Struggling with cloud ROI? You need converged operations

Samer Akkoub Samer Akkoub vArchitect, VCE

CIOs can build on the ROI of converged infrastructure if they adopt a new way of working: converged operations. As hybrid cloud becomes the cloud-model -of-choice for many enterprises, more and more businesses will turn to converged infrastructure as the logical option for minimising risks and cost. However, converged infrastructure can’t reach its full potential if you operate it according to traditional IT silos: it needs a converged operations mindset, which redefines IT managers’ roles, responsibilities, and collaborative processes to rally around common business goals.

In the Asia-Pacific region, we’ve seen a trend whereby customers purchase the latest Vblocks but continue to farm out each area of operation to their existing IT divisions. So while the Vblock architecture offers an aggregated, centralised console to view and control how hardware and software are performing as one, it ends up being managed in silos: the storage manager only views and manages the storage components, the network manager only follows network-related data, and so on. In other words, the business ends up doing what they’ve always done, just with new hardware. And when a performance issue or outage raises its ugly head, application managers and business results still lose out when the various IT divisions get to finger-pointing at one another.

This isn’t how converged infrastructure was intended to be used. Rather than treating the hardware as the silver bullet for greater efficiency and agility, CIOs need to take a further step towards bridging the siloed IT roles under their management – network, storage, compute, software development – into a single point in the business. Only then can IT use converged infrastructure as a tool to meet business outcomes in a co-ordinated and effective manner.

Does this mean the whole IT skills base has to change? On the contrary – CIOs will need their current storage, network, and compute experts more than ever. The biggest area for change is not the composition of the IT team, but the structure: with a converged operations approach, each of these experts will be able to build out the broader context of why they’re provisioning resources and how this relates to core business goals. CIOs will likely have to assign some new responsibilities to facilitate this new level of collaboration: having a “CI administrator”, for example, can be invaluable to quickly seeing the bigger picture across all facets of converged infrastructure, particularly in fast-evolving crisis scenarios.

Here are three ways for CIOs to apply converged operations to their converged infrastructure solutions:

  1. Review roles and responsibilities. To truly break down operational silos, IT personnel will need to be measured according to business goals, rather than metrics solely specific to their technical domains (applications sustained vs. servers provisioned, for example). CIOs can refine this by sitting with business users to work out their needs and visions, then translating these objectives into IT goals.
  2. Open more cross-silo channels. Converged infrastructure solutions like Vblocks already offer centralised views of IT performance. To take advantage of these, CIOs can introduce more frequent touchpoints, real-time collaborative platforms, and cross-disciplinary review processes to make sure that IT views and solves problems as a whole, not a sum of many parts.
  3. Rally around business continuity. Uptime requires all IT functions to work seamlessly together, making it an easy rally-point to start using a converged operations approach. And while business continuity directly relates to business performance, most end-users won’t be aware that 100% uptime isn’t always the most effective solution. CIOs should seek to broker new conversations between IT and the rest of the business around continuity: doing so can help extend converged operations outside just IT and throughout the entire enterprise.

As any seasoned CIO knows, IT is usually more about people than it is technology, and the same applies for converged infrastructure and the cloud. Sure, this will demand organisational change – but it’s likely to be far less painful and exhaustive than you might expect.

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