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Why You Need a Strategic IT Roadmap
Why You Need a Strategic IT Roadmap
The IT roadmap takes on enhanced importance for the technology leader as they move from operator to strategist. Here is why you need one and why your functional counterparts should be supportive.
I have come across several companies recently who do not yet have an IT roadmap.
In each situation the technology leader has said they want to be more strategic: they have visions of tech that pushes the business strategy forward and they have heard great stories about cloud/mobile/digital/social/etc. Unfortunately, they work in a cycle of reaction that manages to short-term needs rather than strategic priorities and many cannot find a way out.
Enterprise software is a victim of this cycle. Since it’s complex and pervasive it requires constant feeding by the IT department. Because it’s used to support fundamental business functions users frequently request new functionality. This makes it difficult to adopt the newest, most exciting technologies available because the immediate priorities are always fixing what exists.
The question becomes: “how?” The answer often lies in a new roadmap. A technology roadmap can help the CIO act more in line with the strategy of the organization. It benefits both technology leaders and functional leaders and encourages collaboration that results in true executive alignment on existing and new investments.
What is a technology roadmap?
A roadmap is the governing document that dictates specifically how technology will support the business strategy and help drive businesses priorities over the next 3-5 years. From what I have seen, the best roadmaps contain the following:
A strategy statement with the list of the strategic priorities for the business (not IT-specific).
A timeline of the initiatives and projects that will occur over the next several years with approximate start and end dates, durations, and sizes.
A prioritized list of improvement opportunities. This is generated jointly by the business and IT and should be refreshed periodically.
High-level justifications for each project. These should be robust for projects over the next 12 months and simpler statements for projects past the 12 month horizon.
The estimated cost and duration for each project. This is specific and reasonably accurate for projects occurring over the next 12 months and can be vaguer for projects that go out farther than that.
An owner for each project. This is the sponsoring executive or delegate directly overseeing the project. For projects in the next 12 months it should be the specific person and for projects beyond that it can be the owning executive.
To support the roadmap (but keep separately), I recommend technology departments keep up-to-date versions of:
Systems architecture diagrams of the whole enterprise including interfaces, manual data movements, and platforms (this is not an infrastructure diagram – this is just systems specific).
A systems inventory that is periodically updated and contains at least end-of-life dates, basic statement on usage, number of users, and system owner.
A running list of emerging problems the IT support staff is seeing. Good help desk software should be able to track this for you
How will you use it?
The roadmap has three primary functions:
The IT leader will use it to facilitate investment discussions with the rest of leadership. The IT leader will use the roadmap as a baseline when discussing new projects or priorities with functional executives. It will help leadership understand how to balance investment and project priorities and provide a way to visualize tradeoffs.
The IT department will use it to improve planning for projects and resources. The roadmap will help them anticipate resourcing needs, plan assignments, software and vendor selection, and costs ahead of time, and make it possible to start visioning and planning with the functional owners well in advance.
Functional leaders will use it to understand what is required of and will be delivered to their departments. It helps them clearly understand how they should balance existing roadmap initiatives with new requests. The roadmap will keep functional leaders aligned on strategic technology priorities across the enterprise. Active management of the roadmap will result in much better executive alignment and stakeholder buy-in before projects even begin.
Who benefits from it?
The roadmap is designed to structure the communication between the technology department and the functional executives in a manner that allows the IT department to:
Act strategically when making investment decisions and managing projects.
Make securing buy-in from business leadership a more structured processes which, in turn, makes it easier to earn buy-in from business users.
Negotiate more effectively with leaders or staff who request new projects or initiatives that require significant, non-operating effort.
The roadmap allows functional executives to be strategic when they request new or improved technology. They can use their functional strategies to begin working with IT leadership to determine which types of technology projects will be required to achieve their goals.
The roadmap provides transparent resourcing needs for when business staff will need to be assigned to IT projects, clear traceability to costs, and the detail for why those resources and dollars are required.
Most importantly, it provides a strategic, structured manner of governing changes to business needs as they arise. It makes sure there is a technology voice at the table when decisions are made that require IT support, and it encourages balancing priorities across the business, diffusing conflict before it arises.
Staff and Project Teams
The roadmap clearly spells out why the projects they are working on are important and, as things on the roadmap move or are re-prioritized, it forces the leaders to explain why and how those priorities are shifting. The roadmap encourages a clear and regular line of communication between leadership and staff.
