What is Policy-Driven Self-Service™?

Dave Malcolm, Sr. Vice President and CTO, Surgient

Executive Summary

The IT Operations team has the primary mission and responsibility for delivering and maintaining business critical applications and systems in production for their users. The management emphasis is on high availability, performance, security, and tightly controlling change. This mission cannot be compromised because downtime has a significant negative financial impact to the business. However, another vital mission for IT operations is to provide systems and infrastructure to support the application lifecycle process, an activity which consistently takes a back seat to the mission critical production environment. These application lifecycle users often suffer due to the more pressing priorities of IT. This “service gap” between the needs of non-production “lifecycle users” and the support that IT operations can provide them due to the imperative to manage mission critical production applications is what we will label as the IT Service Dilemma.

Surgient believes that in order to effectively address the IT Service Dilemma and fulfill both IT missions, a self-service solution that empowers lifecycle users is the answer. The Surgient Virtual Automation Platform™ provides a full self-service solution with a patented and architected approach called Policy-Driven Self-Service™ that meets these requirements. The Surgient Platform effectively transforms IT Operations into a cloud computing provider for non-production users. Implementing the Surgient Platform enables compelling business benefits such as reducing operating costs and capital expenditures, improving productivity, and increasing business agility.

In order to support this claim, this whitepaper will describe the importance of self-service and when it is appropriate, a description of the IT Service Dilemma and how IT is attempting to address the issue today, the market requirements for self-service as it relates to IT, and how the Surgient Virtual Automation Platform™ with Policy Driven Self-Service addresses these requirements.

Why Self-Service?

Before understanding the concept of Surgient’s Policy-Driven Self-Service as it relates to information technology, it is important to understand the value of self-service solutions and approaches in general. Most everyone is familiar with common consumer based self-service solutions such as the automated teller machine in the banking industry, “pay-at-the-pump” at convenience stores, self-service check-out at grocery stores and retail outlets, and self check-in kiosks as part of the airline boarding process… there are countless examples of self-service solutions. Given the tremendous and growing strategic investment in these types of solutions across many industries there must be a compelling reason for self-service. What is it?

The simple answer is twofold – enormous cost savings for service providers and a superior user experience for consumers. Very few paradigms can be implemented that provide such substantial value to both consumers and service providers; therefore, the argument for self-service is powerful. Let’s take a look at the benefits for each group in more detail:

Consumer Benefits

In today’s fast-paced lifestyle where self-sufficiency reigns supreme and time is the most important commodity, consumers want to be empowered – they expect value, choice, and speed. They want to choose when to engage with suppliers on their own schedules and therefore need easy and flexible access. They don’t want to be bogged down waiting for service… consumers demand instant response. As an example, a busy working mother can shop for her kids’ clothing online late at night after she has put the kids to bed – Internet shopping is a form of self-service. Self-service provides consumers with the experience they are looking for – easy and widely available access, an engagement method that makes efficient use of time, and self sufficiency to maintain some level of control in a world where demands on our time can be overwhelming. Simply put, self-service empowers consumers. In the case of IT and the enterprise, the application lifecycle user (consumer) needs controlled access to IT resources without placing an additional burden on already over-taxed IT personnel.

Service Provider Benefits

The primary driver for implementing self-service solutions by service providers is financial. It is the promise of saving vast amounts of labor costs through the automation of processes and delegating these efforts to their consumers in an appealing fashion. There has been much written about the cost savings of implementing self- service solutions. One example is the self check-in kiosks for airline boarding. In this case, the industry’s average cost savings is 95% over agent based check-in procedures. In addition to the huge savings in labor, self-service solutions may increase revenues by gaining access to segments of the market that were not previously served, such as the case with Internet shopping. Companies that implement an online storefront can generate increased sales from untapped customer bases. As described earlier, self-service empowers consumers and builds customer satisfaction and loyalty, ultimately providing incremental sales and revenue opportunities. In summary, self-service is a significant value driver for businesses. With Policy-Driven Self-Service, IT professionals can improve service levels, maximize the utilization of resources and spend their valuable time on higher value efforts.

Necessary Conditions for Self-Service

In order for a self-service solution to be applied to a given marketplace, the following conditions are necessary:

These five factors summarize the primary conditions for the implementing a successful and compelling self-service solution. Now that the case has been established for the exceptional value of self-service solutions for both service providers and consumers, we will explore self-service as it is applied to IT operations within large global corporations.

The IT Service Dilemma

The IT Operations team has the primary mission and responsibility for delivering and maintaining business-critical applications and systems in production for their users who are using Enterprise Resource Planning, Customer Relationship Management, Supply Chain Management, Manufacturing, Email, and other business systems. The management emphasis is on high availability, performance, security, tightly managing change, and cost control. This mission cannot be compromised because downtime has a significant negative financial impact to the business.

However, another vital mission for IT operations is to provide systems and infrastructure to non-production users and groups mostly in support of the application lifecycle process – design, evaluation, development, and QA-test. There are also other non-production needs as well such as training, support, partner integration, etc. that need IT operations support.

