Better Business Perspectives with Cloud Computing

All the possibilities the cloud offers through the words of Steve Leach, head of service management at Cloud Gateway.

You can also read the full transcript of the video below…

Tell us a little bit about yourself…

My name is the Steve Leach and I’m head of service management at Cloud Gateway. My role is very much about putting in an organization to support our customers in the new operating environment we have within cloud computing. My background was much more traditional ITIL, in telecoms and traditional service management roles, where things like incident management, capacity and availability were the absolute core of everything you did. One of the reasons why this role suits me, and I’m enjoying it so much, is that coming from a previous background I’ve moved into a new environment, working for a start-up with a bunch of dynamic and exciting people where every day is different.

When I was actually appointed to the role, I started to think about what sort of service management organization we needed in place and at that point the ITIL refresh hadn’t started. To me ITIL was literally eight years out of date so with a bit of luck, I stumbled upon Claire Agutter and VeriSM. I started to realize what VeriSM offered and created the service management principles and the management mesh, and I realized that VeriSM was exactly what we wanted. So, what I’m doing now, as well as being an evangelist for VeriSM and helping with the literature and to move it forward, is I’m actually practicing what I preach. We’ve embedded the service management principles, we’ve got a management mesh, we’ve got a flexible dynamic way of working, which is VeriSM in practice, at Cloud Gateway with me and my background. In many ways it’s a perfect match and it suits us perfectly.

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From a service management perspective, what needs to change by moving from private to public cloud services?

From a service management perspective in the cloud computing environment there’s various expressions, such as private cloud, multi cloud, hybrid cloud, and what’s become quite apparent to me over the year or so I’ve been doing this job, is that the old world has changed. So, what needs to change from a service management perspective is actually the things that I always felt very safe and happy about such as incident management, capacity and availability. These are actually different; the world has moved on. The way Cloud Gateway has been built upon a number of products that are so secure and reliable, you start to have to sit back and think, well what does a P1 incident look like? Do our customers care about availability? Well actually they do, but what we’ve included in our service management principles is that we say to our customers that capacity and availability are a given. We can say to our customers:

“Come with us, you do not need to worry about capacity and availability. There’s so much of it out there, we will buy it and flex it up or down as your demands require.”

 I was in a role where I was used to producing a monthly service report where the actual percentage of SLA you’d achieved, and the amount of downtime and unavailability was absolutely sacred as what the customer wanted to see. It’s a different world now. Capacity and availability are very important, but they are less important than information security and connectivity. What we have to recognize in service management is that things are moving very fast. Some of the old rules are regularly being broken. What’s become clear to me is, as we move into the world of cloud computing, as things change, I’ve got to try and keep up to speed with what these or these other people are doing, and I’ve got to try and put in a service management organization behind them that’s dynamic and reflects what they want to do and what our customers want.

So, in summary I think that service management has to move with the times. It has to recognize that producing a monthly report that shows you’re SLAs are all green is not enough, you know the old joke about the watermelon SLA, it was green on the outside but red on the inside, those days are gone, we’ve got to be more dynamic. We’ve got to produce information that our customers want, that our customers understand. We can focus on changes, on requests and on security more than we have to because capacity and availability are things that we almost don’t have to worry about, not completely but almost. So that’s the major change I’ve noticed in my service management role in the year I’ve been doing this job.

How does the cloud affect the support provided by IT?

Support provided by IT to our customers today, when they are using cloud storage and when we are providing connectivity to them, is different than it was in traditional IT support environments. As I said earlier, the capacity and availability issues are there but are much more manageable and we can push them aside. We can let the cloud provider manage them because there’s a contract we have in place for them and they’ll be doing that for us. So, what we have to have sitting behind the service desk, traditional incident change request fulfilment and problem management processes, are technicians who understand cloud as second and third line specialists. They need to get on top of an incident or change much more quickly that in the old days. That’s why with some of the service level agreements we have with our customers, we’ve upped the traditional best practice for priority one from four hours up to two because that reflects the importance our customers see in the data that they’re actually storing. 

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So the way it’s affected it is we can push capacity & availability almost to one side because we are buying that through the contract from our various cloud providers. But what we have got to understand is the impact that has on storage, on data connectivity and on security, and so information security is much more at the fall now. You’ve only got to go on LinkedIn or the news every day, there’s some real or perceived security threat and cloud will be mentioned, and our customers are aware and, in some cases, worried about this. So how it’s changed in my view is that we need to focus much, much more on the security of our products, our customer’s data, storing it securely and delivering it to where it needs to be quickly. Therefore, information security is now the number one support process we need to think about in terms of service management as we move to the cloud, and it’s more important than it used to be.

 

VeriSM would classify cloud as an emerging technology; how does the cloud fit into an organization’s management mesh?