The Bottom Line
The business needs to fully participate in the development process. In fact, if the CIO reports to anyone other than the CEO, I recommend the sponsoring executive sit outside of IT. Because of the strategic nature of the document and how critical leadership buy-in will be, it will need support at the highest levels of the enterprise.
If you are a technology leader: you need to push the executives to support the development of an IT roadmap to help you invest strategically and have structured conversations around investment with the other executives.
If you are not a technology executive: you should be pushing your organization to develop a roadmap so you can act more strategically in your area and benefit the business holistically with new investments.
The votes are in: Azure is the public cloud of choice
A survey found Azure has opened up a sizable lead.
The survey was commissioned by Sumo Logic, a data analytics provider, and was performed by UBM Research. It surveyed 230 IT professionals from companies with 500 or more employees.
The survey found 80 percent of enterprises currently use or plan to use at least one public cloud provider, if not more. And given the figures, a large number are clearly using more than one. Around two-thirds (66 percent) of respondents said they use Azure while 55 percent said they use AWS. Salesforce App cloud comes in third at 28 percent, IBM fourth at 23 percent and Google is at 20 percent.
More than half of the Azure users were from enterprises with more than 10,000 employees, which suggests that Microsoft’s cloud is particularly popular with large enterprises, according to the survey.
The result is notable because this is the first survey to put Azure ahead of AWS. All other past surveys have always found AWS to be the leader in the public cloud provider market. Now 230 IT pros does not a major trend make, but it could be the first sign that Microsoft has taken the lead in this market. Or it could be an aberration.
Additionally, the survey found that 67 percent of those surveyed are using software-as-a-service (SaaS), about four out of 10 are using infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and/or platform-as-a-service (PaaS). Also growing in popularity is DevOps, the new means of application development, which goes hand-in-hand with cloud use. UBM found 68 percent of those surveyed either plan to adopt DevOps or already have.
DevOps is meant to be a faster means of writing and deploying new applications, and that goes with the findings of the survey that 42 percent of respondents said they are deploying apps more frequently than in the past, while only 8 percent of respondents said they were deploying apps less frequently than in previous years.
“Trends such as cloud computing and DevOps are helping companies become more flexible and responsive to market conditions. However, as cloud computing becomes standard in IT organizations, concerns about security persist,” said Amy Doherty, research director for UBM Technology in a statement.
Security remains the top concern of companies embracing the cloud. When asked about the biggest challenges related the cloud, security received the most votes (27 percent) from respondents. While the majority of those surveyed (55 percent) said public cloud services are more secure than they used to be, only 6 percent describe the security of public cloud as “excellent.”
Other sore spots for cloud adopters are migrating applications and data to the cloud (15 percent), obtaining a unified view of cloud and traditional IT infrastructure (8 percent) and managing cloud-based apps and operations (7 percent).
What you need to know about mobile device management
Enable employees to work anywhere on the devices that they choose
Deploying and managing Windows is easier than ever before with new improvements including the support of the latest Windows 10 features, Windows in-place upgrade, more frequent and easier updates, unified end-user portal, and on-premises mobile device management (MDM).
Through integration with Microsoft Intune, you can extend your System Center Configuration Manager to manage PCs, Macs, and Unix/Linux servers along with cloud-based mobile devices running Windows, iOS, and Android, all from a single management console.
Backup is all about how quickly you can be back up from a disaster or data loss situation. On this World Backup Day, this blog post is dedicated to explaining Azure Backup's cloud-first approach and how it helps you be back up quickly and securely.
Backup is a deeply entrenched market and companies generally tend to stick with their backup solution unless there are major shifts in the IT infrastructure. When such a shift occurs, companies are open to evaluating alternate backup solutions that offer significant value tied to that infrastructure shift. Virtualization was a hardware infrastructure inflection that happened in the 2000s that allowed companies to significantly reduce their IT costs with the consolidation and portability benefits offered by virtualization. It also allowed new backup players to emerge and the ones that delivered significant value tied to virtualization became successful. The infrastructure inflection currently underway is the shift to the public cloud and Azure Backup has taken a cloud-first approach to deliver maximum value for backup scenarios in a cloud-transformed IT environment.
Cloud-first value propositions
These are the benefits customers would likely expect in backup scenarios as they augment the public cloud to their IT infrastructure:
Consistent management experience for Hybrid IT: Companies will be in a hybrid model where in addition to the on-premise IT, they will have a cloud foot print that has IaaS (“lift-and-shift applications”) that possibly extends to PaaS (“born-in-the-cloud applications”) and SaaS (O365). It is important to have a consistent experience to manage backups across the IT assets in this hybrid model.
