Jun 6, 2016

Cloud Flexibility encounters IT Procurement Inflexibility

imageThe Cloud.  Whether it’s a mega-cloud provider in the public clouds, a private or managed cloud, on premises or off prem, cloud is all about flexibility.  Add an instance, add a service, it’s just a click.

(Note the dynamic cloud, the ability of an app to dynamically expand it’s resources as load increases, remains mostly hype.  While this was one of the first great promises of the cloud-o-sphere, it has not translated into reality.  Even further, just shutting down non-production environments during the night or on a schedule can be a significant cost saver – but is not offered by the mega-providers.  At least in this area 3rd party cloud support vendors have stepped in – but many are not aware of this and end up with lots of idle time on compute nodes.)

While the cloud providers offer that wonderful relatively instant service with a click, each one of those clicks carry a cost.  And cost means…IT procurement, the department focused on getting the best deal for their IT dollar and making those long term contracts that keep us operational.  And they have a process, a long process, for each item to be purchased.

Cloud flexibility means I can just add a node or VM, and add a backup or DB or firewall.  IT procurement means forms and weeks and reviews.

When we were purchasing compute capacity for the project for the year, which consisted of a series of servers and expensive software licenses, this made sense.  My purchase had significant cost and long term implications.

With Cloud accounts, my “purchase” can be “unpurchased” at any time (at least in the public clouds – private clouds often require some time commitment), and it can start small and grow as the capacity need grows.  (In traditional IT, “new projects” often purchased their first 2 years of servers in their initial purchase – that’s how it was done, nobody wanted their project to be in trouble due to insufficient resources, which often meant over purchasing, and until the project was in production under actual production load they were often unclear of the actual server capacity that would be needed beyond a high level guesstimate…that could easily be 50% off.)  With Cloud, we can start small and increase capacity with ease as the actual usage grows.

Obviously a significant positive NOT to have to buy capacity we’re not using today and may not use for 18 months.  AND we can increase to the ACTUAL need rather than a predicted need 2 years ago.  BUT…if we have to go through a full IT procurement process as we make those Cloud changes, we’re hobbled and unable to gain that value.

This is not theoretical.  Try having a cloud vendor procedure a Purchase Order and Statement of Work for “Add Managed Backup to Node, $129.95 per month” and “Storage Encryption Service, $39.95 per month” – the experience isn’t pleasant for anyone and makes Cloud use somewhat impractical UNLESS we return to the old approach of over-estimate everything we need and buy (allocate all those high volume nodes and services) up front.

It’s easy to overuse, over allocate, and not manage the cloud resources (not release resources and services no longer in active use), and IT procurement can provide necessary oversight and management of cloud resources.  But they have to come with new cloud flexible procedures to do so.

Otherwise, the value of cloud services is lost.