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Self-Service IT with Cloud Computing | Part 1

Popular trends such as mobility, social media, Big Data and cloud computing are combined to create a “revolution“ in IT

Self-service is a traditional element for humans. A typical and successful example of self-service is vendor machines that dispenses drinks. Coca-Cola (among others) operates a large number of self-service machines all over the world, in public places such as universities, museums, and sport arenas. People are used to dealing with the machines as they are simple to use and easy to find. In today's world, there is a huge variety of self-service machines that are not limited to soft drinks. There are self-service machines for snacks, chewing gum and you can even buy pizzas from self-service machines.

Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) have revolutionized the way we deal with money. The only question is, why is there no self-service IT available yet? A self-service IT where you can use the benefits of self-service machines: insert money, press a button and get the service you need. It should be as fast and simple as with a soda vending machine. But is this type of service delivery actually possible? In the following series of articles we will look at self-service IT and what is necessary for it.

In the past few years, a very popular trend has emerged in IT: cloud computing. However, cloud computing is not the only popular trend; we can see many more trends on the horizon. The market research firm IDC calls this "the third platform." In the third platform, popular trends such as mobility, social media, Big Data and cloud computing are combined to create a "revolution" in IT. This trend is supposed to dramatically change the IT landscape as we know it today.

A vision of a company, where self-service IT is implemented, would look like the following: the IT department is reducing the time they invest in operational tasks such as maintaining their servers and applying patches. Core tasks of the IT department would shift toward providing more and more services for their end users. End users in different departments within an enterprise could use these services out-of-the box. This means that they don't need to call someone in the IT department to create new instances or applications. If the marketing department needs a new website for a product launch, they go to their self-service platform (which is ideally integrated in the internal portal) and launch the new website. The website is automatically configured and the corporate identity is applied. These services are basically available within minutes. The IT department now works on providing more templates and more applications that are available for the user out-of-the box. This reduces the time-to-market and improves the possibilities in the IT department.

In many companies today, this process is done the following way today: if the marketing department needs a new website for a product launch, they talk to the IT department. The IT department now prepares an instance - either virtual or dedicated. The level of automation can vary, but often it‘s not that automated. The process to create a new marketing website might take some days or even weeks. IT departments are overloaded with tasks that are actually repeatable and can be automated. Automating these processes can significantly improve the IT power of an enterprise, which could lead to an uptake in competition (Stelzer & Heinrich, 2011).

Cloud computing is a strong driver for self-service IT. If we look at popular platforms such as Amazon Web Services[1], platforms are basically easy to use. To get started with Amazon Web Services, nothing is needed except a valid credit card. To register, it takes a mere 10 minutes and you‘re ready to go. However, in most cases corporate environments don't use these services we call public cloud (Meir-Huber, 2011) nowadays. Large enterprises want to have their IT often with a familiar outsourcing provider or even insourced. This is what we call private cloud. If we talk about private cloud, we also need a high level of self-service and all aspects of the cloud basically apply to private cloud as well. Right now, we have some mature platforms for private cloud computing. Popular companies such as VMware or Microsoft provide some of them; others are open source platforms like OpenStack or Eucalyptus. These platforms basically provide Infrastructure as a Service tools. If other platforms such as Platform as a Service or even Software as a Service are needed, they are not as mature as Infrastructure as a Services. Additional work is required to achieve that.

(Miller & Cardoso , 2012) describes self-service IT as "Internet-Based Self-Services" and outlines the importance of self-services:

"Many worldwide economies have moved away from manufacturing and became service-oriented. As a consequence, research on Internet-based Self-Services (ISS) will foster the uptake of service exports and trading since they can replace many face-to-face interactions and make service transactions more accurate, convenient and faster." (Miller & Cardoso , 2012)

By this, (Miller & Cardoso , 2012) states that self-services will allow companies to replace face-to-face interactions for processes with automated processes. This will improve the company processes, making them more accurate, more convenient and faster. (Miller & Cardoso , 2012) also describes that there is a research gap so far in self-services, since this type of service has to be developed by someone - and this costs time and money. They suggest using different tools to create self-services out of models.

To read the entire series on self-service IT, have a look at the posts here: http://cloudvane.com/tag/self-service-it

More Stories By Mario Meir-Huber

Mario Meir-Huber studied Information Systems at the University of Linz. He worked in the IT sector for some years before founding CodeForce, an IT consulting and services company together with Andreas Aschauer. Since the advent of Cloud Computing, he has been passionate about this technology. He talks about Cloud Computing at various international events and conferences and writes for industry-leading magazines on cloud computing. He is Cloud Computing expert in various independent IT organizations and wrote a book on Cloud Computing covering all topics of the Cloud. You can follow Mario on Twitter (@mario_mh) or read his Blog at http://cloudvane.wordpress.com.

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