When it comes to making the transition to the cloud, IT has a big job on its hands. It is complex, hard to do, and even harder to explain to management and the business units. When you think about it, the end-user experience should be nothing less than awesome. As cloudies will espouse – it should be on-demand and self-service. Make no mistake about it – IT would LOVE this! There are a couple of caveats that are new issues for IT and the business and they are not only technology oriented. The first one is IT is usually structured around a fixed budget – which makes the transformation to an on-demand IT resource a challenging business problem. How do you price your on-premises services? Who is using what services – many companies' IT departments aren’t even sure who is using AWS, Dropbox, or other SaaS applications without their approval or knowledge.
The second issue is even if the business can work with IT to shift to on-demand – how does IT pull it all together into a cohesive set of services that an end-user can understand? Also what about actually making all the services work together – like having single sign-on? Chargeback? Federation?
Third this has to be simple and easy to use – the rule of making it simpler makes it harder to do always apply.
Recently I’ve seen an explosion of companies that provide cloud service management capabilities (I published a report on CSM which can be found here). Most of these companies seem to have focused on one specific facet or another – like governance, or automation. So when I came across a company called Ostrato this past week I wondered what made them different. One of the founders and CEO – Jay Chapel – took the time to explain to me that they took the approach of making it simple for the end-user to consume as well as easy for IT to manage. Ostrato suggested that if IT could provide a shopping cart like experience for IT services with pricing and allow for comparative shopping – they thought their product would be a hit with IT.
If you look at the screen shot below from their management interface – it pretty much says it all. End-users are presented with a simple shopping cart like experience where they can choose all their favorite platforms in service bundles complete with pricing. What makes it even more interesting is since these services are all presented as a la carte services in the service catalog – the buyer can select the service based on price, version, or location.
Of course the heavy lifting is behind the scenes – Ostrato provides one storefront with the provisioning, governance, pricing, integration, chargeback, and management masked from the end-user. IT can choose what services to provide, how to price them, and report on the cost of services by user or department over time.
There are some very compelling reasons for taking this approach – an ITaaS shopping cart – to the business. One is that it shows that IT is willing to offer cloud services with an apples-to-apples comparison in terms of pricing and availability. Another is that IT can manage to the resource demand based on usage as opposed to a fixed allocation model. And one that I especially like is that IT can shape the businesses opinion and behavior by exposing total costs to the business. IT can say their on-premises services are better and cheaper until they are blue in the face. With this very familiar metaphor of a shopping cart/application marketplace – the end-user gets control as well as accountability for the services they need while IT is just responsible for making sure they put the right items on sale.