Welcome!

@CloudExpo Authors: Elizabeth White, Yeshim Deniz, Kevin Sparenberg, Karyn Jeffery, Liz McMillan

Related Topics: @CloudExpo

@CloudExpo: Article

Unwrapping the Self-Service Cloud

The challenges of self-service delivery

If you get a chance to talk with directors or C-level executives about the benefits they expect to derive from adopting cloud computing techniques, expect to hear the terms ‘flexibility', ‘agility', and ‘cost reduction' come up quite frequently. While those are valid expectations, those of us a little closer to the trenches know that it takes a number of different technical capabilities to actually deliver those benefits. Oft-talked about capabilities such as elasticity, rapid provisioning, and configuration automation all come to mind. However, there's one more capability that we tend to talk about a little less, but nevertheless is equally as important. That capability is self-service access.

It seems like lately, more and more of the clients I have been visiting with are coming to terms with what self-service means to them and what it will take to enable it. Here is the unvarnished truth about effective self-service in the enterprise: It is far from easy! Numerous obstacles stand between the way traditional IT works and a truly self-service organization and they are not the kind of obstacles one can blithely ignore.

A single post could never explore every single challenge, but I would be remiss not to mention the big ones, starting with the collective fear of losing control. For years and years, IT organizations have arranged themselves in teams that are more or less domain specific. To put it a little more bluntly, if you look into any typical shop, you will probably find an infrastructure team, systems software team, middleware team, application team, and more. In most cases, well-defined processes (e.g. ticket requests) specify how these teams interact. The interaction is typically limited to the boundary of these interfaces, and each team more or less independently handles the domain over which they reside. Can you see how self-service may be an affront to such a structure?!?

Remember, when we talk about the type of self-service often bandied about in cloud computing, we are not talking about your garden variety self-service access. Self-service in the cloud normally means that a single user is provisioning (in a loose sense at least) everything they need to run a particular workload - from the hardware to the application. To say this causes some amount of organizational strife is a bit of an understatement.

Of course, traditional inter-team relationships are not the only barriers standing in the way of self-service models. On a recent trip, I listened to a client explain their intentions to move their development and test operations to a cloud-based environment. In this environment, developers and testers who needed application environments would directly provision them from a standard offering catalog. In the discussion it soon emerged there were many different sub-teams within the development and test teams and that made for special considerations in the sharing of resources. For instance, some teams required more resources than others. Some teams required access to systems outside of the cloud. Still yet, some teams needed to dynamically expand their consumption of resources even at the expense of the other teams being able to consume those resources. In short, there was a complex web of resource consumption needs among the teams.

Now, you may ask, ‘What does this have to do with self-service access?' Well, there is absolutely no way you can expose these complex dependencies of resource relationship to end users (the developers and testers). How far do you think this company would get with self-service deployments if the deployer had to figure out what resources (hardware, storage, networking, and software) they could safely use before doing anything? Right, not very far! So the trick is, by the time a developer or tester logs in, the decision about the resources to which they are entitled must have already been made. This implies a complex system of rules that considers the entitlements of the current user in relation to all other teams in the organization. And don't forget, these entitlements could very well change over time.

This may sound like I am constructing a false barrier to self-service, but I can assure you these sorts of resource sharing requirements are not at all unique. The basic problem is not one that is easy to solve, and it is even harder to do so in a way that is somewhat consumable to an administrative user in charge of the whole thing. Yet, without reasonably evolved resource sharing capabilities, there is really no way to enable self-service access to multiple different classes of users across a shared resource pool.

Given the two (but not only) significant self-service adoption obstacles of cultural churn and effective resource sharing, what are cloud providers to do? First, I believe it is important for cloud providers to acknowledge the typical division of responsibilities in an organization. When designing a solution that will harness resources that fall across traditionally isolated domains, it is important that the design accommodates different types of users. Accommodation means different users act on different resources (and those resources only), and it means that users are presented with a familiar context.

On the resource sharing side, every different resource that makes up the cloud must have associated access rights tied directly to users or groups.  This is certainly not a novel concept, but you may be surprised at how often a particular solution overlooks or under-delivers on this point. It is not enough to simply say that a user has access to a particular resource. One must be able to partition a resource and assign those logical ‘slices' out to different users or groups. To evolve the concept further, those slices should be able to dynamically grow and shrink based on defined conditions or rules.

There is little doubt that self-service is a critical aspect to the cloud, and it is in fact a key capability in delivering on the promise of cloud. Having said that, I believe there is a lot of room for maturity in this specific area, and providers will have to address the challenges I mentioned above and a host of others. Taking all of this into consideration, I can confidently say that we will see quite a bit of focus on this as we move forward in cloud. What do you think?

