– Dave Malcolm, Chief Technology Officer at Surgient (www.surgient.com), says:

Companies often deploy new applications or IT services in order to drive growth and create competitive advantage. However, these applications and services must be developed, tested, and staged for prime-time use—a process that can be constrained by operational and technical hurdles. That’s where industry insiders are saying the next generation in IT automation—the “self-service cloud”—can alleviate those constraints. With a self-service cloud, IT can feel confident that the resources, such as physical and virtual servers, are automatically configured, provisioned, and deprovisioned based on policies they control. This capability frees up IT administrators to perform more high-value work, reduces the wait time for resources, and improves time-to-market and service quality by ensuring configuration compliance from development through production. This article should provide an overview of the self-service cloud concept, including what it is, how it works, and its advantages over other cloud options.

In our experience working with clients in over 150 cloud implementations, the biggest hurdles we see with the development, testing, and staging of new IT services and applications are resource constraints for both infrastructure and staff. IT organizations are being asked by the business to deliver increasingly more IT services but without significantly more infrastructure or staff. Couple these resource constraints with the ever-increasing complexity of IT services and the frequent need to keep these services updated, and it becomes clear that IT can no longer keep up with the needs of the business. Here at Surgient, we call this problem, the IT Service Delivery Gap.

Self service clouds alleviate infrastructure and staff resource constraints or the IT Service Delivery Gap in four primary ways:

1. The self-service automation allows IT administrators to delegate most of their IT service delivery provisioning tasks to their end users. End users can self-provision IT services and applications without requiring an administrator’s assistance. Reducing the number of requests that IT staff must service significantly increases their productivity.

2. Self-management enables reuse and timesharing of IT infrastructure. Due to advances in virtualization and automation, very complex IT services and applications can be deployed in minutes rather than the hours and days it use to take on static physical infrastructure, and they can be de-provisioned just as quickly. This rapid deployment, saving, and recovery of IT services enables a pool of infrastructure resources to be reused over and over again, driving up utilization of these resources. This timesharing effect enables a pool of infrastructure to handle significantly more user requests, increasing hardware resources dramatically without additional purchases.

3. Self management also automates control of the IT infrastructure. IT is still responsible for the infrastructure resources, even if users are allowed to serve themselves. Therefore, on-demand provisioning of IT services and applications to end users must be controlled. If these controls or enforcements were manual processes, then self-service would not scale and IT staff would be inundated with even more activity as users accessed the system. Hence, IT staff must be able to control user access, specify resource allocation, control usage, and monitor utilization in an automated fashion. This automated self-management increases staff productivity and allows self-service to scale.

4. Self-service automation also streamlines the traditional IT service delivery process. Existing IT service processes were designed for static physical infrastructure and were tied to capital equipment purchasing. Since servers can be created on-demand, pre-defined/pre-approved IT service definition can be created, stored, and made available to users. When a user makes a request, automation can instantiate the servers, network, and storage on-demand from a pre-defined template, not requiring an extensive administrative approval process. This approach enables IT staff to spend their time on higher value activities and increases business agility.

In our experience across the Surgient customer base, self service clouds have truly revolutionized the service delivery process by enabling on-demand access to IT services and applications and in doing so we have seen IT staff productivity increases of 800% and a reduction of hardware requirements of 200%.