IT as a service – the next generation of enterprise IT

9 March 2018

THE EMERGENCE of shadow IT was something of a wake-up call for IT departments. Shadow IT was the deployment by different departments in an organization of technologies which took place without the approval, nor indeed the knowledge, of the IT department.

Of course, the “rogue” departments’ reasons for implementing their own IT solutions were not negative. Rather, business needs dictated that technology was required to implement better ways of doing business, and it was easier for line-of-business leaders to take matters into their own hands than to refer to the IT department, who were unable to respond to business needs quickly enough.

Having learned from the past, IT leaders are now using IT as a service (ITaaS) to build bridges with business leaders so that IT departments can deliver the right services, at the right time, at the right level of service. And do it all securely and with a coherent supply chain of IT provision & services.

In order to provide a coherent, rapid-response ITaaS model, the approach needs to be modular. Services need proper orchestration, and each modular service should be a clearly defined process (defined in a catalog – more on this later) with no dependencies on other services.

The value of the hybrid cloud

For organizations wishing to adopt an ITaaS model, the hybrid cloud is the go-to model. A hybrid cloud will combine private clouds, a variety of public provisions, and in-house bare metal services, depending on the nature of service.

For example, transactional systems which underpin various services might be kept in-house in order to maintain the highest levels of security and ensure intellectual property’s integrity.

But those transactional systems need to work seamlessly with public cloud systems – and it is the use of APIs (discussed below) which is key.

Cloud delivery models

To provide a sophisticated services model depends on the following four broad strands of service types:

  • Infrastructure as a service. IaaS provides computing power, networking capabilities, and data storage, and is typically designed as a self-service environment. Software designed environments represent the next generation of IaaS and are an abstraction of the various components of virtualization in IaaS.
  • Software as a service. SaaS is a range of applications specifically designed to run in the cloud (often with multiple client groups), and its key advantage is that users at whatever level are not responsible for updates, maintenance or security. SaaS is typically paid for on a usage basis – either processor time, per user, or per month.
  • Platform as a service. PaaS is largely the remit of an organization’s development function, providing an integrated set of development and deployment tools which allow a modular, swift and efficient platform on which to create new applications according to changing business requirements.
  • Business process as a service. BPaaS brings a modular structure to business processes, allowing teams to reuse prebuilt and tested processes in tandem, rather than having to recode common procedures. A good example is payment processes, which may be used across the enterprise for a large range of customer-facing services. A new technological advance can, therefore, be rolled out once, and automatically deployed automatically as many times as the process is used.

In conclusion, the hybrid cloud and its component services which form the whole of ITaaS, move IT from a separate edifice in the enterprise to redeploy computing services according to business requirements.

Underpinnings

Most businesses’ IT infrastructures have grown up organically and therefore comprise a smorgasbord of data center applications, departmental silos (of applications, data, and networks), private and public clouds, managed services and SaaS.

Some services will necessarily be highly secure, while others will be dependent on their agility, being designed to rapidly solve new problems.

The successful journey to ITaaS depends on the abstraction of this complexity in order to hide it from users: one of the greatest benefits of the move to ITaaS is the self-service portal.

When service details, integration, and orchestration of the modular underpinnings are abstracted, line-of-business leaders (who frankly shouldn’t need to be concerned with the consequent complexities of their requests) can provide unique products and services, create efficiencies – in short, they can do their jobs!

Life cycle management

ITaaS is not a “fire and forget” provision. All the services and technologies which create a services platform need to be updated and managed in order that they reflect changes in the business and, of course, take on board and improve as new technologies develop.

The four goals of successful lifecycle management are:

  • Transparency: garner available resources and make them work together
  • Measurability: manage workloads, current, and future
  • Accounting: track which services are used, and how much they cost.
  • Cost management: the comparison of costs of obtaining the services (is an internal provision better value than a comparable externally-provided service?)

The service catalog

The service catalog underpins any successful ITaaS environment. A catalog identifies and defines the services available to end-users and developers.

The catalog also lists privileges: who is allowed to use a service, how the service may be used, the security required for deployment and the dependencies of any module’s deployment. The catalog should also list how and when a service can be altered.

One of the benefits of the service catalog is that it keeps the details of the service itself abstracted away from the service user. The services are encapsulated either as virtual machines/images, or in containers, or deployed as microservices.

Interconnectivity, or APIs

An API is defined as an interface through which a service or tool is accessed, to allow the development of programs through linking different components together.

APIs abstract the details of a service’s implementation, and only allow developers to access the services they require.

In an ITaaS environment, there will be many APIs used to create the modular structure of services required.

An element of API management is therefore usually required, as APIs are an essential part of sharing an organization’s intellectual property with suppliers and partners.

An effective API management tool allows the widespread deployment, debugging and development of APIs – plus they can monitor the performance of individual APIs.

The next steps

This short introduction to ITaaS has only scratched the surface of this next generation of IT deployment methodology. In order to learn more, we at Tech Wire Asia urge interested enterprise leaders to find out more from the de facto standard in ITaaS provision, IBM.

ITaaS on the IBM Services Platform utilizes the AI capabilities of Big Blue’s Watson, allowing the application of cognitive capabilities across an entire IT infrastructure. When IT processes run themselves, teams focus on innovation.

To learn more, contact a representative.


IBM