Services are a must in today’s complex hybrid IT world

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A few weeks ago, in a different world, I spoke about this topic in a breakout session at CIOWaterCooler Live in Manchester. My presentation generated a lively debate that tapped into a growing concern about the plethora of new tools and applications coming to market, designed to deal with increasing IT operational complexity, that were themselves so complex that IT departments were struggling to implement them without a supporting range of design, implementation and support services.

Ironically, in an automated, as-a-Service consumption environment, the idea of “hands-on services” has become somewhat of an after-thought. Indeed, the whole concept of managed services has become tarnished and has decreased in popularity.

However, IT departments are facing competing pressures of skills availability, cost pressures and the constant demands for increased performance, availability and security that businesses striving to be Mutable, i.e. in a constant state of reinvention, require to survive and grow. This leads either to tools being acquired and left to sit on the shelf, or for buying decisions being delayed and put into the “too difficult at the moment” box.

I have spoken with vendors who are seeing decision timescales moving out to 12-18 months, where there has been a drive to find smaller, point solutions, that are simpler to understand, buy and deploy. Their hope then is that this will allow them to land and expand. My colleague, Philip Howard acknowledged that this was completely understandable for smaller vendors. However, he noted that “It leads to silos of disparate solutions from multiple vendors as every supplier competes to target individual departments and requirements.”

One comment from a member of my audience in Manchester has stayed with me. He said, “I don’t want to buy an IT tool from a vendor and then have to pay thousands of pounds to a separate consultant to show me how to get the most out of it.” The implication was, that the vendor should be building that sort of support in as part of the whole product proposition.

For me, that is a clear challenge, particularly to the newer breed of tool vendors, often VC backed start-ups with very transactional, automated delivery business models, to think beyond the features and functions of the tools themselves, and recognise the wider product management and marketing imperatives of delivering usable services.

So, it was with some interest that I read that the latest press release from Canonical, that has just dropped into my inbox, about the announcement of Managed Apps. This enables enterprises to have their apps deployed and operated by Canonical as a fully managed service. At launch, Canonical will cover ten widely used cloud-native database and LMA (logging, monitoring and alerting) apps on multi-cloud Kubernetes but also on virtual machines across bare-metal, public and private cloud.

It feels like a very positive step and I will get a briefing from Canonical as soon as possible to help me assess whether Managed Apps really will free DevOps teams to focus on delivering business value and away from time-consuming management tasks, at a predictable cost, and whether this is the shape of things to come for hard pressed IT operations teams.