More Stories By Dustin Amrhein

Dustin Amrhein joined IBM as a member of the development team for WebSphere Application Server. While in that position, he worked on the development of Web services infrastructure and Web services programming models. In his current role, Dustin is a technical specialist for cloud, mobile, and data grid technology in IBM's WebSphere portfolio. He blogs at http://dustinamrhein.ulitzer.com. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/damrhein.

@CloudExpo Stories
"We are still a relatively small software house and we are focusing on certain industries like FinTech, med tech, energy and utilities. We help our customers with their digital transformation," noted Piotr Stawinski, Founder and CEO of EARP Integration, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
"I think DevOps is now a rambunctious teenager – it’s starting to get a mind of its own, wanting to get its own things but it still needs some adult supervision," explained Thomas Hooker, VP of marketing at CollabNet, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps Summit at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
"DX encompasses the continuing technology revolution, and is addressing society's most important issues throughout the entire $78 trillion 21st-century global economy," said Roger Strukhoff, Conference Chair. "DX World Expo has organized these issues along 10 tracks with more than 150 of the world's top speakers coming to Istanbul to help change the world."
"We've been engaging with a lot of customers including Panasonic, we've been involved with Cisco and now we're working with the U.S. government - the Department of Homeland Security," explained Peter Jung, Chief Product Officer at Pulzze Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
"We're here to tell the world about our cloud-scale infrastructure that we have at Juniper combined with the world-class security that we put into the cloud," explained Lisa Guess, VP of Systems Engineering at Juniper Networks, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
"I will be talking about ChatOps and ChatOps as a way to solve some problems in the DevOps space," explained Himanshu Chhetri, CTO of Addteq, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
"We are focused on SAP running in the clouds, to make this super easy because we believe in the tremendous value of those powerful worlds - SAP and the cloud," explained Frank Stienhans, CTO of Ocean9, Inc., in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Your homes and cars can be automated and self-serviced. Why can't your storage? From simply asking questions to analyze and troubleshoot your infrastructure, to provisioning storage with snapshots, recovery and replication, your wildest sci-fi dream has come true. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, Dan Florea, Director of Product Management at Tintri, provided a ChatOps demo where you can talk to your storage and manage it from anywhere, through Slack and similar services with...
The financial services market is one of the most data-driven industries in the world, yet it’s bogged down by legacy CPU technologies that simply can’t keep up with the task of querying and visualizing billions of records. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Karthik Lalithraj, a Principal Solutions Architect at Kinetica, discussed how the advent of advanced in-database analytics on the GPU makes it possible to run sophisticated data science workloads on the same database that is housing the rich...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Massive Networks will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Massive Networks mission is simple. To help your business operate seamlessly with fast, reliable, and secure internet and network solutions. Improve your customer's experience with outstanding connections to your cloud.
"We are an IT services solution provider and we sell software to support those solutions. Our focus and key areas are around security, enterprise monitoring, and continuous delivery optimization," noted John Balsavage, President of A&I Solutions, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Everything run by electricity will eventually be connected to the Internet. Get ahead of the Internet of Things revolution and join Akvelon expert and IoT industry leader, Sergey Grebnov, in his session at @ThingsExpo, for an educational dive into the world of managing your home, workplace and all the devices they contain with the power of machine-based AI and intelligent Bot services for a completely streamlined experience.
"We want to show that our solution is far less expensive with a much better total cost of ownership so we announced several key features. One is called geo-distributed erasure coding, another is support for KVM and we introduced a new capability called Multi-Part," explained Tim Desai, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Hitachi Data Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
There is a huge demand for responsive, real-time mobile and web experiences, but current architectural patterns do not easily accommodate applications that respond to events in real time. Common solutions using message queues or HTTP long-polling quickly lead to resiliency, scalability and development velocity challenges. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ryland Degnan, a Senior Software Engineer on the Netflix Edge Platform team, will discuss how by leveraging a reactive stream-based protocol,...
DevOps at Cloud Expo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 21st Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to w...
DX World EXPO, LLC., a Lighthouse Point, Florida-based startup trade show producer and the creator of "DXWorldEXPO® - Digital Transformation Conference & Expo" has announced its executive management team. The team is headed by Levent Selamoglu, who has been named CEO. "Now is the time for a truly global DX event, to bring together the leading minds from the technology world in a conversation about Digital Transformation," he said in making the announcement.
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 21st Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devic...
"The Striim platform is a full end-to-end streaming integration and analytics platform that is middleware that covers a lot of different use cases," explained Steve Wilkes, Founder and CTO at Striim, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Calligo, an innovative cloud service provider offering mid-sized companies the highest levels of data privacy and security, has been named "Bronze Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo ®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Calligo offers unparalleled application performance guarantees, commercial flexibility and a personalised support service from its globally located cloud plat...
21st International Cloud Expo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy. Me...