The Cloud Services Catalog: A 7-Point Checklist for Enterprise IT Success

August 22 2016 | by Jonathan Maresky

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Driving cloud adoption across your enterprise is no easy challenge. But one way to change people’s mindset and steer users towards a quicker, easier, open and more transparent method of ordering IT services is to offer them a cloud services catalog.

In short, a cloud services catalog is a central self-service portal for ordering a range of standardized cloud-based IT offerings. And it offers many benefits to enterprise IT.

It can help guide users away from outdated solutions towards more modern and powerful technologies. It can serve as an effective tool to enforce regulatory requirements and common enterprise standards. It will make it easier for end users to identify and provision the IT resources they need. And, through an integrated pricing structure for chargeback and showback, it will raise awareness of the financial implications of the pay-as-you-go delivery model, encouraging business units to use the cloud responsibly.

But creating a cloud service catalog is far from straightforward. You need to do your homework and identify the services and features that offer your organization the best possible balance of functionality, cost and performance. So, in this post, we take a look at seven points you need to consider when drawing up a list of requirements and offer you a few starter tips to designing your first catalog.

1. Business cloud needs: Determine the business goals across your enterprise and the infrastructure resources required to achieve them. What new IT projects are in the pipeline? Which of these are suitable for the cloud? How are your workloads likely to change in future? And what about plans for modifying legacy systems? Individual business units may also have specialist IT requirements, such as specific public cloud environments for processing data streams or analyzing big data.

2. Service capabilities: The leading cloud vendors, such as AWS and Microsoft Azure, offer a myriad of different services and pricing structures. So you’ll need to undertake thorough and meticulous research of the options available on both your public and private cloud. Then select the services that are best aligned with the business processes they’re intended to support. You should also look to drive innovation and cost efficiencies by shaping your company’s IT needs through the capabilities you offer.

3. Purpose-built clouds: Don’t forget that some of your business applications may have specific requirements that only a purpose-built cloud can deliver. For example, a backup and disaster recovery solution may not perform well on a generic cloud designed for many different purposes. This may call for a cloud dedicated purely to receiving backup jobs and sending recovery data, where availability or performance isn’t affected by other applications running in the same environment.

4. Governance and compliance: When drawing up your list of services, make sure you capture all regulatory and compliance specifications required by each individual business unit across your organization. Then compile a full list of all the different features required to meet them. For each feature, list which regulations require it and which services provide it. Then use this information to classify each of your services according to the features they offer. This will make it easier for business units to identify and select the right cloud services that meet their own compliance obligations.

5. Access roles: To support efficient cloud management and aid security and compliance, you’ll also need to define a set of standardized access roles. These will give you control over the services that are visible and available to each user or group of users in your organization, depending on their access permissions.

6. Geography: You’ll also need to consider the geographical location of each user, as this could have implications on service levels and compliance. To address these issues, you may need to include special requirements for load balancing or, to comply with local regulations, offer different processing and storage services to users based in certain states or countries.

7. Pricing: Your pricing structure should give users full visibility over the cost allocation to each of the services and options in your catalog. And, wherever possible, allow them to make clear financial and performance comparisons between service offerings. And don’t forget to include a backend chargeback or showback system as part of your catalog specifications.

How to Design Your Catalog

To ensure you’re well prepared, it’s important you have a good idea of how to design your catalog at a very early stage.

Start by outlining the building blocks or basic templates for the various infrastructure requirements, such as web services, compute services and storage. Then add in your value-added services, such as backup, load balancers, firewalls and security. Next expand your templates by adding more detail, such as choices of different CPU, RAM and storage specifications. Once you’ve finalized the services on offer, move on to creating your workflows—in other words, the processes your users will need to follow to select and provision their services.

But remember: First and foremost, your cloud service catalog should offer capabilities that are strongly aligned to your enterprise business needs. It should also be easy to measure and manage—to ensure optimum availability and performance. It should be flexible and adaptable, so it can accommodate service changes and additions, and also offer vertical and horizontal scaling of resources.

The cloud service catalog will support your role as the organization’s IT broker by allowing business units to authorize and provision their own applications and resources through a set of simple automated processes. That way, you’ll embrace each unit’s IT autonomy while maintaining control over enterprise IT operations as a whole.

The Next Generation of Service Catalog

Traditionally, CIOs have viewed the ITIL framework as the ultimate standard for modeling their service catalog. But, as enterprises gradually transform the way they consume their IT, many are now beginning to question its role. Not only that, but the future of the IT service catalog is likely to follow in the footsteps of app stores and public cloud services, as users increasingly expect the same type of experience with their internal IT.

The next generation of service catalog will also need to address the financial challenges of the pay-as-you-go cloud model. Instead of being purely transactional, where users simply select and provision resources, it should also provide them with the ability to monitor usage and identify unused or underutilized resources—so they can reduce chargeback on their IT consumption.

But why put off this level of functionality until another day? Because for some enterprises this isn’t just the future. It’s already happening right now.

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