible contracts; leveraging cloud infrastructure and external SaaS applications; and spending transparently in line with value and need. In this way, IT can create the nimble environment that cloud computing and virtualisation were supposed to bring, where new services are delivered quickly and scaled to demand, and the full potential of limited resources is unleashed.

Successful ITaaS hinges on Governance Risk and Compliance (GRC), which requires an understanding of regulatory and security constraints in order to create secure access to services and deploy cloud resources in line with policy and regulatory restrictions.

Additionally, amidst an avalanche of products, tools and approaches, companies must adopt a vendor-neutral, application-focused process of adopting both the technologies and the approaches that enable ITaaS.

Above all, transforming to ITaaS means embracing new thinking that replaces the old “inside out” approach — which is really not any sort of business model — with an “outside in” focus on demand, which is the only model that can deliver ROI.

About the author

Steve Peskin is a UK entrepreneur and MD at Virtual Clarity, and following his mantra of “making complex things simple,” he applies his broad, deep industry experience to change the game. Past experience includes founding three IT businesses; Propero, Pontis Consulting and Pontis Technologies and has worked for VMware.

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