The cloud is no longer just an IT thing. Business leaders, such as enterprise CXOs and LOB (line-of-business) owners, expect cloud solutions to help them improve business flexibility and speed, reduce business costs, drive business innovation, and create new business differentiation and competitive advantages for the company. These business leaders measure the success of cloud solutions in terms of the real business value they are capable of delivering.
Most of today’s infrastructure-centric cloud management solutions, however, are not designed to address these business needs either directly or adequately. Traditional, infrastructure-centric, and capability-based approaches to the cloud management architecture are usually the main culprits.
To help enterprises systematically address this problem, this article introduces a new concept called “value-based cloud management architecture” along with a few related concepts that are important parts of an overarching value-based cloud strategy.
Overview of a Value-Based Cloud Strategy
A value-based cloud strategy includes several strategic concepts and tools designed to help IT and business leaders focus directly on the business value objectives, and the value-based aspects of clouds, as they go through the entire cycle of defining, architecting, managing and supporting enterprise cloud solutions.
This article introduces and explains the following key concepts.
- Business value stack—helps a company identify and understand its business value model. It can also help define and easily communicate the business-centric cloud models, objectives, requirements, strategies and plans to everyone in the enterprise.
- Value-based cloud maturity model—helps companies assess the level of completeness, and the level of business value, that current (or planned) clouds are capable of delivering.
- Value-based cloud management architecture—helps companies understand and identify the right combination of functional components necessary to build and deliver high-value cloud solutions.
Concept: The Business Value Stack
Figure 1: The business value stack.
About the Business Value Stack
Figure 1 shows a typical business value stack, which is intended to include all major IT and business elements necessary to running the day-to-day business operations of a typical enterprise.
Purpose of the Business Value Stack
The concept of a business value stack was created for three main purposes:
- To help IT and business organizations better understand the business value model of a typical enterprise and easily visualize how a typical company creates, manages and delivers business value during its day-to-day operation.
- To help IT and business leaders jointly define and easily communicate the company’s value-based objectives, strategies, plans and solutions to everyone in the enterprise.
- To provide a graphical representation and a template that can be easily visualized, adapted (customized) and adopted (standardized) by any organization, while taking into consideration its unique business and IT environments.
Structure of the Business Value Stack
The business value stack, in its current form, consists of five layers, which are color-coded.
- The top two layers (red) are "business-centric layers" that include key business operation elements: business processes, transactions, services, activities and user experience.
- The middle two layers (green) are the "application-centric layers" that include key applications and application software components.
- The bottom layer (blue) is the "infrastructure-centric layer" that includes key elements of the IT infrastructure.
- Collectively, the bottom three layers are also known as the "IT-centric layers” that include all IT elements.
Explanations and Examples of the Business Value Stack Layers
In an enterprise, “Customers & Business Users” (shown at the top of the business value stack) conduct their business by carrying out various “Business Transactions.” Each business transaction is normally a part of some "Business Process," and typically goes across multiple “Business Services” consisting of collections of "Business Activities" frequently implemented using "Business Applications."
For example, a business transaction called “Order Submission” (a part of the "Order-to-Cash" business process) is created and executed when a customer logs into a “Web Portal” service, selects a product to purchase from the “Product Catalog” service and finally places an order through the “Order Entry" service. In this case, the “User Experience” throughout this transaction is spread across a set of customer interactions with the three specific business services (i.e., web portal, product catalog and order-entry services), and with a number of business activities that are part of these three services.
Please see “Business Value Stack” for the latest updates and additional information, including the following:
- Detailed introduction of the business value stack
- Adapting and adopting the business value stack (for your enterprise)
- Definition of terms used in the business value stack
- Other concepts related to the business value stack
Concept: Value-Based Cloud Maturity Model
Figure 2: Value-based cloud maturity model.
About the Value-Based Cloud Maturity Model
The value-based cloud maturity model, as opposed to a capability-based model, identifies and focuses on the completeness of the cloud solution and the value it is capable of delivering to the business. All cloud types are color coded and are aligned with the colors of the business value stack layers. For the latest updates and additional information, please see “Value-Based Cloud Maturity Model”.
Concept: Value-Based Cloud Management Architecture
Figure 3: Value-based cloud management architecture.
About the Value-based Cloud Management Architecture
The value-based cloud management architecture, as opposed to a capability-based architecture, identifies and focuses on the cloud management components according to the value they are capable of delivering to the business.
Structure of the Value-based Cloud Management Architecture
The position of the component (a box in the picture) represents the completeness of the solution (in the horizontal direction) and its relative business value (in the vertical direction). Components are color coded and follow the color scheme of the value-based cloud maturity model and the business value stack.
An Explanation of the Value-based Cloud Management Architecture
Figure 3 above shows all major components of the value-based cloud management architecture, organized in the three major cloud types:
- Infrastructure-centric cloud
- Application-centric cloud
- Business-centric cloud
For completeness, and to create significant business value, your cloud architecture needs to provide support for all these areas to the extent possible.
