This content is part of the Essential Guide: ITIL and ITSM best practices for process improvement

ITSM in the era of cloud-based services

Companies with IT service management strategies in place have a leg up when it comes to handling cloud-based services and hybrid environments, according to Protiviti's Eric Winton.

Cloud is not just changing the way IT services are provided; it is influencing how IT service providers manage their technology. But companies that have successfully implemented IT service management best practices are already a step ahead when it comes to managing cloud-based services and hybrid IT environments. That's according to Eric Winton, managing director in the technology strategy and operations group at global consulting firm Protiviti.

In this Q&A, Winton highlights the benefits that cloud computing presents for ITSM and explains why more organizations are moving to a cloud-based ITSM solution.

Editor's note: The following interview has been edited for clarity and length.

What role does ITSM play in cloud-based services?

Eric Winton: If a company has been successful in its use of ITSM and ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library) best practices, they can use this to provide a solid foundation for managing cloud-based services and hybrid IT environments. Though most companies have a hybrid environment, those utilizing cloud technologies have yet to optimize the use of their cloud IaaS or PaaS environments. One of the great advantages of cloud environments is only paying for what you use in order to optimize computing cost, which is similar to adjusting your thermostat at your house when you are out of town to lower electricity costs. Most companies are not doing this at all, or not doing it effectively. Adopting ITIL processes could help in that regard.

What opportunities does cloud computing present for ITSM?

Eric WintonEric Winton

Winton: Most companies are employing a hybrid cloud strategy, meaning they will have multiple cloud providers across all paradigms -- IaaS, PaaS, SaaS -- and will have on-premise solutions, whether legacy in nature or strategic. As clients move through the cloud maturity model, the complexity will increase. ITSM can help companies better manage their hybrid environments.

According to a recent survey, there are two schools of thought regarding how the growing adoption of cloud-based services will influence ITSM: One is that ITSM is less relevant with cloud, and the other being that service management capabilities are even more important now. What are your thoughts on this?

Winton: I believe that ITSM is more relevant with the cloud. Most companies are not benefitting from the flexibility that cloud offers. With the competition facing major cloud providers as they look to grow their market-share, new PaaS offerings and usage models are being offered at a rapid pace to win new business. Companies must stay knowledgeable and have the necessary resources and processes in place to take advantage of all of the benefits. The general thought process for companies is that they will save money in the long term with cloud solutions, but that will not always be the case. They must evaluate upfront migration costs and long-term operational expense costs, and put the right controls and processes in place to manage their environment.

With IT service management, IT leaders are always looking for ways to improve service delivery quality. Is a collaborative relationship between cloud-based services and ITSM crucial to this?

Winton: I believe so. Enterprise companies will not have cloud-based services in a vacuum. Most will employ multiple cloud vendors across all paradigms. They will have applications built on multiple platforms that rely on interoperability between each other. There will be custom applications deployed on PaaS tenants.

Effective ITSM will help companies maximize the investment and capitalize on the capabilities across all of their environments. Without effective management, controls and processes, the promise that this new world of competitive cloud computing will not be realized.

Is the decision to move to cloud-based services making an on-premises ITSM solution obsolete?

Winton: If this is in regards to an ITSM software solution, I would say yes, it is making it obsolete. Almost all of our enterprise-level clients are utilizing SaaS platforms for multiple workloads and when upgrading versions of software or selecting new solutions, they are always looking at cloud solutions.

Many software vendors in ITSM or any other space are sunsetting their traditional, on-premise install option. So, many enterprise clients are employing hybrid on-premise and cloud strategies for infrastructure and software. If they are looking to improve their ITSM solution, I would venture to say that they would employ a cloud-based ITSM solution.

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