In this episode of Cloud Insiders we’re talking about lifecycle management in the cloud era, and how these cycles have moved beyond the realms of IT with Xtravirt Strategic Services Director Robin Gardner.
Technology touches all aspects of a business, and every strategic decision made at every level of a company will be dependent on, or impact IT teams. With operations now largely spread between on-premises and the cloud, knowing what you manage and who manages it, structuring your plans to assign responsibility and how to achieve continuous development and improvement has even more importance.
In this podcast, we discuss:
Host: Stuart Robinson, Xtravirt
Guest: Robin Gardner, Xtravirt
Today we’re talking about Life Cycle Management, for the purposes of this intro I’m just going to drop the IT, what is it, who it affects and how its adapted for the cloud era. We have the pleasure of being joined again by Robin Gardner, Strategic Services Director for Xtravirt who is going to guide us through this genuinely huge topic. Hi there Robin.
Hi Stuart glad to be here and looking forward to the conversations.
As mentioned my name is Stuart Robinson and I’ll be your host for this episode and I’ve really gone through the ringer on this one I thought I understood what life cycle management was and I got why it was so important but the more I researched the more I spoke to people who do this day in and day out I suddenly realised that had the scale all wrong, it’s not this one single pre-canned subject you can just tackle but it’s a series of towers that sit under a single colossal banner.
However, in stark indifference to what I’ve just said could you give us a 3000 foot high view of why there is a need to talk about life cycle management beyond transformation and then we can explore more about the implications
So, traditionally life cycle management has focused on software and hardware replacement life cycles driven by capital investment plans and software releases coming out of vendors moving to the cloud doesn’t remove this requirement to actively manage the environment and your IT capability, but there is a tradition that has persisted where significant multi million pound investments are handed over to business as usual and there’s no changes to the operating model and management processes to account for the new technologies. Without these your business value deteriorates and your transformation can quickly become a new legacy that just sits in somebody else’s data centres. There’s huge opportunity for CIOs to work across their leadership teams to build and define that post transformation operating model and to make sure that they got the steps in place to actively manage the investments and avoid another transformation or investment programme needed five to seven years later.
So clearly there is a need to talk differently about how to manage this cloud and digital infrastructure, presumably you aren’t suggesting that everyone should be jumping ship every couple of months to something bleeding edge something brand spanking new, is there a way to break this down to give it some more structure?
Yes sure I mean often analysis frameworks fall back to looking at people, process and technology and evaluating maturity against each of those three dimensions. When we look at the life cycle and the life cycle management of your cloud investment I’d probably look more across four different individual life cycle towers in my mind those are the operational life cycle, the strategic life cycle, the organisational life cycle and then your business life cycle, those aren’t in any priority order it’s just looking at each of those individually and making sure that you’ve got a plan and a mandate to force yourself to review those on an ongoing basis.
So, if we could run through those individually and if we go through in the order you stated them, so let’s start with operational life cycle.
From an operational life cycle perspective I’m talking about monitoring and managing the environments not just trusting that a cloud provider will take care of you and then working to fix it when something goes wrong and you’ve got to bear in mind that, particularly with public cloud or software as a service these environments are sitting in the public domain so any risks associated with poor management or the degradation of the configurations are going to be instantly exposed to the Internet and to wider risks.
So from an infrastructure as a service perspective what we’re talking about is making sure that patching image management is ongoing, that you’re monitoring and adopting changes to configuration recommendations, security guidelines are updated in line with knowledge articles published by the manufacturers and changes and evolving best practise as well. Alongside that the infrastructure that you’re running on out there in the cloud is going to continue getting upgraded and modified and you need to make sure that your application compatibility and your ecosystem compatibility is continually tested as each of those upgrades come through.
From a software as a service and platform as a service perspective you’re looking at the same thing, monitoring the upgrade and release schedule from the manufacturer from the cloud platform providers making sure that those are embedded into your own internal change management processes, your scheduling the service validation and sign off when the upgrades take place and also monitoring for what new functionality has been introduced and often more important what functionality that has been deprecated that you may be relying on internally to deliver services. Alongside that you need to keep an eye on tracking your data, the data residence the ownership internally of that data and how backups are being taken and ensuring that you have a DR plan in place should that cloud service be unavailable and that you have access the necessary data process frameworks to be able to recover in the event that your service provider doesn’t come back online in a timely manner to support your business needs. The last thing, again in line with infrastructure as a service, if you’re running software as a service or platform as a service you still need to make sure that you continue to validate your configuration and your adoption against both operational and security best practises.
So that’s your day to day operations, that sits within your infrastructure OPs or replication OPs team but from an IT management perspective – IT leadership there’s this strategic life cycle that needs to operate in parallel. We need to continue to monitor and validate the solution against the original business case making sure that the expected value proposition is being delivered and realised ensuring that you’ve got the right licencing in place and the consumption models are being monitored to see whether there’s any optimization, could licences being rented be released? Have you licenced or adopted more components than you actually need once you move into business as usual? The ongoing analysis of the trends the utilisation growth and the hours of business, are there opportunities where you can re balance your usage across public and private clouds? Are you identifying periods of burst or ongoing growth requirements where you can move from on-demand licencing to committed licencing models which will give you a significant cost reduction -sometimes in the region of 30% to 60% against on demand licencing.
Again from a business perspective there’s the new features and functionality that’s being delivered in those platforms, is there an opportunity to adopt them to benefit existing business requirements? Or to introduce or expose new business opportunities that you didn’t take back and used to inform the wider business strategy. Have you got a disaster recovery and business continuity toolbox set up? Do you know what capabilities are available within the platforms in the partner relationships in cloud services that you have available that should you see a crisis or business change event you can turn on and leverage those instead of having to step back and start from scratch.