Agility: Business owners are seeking more agility offered by the public cloud where they can deploy solutions from the marketplace to meet their business needs. From a backup perspective, an application admin should be able to sign up for backup and do self-service restores without having to go through a central IT process to provision compute/storage in the cloud to enable backup.
Reduce TCO (Total Cost of Ownership): A subscription based model (PAYG) is an obvious benefit of the public cloud, but it is also important to consider overall IT cost for backup. For example, if you need to deploy additional infrastructure in the cloud (compute and storage) for backups your overall costs would be higher.
Freedom from infrastructure: This is one of the fundamental benefits companies seek when they move their IT to the cloud and since backup has a significant infrastructure footprint in on-premises IT (storage, compute, licenses, etc), an infrastructure-less backup solution would be a natural expectation for customers.
There are 3 possible approaches backup solutions can take to leverage the cloud inflection and it is important to consider how well they deliver on the above promises in each approach:
Cloud as storage: In this model, the backup solution leverages the public cloud as a storage target for backup either for the second backup copy or to replace tape backups. The customer still needs to manage storage in the cloud, pay for any egress costs for restores, and manage bulk of backup infrastructure that is still on premises.
Cloud as infrastructure: This is the next level where the customer can run the backup application in an IaaS VM, which can protect applications deployed in IaaS. While it does offer a similar experience, it can only protect IaaS VMs and not the other cloud assets (PaaS, SaaS) and has TCO implications. For example, a single IaaS VM only supports 32 TB of total addressable storage, which is far too small for a backup application so to back up at scale, customers need to deploy additional IaaS VMs, configure scale sets for availability and provision/manage backup storage, all of which adds to the overall TCO for backup. Also, as the name implies, it does not free the customer from infrastructure management which is a fundamental promise of moving to the cloud.
Cloud as platform: Backup can be built in a PaaS model to deliver backup as a service and architected to provide a consistent management experience to both on premises infrastructure as well as backup for born-in-the-cloud applications (IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS). Since all the service infrastructure is owned and managed by the service, there would be no additional costs for the backup and there is complete freedom from managing infrastructure associated with backup.
Azure Backup is architected from the ground-up as a first-class PaaS service in Azure as described in approach 3 and delivers on the cloud promises customers expect as they cloud transform their IT infrastructure. In addition, since it is a first-party service in Azure, it can also leverage other services in Azure to deliver value beyond backup scenarios. For example, rich monitoring and reporting using PowerBI or the capability to do advanced analytics on backup data in Azure.
Compelling backup scenarios enabled by the cloud first architecture
The cloud-first approach of Azure Backup provides unique benefits to customers which are either difficult or not possible in traditional approaches.
Native Backup for IaaS/PaaS: Azure Backup seamlessly integrates with IaaS VM by providing an enable-backup experience in the VM blade itself. A VM extension is deployed when the customer chooses to enable backup and with a few clicks, the IaaS VM is configured for backup. Backup can also be enabled via ARM templates and it supports all the features of IaaS VMs such as disk encryption, premium disks etc. This capability will be extended for SQL Azure, Azure Files, and other Azure PaaS assets like WebApps and Service Fabric for a first-class backup experience in Azure.
Restore as a service: One of the key concerns customers have when they store their backups in the cloud is the restore experience. There are egress costs, the time it takes to restore data back on premises and handling encryption requirements. Restore operation typically requires all the data has to be restored on premises or a restore appliance needs to be hydrated in the cloud to browse items from the cloud restore points. Azure Backup, restore-as-a-service feature uses a unique approach to mount a cloud recovery point as a volume and browse it to enable item-level-restore. The customer does not need to provision any infrastructure and the egress from Azure is free which are both unique value propositions of Azure Backup. This feature is currently available for IaaS VMS (Windows and Linux) and on premise Windows servers. The same capability for System Center Data Protection Manager and Microsoft Azure Backup Server will be available over the next few months.
Secure Cloud Backups: Azure Backup leverages Azure authentication services to provide multiple layers of security to secure cloud backups against malware attacks such as ransomware. While the predominant ransomware attacks are limited to infecting on-premises data, some of the more evolved ransomware attacks also target backup copies of the data. Typical infections include reducing backup retention, re-encrypting data, and deleting backup schedule/copies that are initiated from compromised machines. Azure backup has several layers of protection to prevent and alert against such attacks.
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