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Does Your IT Department Have a Cloud Service Manager?

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As cloud computing continues to spread throughout enterprises, mid-market companies, and SMBs alike, IT departments of every size must learn how to manage different SaaS and IaaS contracts, providers, and services.

This requires a different, if overlapping, skillset compared to administrating and operating on-site infrastructure. While much of the back-end remains the same, new titles and job roles are becoming popular for positions that identify business drivers, hammer out cloud contracts, and keep track of the complete lifecycle of a cloud service.

The Cloud Service Manager is one of these, but CTOs, Cloud Product Managers, Cloud Systems Engineers, and even Project Managers may have to fill the same shoes. What exactly is involved in being a Cloud Product Owner or Cloud Service Manager?


Not Quite an Engineering Job, Not Quite a Strategy/Leadership Role

Okay, so I just mentioned that Systems Engineers might have to fill the role of a Cloud Service Manager, and at many organizations, that’s true. However, Engineers, Cloud Architects, Cloud Developers, and similar technically-oriented positions are much more likely to be focused on the design and daily operation of cloud environments — the actual administration and management of snapshots, setting up new VMs, maintenance like updates and patching of Operating Systems, troubleshooting network configurations, provisioning storage…you get the picture.

A Cloud Product Owner or Service Manager is generally a higher-level position that has deep understanding of the technical aspects of cloud computing, data centers, and virtual infrastructure; as well as the overarching strategic business decisions that need to be made around IT services.

With many departments turning to shadow IT in order to get the products they need for special projects and daily work, plus an average of six clouds in use at the average company (according to a Rightscale survey from this year), there are quite a few contracts and pieces of infrastructure that have to be kept track of in your typical organization.

The Cloud Service Owner or Cloud Manager must identify redundant systems and be responsible for the complete lifecyle of all cloud services in an organization, working closely with senior management of all departments and the IT team.

The Cloud Service Lifecycle

When a department identifies a need for new software, IT products, or infrastructure, they must first define the business goals of the project to the Cloud Service Manager. The CSM takes those goals and works with the stakeholders of the project to define the service requirements. They then examine how the new service might fit alongside existing infrastructure. The scope of a new or added project is written out along with anticipated expenses and service levels. Key questions include:

cloud manager checking usage on ipad

In order to plan spending, quotes or RFPs should be gathered from several service providers. These will also include expected Service Level Agreements and compensation if they are violated, plus a full scope of the project and perhaps even Proofs of Concept or a deployment plan. Cloud blueprint tools exist to help mock up the interaction and integration of services.

Once the project has entered production, the Cloud Service Manager must enforce SLAs and measure performance to make sure the business goals are being met. This involves checking in with IT, using the service itself, and asking department managers or employee users about their experiences. The CSM also manages the billing and cost models on an ongoing basis. Autopayments are useful but they can easily lead to cloud sprawl, so careful review should be practiced.

The CSM should also identify areas where service can be improved or streamlined. If multiple departments have similar file sharing or cloud backup environments, perhaps they can be consolidated. As the data center becomes more and more automated and software-defined, the CSM should identify opportunities for automation with the help of IT, like the auto-scaling of VM resources or auto-configuration of network settings for new VMs. If there are problems with the service, the CSM works with analysts, admins, and operations staff to determine the causes.

Finally, a CSM must decide when a cloud service should be terminated or moved to a different provider. If SLAs are not met or the applications are no longer achieving the envisioned business benefits, the CSM should know the contract requirements and process behind cancellation.

Does your organization have a Cloud Service Manager or a similar role? Have you evolved other positions to include aspects of the CSM? If not, now is the time to consider how cloud management plays into your overall IT department structure and to decide who is in charge of managing disparate cloud services. Otherwise, as your cloud use continues to grow, you may end up overspending on services that underdeliver.

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