Several important application-centric and business-centric areas are highlighted in the next few sections.
Cloud Resource Management, Abstraction and Control for the Application-centric Cloud
Cloud resource management, abstraction and control includes management of all types of applications, underlying mid-tier resources (i.e., middleware and databases), integrated systems and appliances. Basic element management aspects would include discovery, monitoring, change, configuration, availability, performance, capacity, security and so on. More-advanced aspects would include discovery and automated modeling of application mappings (i.e., mapping of application services onto mid-tier and infrastructure elements), so that application-level resource abstractions and controls can be implemented across higher-level logical groups of resources (as opposed to individual resources or elements).
Cloud Services Lifecycle Management for the Application-centric Cloud
Cloud services lifecycle management includes orchestration and lifecycle management of all application services, including the following:
- Services typically used by application administrators (including middleware administrators and database administrators): planning and consolidation of all applications, and provisioning and configuration of applications and all underlying infrastructure.
- Services typically used by application platform managers and application developers: building, testing and deploying applications in the cloud.
- Services generally used by application administrators, application platform managers, application developers and/or application owners: changing, monitoring, metering, charging, supporting and optimizing all cloud applications.
Application-Driven Cloud Management
Application-driven cloud management enables an application-centric cloud to automatically drive the management of infrastructure services and infrastructure resources on the basis of application needs.
For example, a cloud with application-driven management can automatically adjust its infrastructure (infrastructure services and infrastructure resources) by automatically responding to (and adapting to) the real-time and near real-time changes occurring in applications, middleware or databases. These changes can involve performance, configurations, scaling, capacity, security events and so on.
As a more specific use case, when an application is patched or upgraded, or a new application instance is added by the application owner, a cloud with application-driven management can help automate (per application models and policies) the deployment, modification and/or reconfigurations of the database, middleware, server, storage and switch instances, thus adapting to the application-level event.
Business-Driven Cloud Management
Business-driven cloud management enables a business-centric cloud to automatically drive the management of application services, application resources, infrastructure services and infrastructure resources according to the business needs.
For example, a cloud with business-driven management can automatically adjust its applications (application services and application resources) and infrastructure (infrastructure services and infrastructure resources) by automatically responding to (and adapting to) the real-time and near real-time changes occurring in business processes, business transactions, business services, business activities or end-user experiences. These changes can involve performance, configurations, scaling, capacity, security events and so on.
A sample use case: To support the launch of several new products, a company must respond to the new customers and transaction volumes, changes in buying patterns and practices, and effects on performance and capacities of customer-facing activities. These, in turn, require modifications to “product catalog” and “order entry” business services, “order submission” business transaction, and “order-to-cash” business process. Business-driven cloud management can help business and application users automatically (per models and policies of business processes, transactions, services and applications) deploy, modify, or reconfigure all relevant instances of applications, middleware components and databases. Application-driven cloud management can further drive down the changes to all affected servers, storage and/or networks in response to the application-level changes, thus fully adapting the cloud to the business-level events and needs.
Cloud Value Management and Optimization
Cloud value management and optimization includes two major architecture frameworks.
- Meta-level framework for modeling and managing the value of the cloud. This includes support for modeling and managing all meta-level concepts that affect, or are related to, the value of the cloud. It should also support all three types of clouds (infrastructure-, application- and business-centric), as well as all major components within these areas.
- Meta-level framework for supporting key solution-related aspects of the cloud. This includes support for the following aspects:
- Cloud Completeness—support for the end-to-end cloud solutions (spanning infrastructure-, application- and/or business-centric clouds)
- Cloud Integration—integrated management of each cloud type, integrated management across cloud types and integrated management from a single cloud management tool
- A cloud’s business-centricity and automation—support for business-driven cloud management, application-driven cloud management, application automation and infrastructure automation
- Cloud solution delivery models—includes support for private, public and hybrid clouds in/across private or outsourced data centers
The infrastructure-centric cloud management reference architectures, templates and approaches that are commonly available today are severely limited and ill-suited to creating application- or business-centric clouds, and they may not enable the success of your cloud-driven business initiatives.
The new value-based strategies and concepts described in this article can be used and adapted to address your business’ unique needs. If you are a business leader, you should use these concepts as a framework for driving your cloud’s strategic requirements, objectives and investment decisions. If you are an IT leader, you should use this information as your foundation for building business-centric enterprise cloud solutions that deliver high value out of the box.
Please see “Value-Based Cloud Strategy” for additional information and related content.
The views expressed in this article are those of Jay Parekh and do not necessarily reflect the views of Oracle or any previous employer.
About the Author
Jay Parekh is Vice President at Oracle and is responsible for the overall strategy and architecture of Oracle’s enterprise management solutions including cloud management, data center management, application management, support and service management, and business value management. Before joining Oracle, he was Chief Strategy Officer at BMC. Jay holds a Master in Computer Science degree from the University of Michigan. Additional background on Jay can be found here.
Leading article photo courtesy of Tsahi Levent-Levi