We’ve seen huge take up as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic where businesses have leveraged their existing cloud relationships to rapidly respond with new business services.
The last area again linked to business continuity is looking at your business continuity domains, what I mean by that is the areas where there is a compound risk and in the event of a cloud platform failure or authentication failure the impact on your business would be much broader than if that some of those service had been distributed across alternate hosting locations and these need to be monitored in line with the changes to your business usage and also changes to your risk appetite as well.
What about the life cycle of the IT organisation?
This is looking at how you invest in upskilling, the value of your internal IT organisation. We see a different skill set in an infrastructure engineer that can make a huge contribution to business agility there are different style of business analyst versus your traditional application analysts. Within your organisation need to understand your keyman risks both within your internal permanent staff and with contractor relationships. Those contractors who stayed beyond a transformation programme and are still doing the day job because you haven’t moved their skills inhouse or you’re nervous of doing so and within those there’s the opportunity to look at either targeted managed services or a broader sourcing strategy for how you balance your internal capability versus full leverage of partners.
And finally how about the business life cycle?
There’s that ongoing need to rapidly evaluate changes to business strategy and map those two to the implications on IT and with a good understanding of where IT is agile and can change quickly versus the areas which constrain change we can make more rapid decisions or recommendations to our business colleagues as to where we can focus our resources in our priority investments.
We can manage and need to continually manage our consumption of these cloud services particularly when there dynamically priced and on demand price and make sure that we realise that those committed business cases and with risk management and business continuity a key focus again across all towers in our business we need to be looking for those single points of failure, key man dependencies our exit strategy against partnerships particularly if the business demand on those services reduces overtime or increases.
Lastly what we’re doing with our data are we making the most leverage about our pools of data in that the insight it gives us about our business our customers and are we continued to manage those information security risks across our organisation and our technical solutions.
That’s a lot of information to take in. It’s brilliant that we’ve kind of got these predefined different areas that we can look at and there does seem to be a bit of overlap in them certainly in some key areas, presumably there’s no one catch all plan or strategy for each of these groups but are there commonalities is that you should be aware of. How should one structure a plan to make sure we’re getting the most out of the technologies and people in strategies that we have available to us?
That’s a great question and this is where people process and technology do come back into the framework. It’s key to understand the organisational strengths and its ability to deliver. CIOs nowadays only control the pace of change across a subset of their cloud and digital environment with the rest of it being managed and directed by those cloud service providers and there needs to be the skills and process in place to manage this ongoing evolution. Unfortunately the IT teams increasingly don’t have that capacity to do so or because risk monitoring and responding to this is viewed as risk management rather than supporting the growth or the core priorities of business, it gets deprioritized against higher value activities for the IT organisation. So key challenges how we achieve this while we maintain and enabled engility of the business we’re seeing huge value that IT are offered during the COVID-19 lockdown they’ve enabled businesses to pivot quickly to respond to remote working requirements but also to focus on new market opportunities or to close down costs associated with market engagement that is no longer able to continue. This is come by reducing the focus on business as usual management and delivering solutions quickly that weren’t necessarily underpinned by a robust ongoing operational capability.
We’re now seeing IT leaders, CIOs, already starting to look back at how to maintain the agility but also at the same time restore the operational governance that’s required to ensure that its robust.
I know that Xtravirt have been working with customers for many years to help define transformation strategies and deliver enterprise scale cloud migrations and I hear that recent investments have been made to strengthen ongoing support for organisations that following these transformations.
Yes that’s right under the new banner of Xtravirt Managed Services or XMS, we focused on ensuring that while we continue to offer ‘vanilla’ break fix support we now have broad portfolio of services that are structured to align with these ongoing needs of our customers internal IT organisation as they move into business as usual. The portfolio offers a consistent end to end management model and this supports the ongoing operational strategic and business life cycle management objectives that we were describing above to simplify those and make sure that we can act as a trusted partner for a CIO or an IT leader to deliver those services on an ongoing basis.
Together they are there to ensure that the business value of cloud and digital investments can be realised by the organisation both on day one post transformation and by increasing the benefit and return on an ongoing basis we found that we’ve long been trusted guide to our customers as they looked forward into and then delivered digital cloud transformation programmes and alongside this we’ve developed XMS to make sure that they achieved the ongoing success. For many businesses and for many projects cloud was the destination but we believe that with XMS the true success as she gets delivered in the journey beyond that transformation project
Thanks for talking about the XMS is there anywhere that we can go or anyone we can talk to to find out more about that?
Yes sure there’s more information on our website at Xtravirt.com/XMS or they can email firstname.lastname@example.org and obviously we will respond as quickly as we can.
I think we’ve covered off what life cycle management is and the different flavours of it and how you can navigate through the various towers of life cycle management. Have you got any final thoughts you’d like to leave us on?
I think that the key here is that IT operations and IT business as usual hasn’t changed, there is still a need to monitor, manage and respond to changes in your environment but the skill set and the breadth that has to be covered now is just increasing and when you take that alongside the need of an organisation to get more business value out of their IT investments in their IT teams we believe that there’s a role we can play to help support businesses get true value from their cloud investment and from the great engineers and IT resources that they have in house.
If anyone would like to reach out to you about this or any other topic really how is it best to get in touch with you?
The best place to reach me is through LinkedIn if you search for Robin Gardner Xtravirt, then I’ll come up and am really quick to respond there.
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Robin thank you so much for joining us again it’s been absolutely great
Thanks very much Stuart look forward to speaking to you next time.