The VeriSM management mesh is a multidimensional matrix of things that C level representatives need to think about when they’re setting up managing and progressing their organization. The management mesh is something that I’ve managed to create for Cloud Gateway that has been used by the IFDC and a number of webinars. So, I’d like to explain to you how it features in our management mesh and then how it might feature in a customer’s management mesh. In our management mesh, it’s the absolute core of everything we do. Cloud computing is the world we’re in, it’s the business we’re in, it’s what our product does. Everything we do needs to be considered against the cloud and against the latest technologies, against the various providers, it’s absolutely the core of what we do. But for our customers it’s one of a number of technologies and a number of management techniques and a number of challenges that they have. 

Organizations need to understand that one particular cloud provider, one particular strategy might not be the silver bullet to solve all their problems. They might need to have combinations of cloud providers, of hybrid products. Where it’s positioned within the company who’s got a maturing management mesh, they need to consider their strategic decision, what they’re doing for their customers and end users, against the number of factors of which the cloud is one. It’s absolutely vital in their mesh, whenever they’ve taken a decision, they analyze that decision against current cloud technology information and the various suppliers. It’s one of many, many decisions that organizations have to take, whereas in Cloud Gateway it is absolutely at the core of everything we do.

Each organization has got to make sure that their management mesh must never sit still, it must mature. The ‘E’ of VeriSM is evolving, if you don’t evolve, if you have the same management mesh for 12 months, I would argue that you are not evolving, and that you’re defeating the whole point of VeriSM. Your management mesh must evolve as business evolves, as technology evolves and as an organization and as its customer base. The mesh evolves with them to continue to give them a tool to do what they need to.

Why is it important for individuals and organizations to embrace the changes the cloud brings?

Migrating to private or public cloud brings a number of challenges for any organizations but one of the advantages that particularly moving to something like a public cloud will bring is an organization can focus less on infrastructure, less on security, less on firewalls and such like, and they can concentrate on their core business, which could be selling insurance or selling airplanes or whatever it is. They can therefore outsource that to the cloud providers. Now organizations must recognize there are a number of different ways of doing this, all of which will potentially drive cost benefits into their business but may well increase the real or perceived security threats.
It’s vital that organizations understand the pros and cons, do a proper cost benefit analysis using the various tools, such as the management mesh, each time they take a decision about new technology and about new customers, because the cloud is not going to go away, it will mature, it will transform, it will mutate into a numbers of different things over the years. The key is to keep an understanding of what’s out there, of how it’s working and how it’s going to benefit your business, and, obviously from my perspective, how I then need to keep the service management organization instep and constantly evolving as well.

What would you say to somebody about to start a cloud computing foundation course?

If someone’s about to go on a cloud computing foundation course. I’m sure there are many, many courses out there, but a few years ago for one of my previous employers, we were all aware that the cloud was being mentioned all over the place and I was the solution architect at the time. I used my initiative and I took myself to see QA and I sat on the one-day cloud overview with a guy I used to train with. I knew he could explain it down in layman’s terms and I found the whole concept fascinating, exciting and very interesting. So, if someone’s about to take a cloud computing foundation course, first of all make sure that the course is right. If they are an extremely competent technician, engineer, or technical expert, they will possibly not even benefit from a foundation course at cloud level because it’d be too basic for them.

You’ve got to make sure, like in any training course, that the right people go on the right course and it is right for them.
If somebody is going on a foundation course, I would say to them, first of all, make sure that you know this is the right course for you. Make sure this is going to benefit you as an individual and make sure that you know what the outcome is going to be and how it’s going to benefit your organization, and come back with that knowledge and try and impart some of that knowledge into how you do your job and change what you do based on that knowledge.

If you’ve got a long-term strategic training plan, there’ll be all sorts of management courses, foundation courses, cloud courses, service management courses and so on. Make sure that the organization has a provider that can actually do the right courses for them and make sure the course is right for this individual. Go online, do your research, look at the course syllabus, look at what happens at the end of day one, day two and three. Look at what’s expected of you and what the prerequisites are. Don’t go on the course discovering that a one-day overview was a prerequisite, and you spend the first day trying to catch up with what other people already know. Make sure you do your research, make sure the course is right for you, make sure you know what the outcomes are going to be. Then make sure it fits in with everything else. So, the technicians and the managers going on the cloud computing foundation course would nicely compliment me sending myself and Cloud Gateway on the VeriSM foundation course. We’ve got the skills to support them, but they’ve got the skills in cloud computing and then that’s all.

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Steve Leach

Steve Leach

Steve Leach is the Head of Service at Cloud Gateway. His first IT Service Management role was in the late 1990s with the MoD and required ITIL® Red Badge (Manager’s) qualification. He has been an ITIL practitioner, trainer and evangelist, implementing support models in the MoD, Norfolk County Council, Cable&Wireless, Vodafone and Serco and delivering ITIL training for QA. His current role as Head of Service for a Cloud start-up required the development of a modern, responsive service management model. Also PRINCE2, TOGAF and VeriSM qualified, he is a true T-shaped professional.