Due to the fact that most of these non-production application lifecycle efforts must take second priority to the business critical production environment, these groups and users often do not get the timely support that they need and desire. It is this service gap between the needs of the non-production lifecycle users and IT operations imperative to manage mission critical production applications that we will label as the IT Service Dilemma.

From IT Operations’ (the service provider) perspective, there are numerous factors that contribute to the IT Service Dilemma, including: hundreds of users to support (often geographically distributed), numerous applications and infrastructure configurations required, frequent software revisions, limited IT staff/tools/equipment, a mostly manual deployment process, and difficulty recovering equipment that is no longer required. This results in a significant challenge because there are too many unspecified requests, not enough time or resources, and demanding users.

From the lifecycle user’s (the consumer) perspective, there are a number of challenging factors as well. There is continuous pressure to meet the release deadlines, numerous projects and application releases, and a dependence on IT Operations to support their systems and infrastructure requirements. These issues result in unsatisfied and frustrated users because IT Operations is unable to deliver on the resource requests in a timely fashion. From the perspective of the lifecycle user, there are too many missed project deadlines and a general lack of control of their own project schedules and processes.

This situation is a classic problem and one that leads to unhealthy tension and a general lack of alignment between IT Operations and many other users within the enterprise – the IT Service Dilemma.

Addressing the IT Service Dilemma

Manual Process Most Used Today

In most cases, IT Operations supports the application lifecycle through a mostly manual process. Users submit requests via phone, email, or possibly a trouble ticketing system. Often there is not sufficient understanding by the user of what is required of IT to support the request – resulting in a time-consuming iterative dialogue. Once the requirements are understood, IT must find, recover, or purchase the needed systems and configure the infrastructure for delivery to the user, which takes even more time. Once delivered to the user, there are usually problems that require some degree of rework before the request can be considered complete. Afterwards, once the desired initiative has been finished, the hardware is not always recovered due to a lack of IT resources, priority, process discipline, or user unwillingness to release these resources, contributing to server and VM sprawl. This manual approach does not scale, takes too much IT Operations effort, and does not meet the needs of users.

Product-Based Approaches

There are several approaches to address the IT Service Dilemma other than the traditional manual request-response approach. These fall into three primary categories – IT process automation tools, cloud computing services, and self-service oriented tools.

However, there is one product in the market that meets the market requirements and can solve the IT Service Dilemma – the Surgient Virtual Automation Platform. The Surgient Platform provides a full self-service solution in the form of Policy-Driven Self-Service.

Policy-Driven Self-Service

Policy-Driven Self-Service, included in the Surgient Virtual Automation Platform and based on patented technology from Surgient, delivers on the value of self-service to address the IT Service Dilemma for leading global corporations. Policy-Driven Self-Service provides the administrative control that IT Operations needs to be a service-oriented computing infrastructure provider, while also empowering users via a compelling self-service experience.

Policy-Driven Self-Service Essentials

In order to fully understand the power of Policy-Driven Self-Service, it is important to explore the requirements of a true self-service solution.

The Surgient Platform with Policy-Driven Self-Service is the only product in the market that is enterprise-proven and comprehensive enough to deliver a full self-service solution for the needs of IT Operations teams. The following table summarizes the essential elements of Surgient’s Policy-Driven Self-Service capability:

Policy-Driven Self-Service Essentials

User Audience Essential Requirements Surgient Platform Capabilities
For IT Operations Access • Access Control Policies
Control of Hardware Resources • Resource and Capacity Management System
• Access Control Based Resource Allocation
Administrative Control Flexibility • Policy Management System
• Administrative Delegation
• Access Control System
Minimal Operating Involvement • Resource and Capacity Management System
• Resource Usage Monitoring and Reporting
• Administrative Delegation
• SNMP Based Self Health Monitoring
• Enterprise Proven Solution
For Users Easy and Available Access • Seamless Integrated Remote Access
• Automated Server Sign On
• Universal Remote Access – Remote Access Protocol Tunneling
Control of Their Processes • Automated Reservation System
• Delegated Administration
Easy to Use • Application or Business Service Centric Model
• Automated Reservation System
For Automated Systems Integration Capability • Packaged Certified Integrations

Conclusion

The Surgient Virtual Automation Platform with Policy-Driven Self-Service meets all of the criteria and conditions of a true self-service solution for IT Operations teams supporting the application lifecycle process and solving the IT Service Dilemma.

First, there is a strong business case for a self-service solution to this problem. The economic benefits for the business are more than significant:

The Surgient Platform automates the process for provisioning business services in support of the application lifecycle process. This is accomplished by the following Surgient Platform capabilities: access control system, policy management, resource and capacity management, automated reservation system, application centric model, and the platform API and SDK.

The Surgient Platform provides an easy-to-use and effective self-service experience and has been proven to enable high levels of user adoption. This is accomplished by the following Surgient Platform capabilities: seamless integrated remote access, automated reservation system, and the application centric model.

Finally, a successful self-service solution addresses a significant service gap. The Surgient Virtual Automation Platform with Policy-Driven Self-Service was designed and architected to solve the IT Service Dilemma by providing the administrative control that IT Operations needs to be a successful service provider while empowering their users via a compelling self-service experience – effectively transforming IT Operations into a cloud computing provider for their non-production users.