Commoditisation of IT Services

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about where things are heading with IT services. As an avid follower of Simon Wardley’s blog and his regular tweets, I believe it looks increasingly likely that the industry is headed for a big shake up.

I like analogies, even if they’re not perfect, it helps get my mind around hard concepts. The one I’m going to use here is the automotive industry.

When cars were first invented, they were custom made, very expensive, unreliable, and required constant maintenance. Henry Ford made one of the first large changes, with the industrialisation of the assembly. A standard product could be turned out much more cheaply than before, also more consistently which is also of vast importance.

Over the years, this has been the standard way of car production, mainstream products being stamped out in a consistent and uniform way. The immense costs of design and development generally limiting the number of models available, although recently with the use of car “platforms” such as VAG’s MQB platform that 8 models are currently built on, a greater range of models is now coming to market, to cover smaller and smaller niches. At the opposite end of the spectrum from commoditisation, small manufacturers still exist, but an ever increasing cost of design, and meeting safety and emissions standards, is making the cost per unit climb steeply.

And so it is with IT services. The assembly line is automation, such as cloud automation tools. If you aren’t heavily scripting your provisioning, you are a small manufacturer like Morgan – interesting, but destined to become an irrelevance to the market as a whole. Your cost per unit is going to be prohibitive.

As the cloud platforms mature, they make it possible to cover more use cases, people are standing up SAP systems on AWS, which would have been unthinkable even a couple of years ago.

What then of private clouds? You will still find them, but the massive cost differential with public clouds will make them very much a second choice. Pretty soon, they will be just where security concerns and governance dictate that they can’t go on a public cloud. I think it’s highly likely that these will also succumb eventually, G-Cloud is a prime example of this momentum.

So will AWS, Azure, and Google own all the business? Well, yes and no. Those 3 will probably have the majority of the hosting, however the majority of businesses will require an integrator to build the automation, to manage the service, to provide the value, rather than just a bunch of virtual servers.

There will be a lot of differentiation and a lot of opportunity in providing those cloud management services, and it will need engineers that are skilled in automation, in service management, and not just an OS or a Hypervisor.

ITIL V3 Foundation

Over the years I’ve generally sneered a bit at things like BS5750, ISO 9000, and more recently ITIL. It’s all a bit tedious and boring, involving endless documentation, dreary standards to follow, and not part of the exciting technology I wanted to work with when I entered the IT industry.

However, we were all pushed recently to undertake a very basic ITIL Awareness training course, and I was surprised at how much of it I knew just from the way things have been driven on the account I’ve worked on over the last 10 years.

On top of that, we had a significant business re-organisation recently, and one of the suggested requirements for the role I’m now in was the ITIL V3 Foundation certification.

So, I thought I may as well have a go.

I spent quite a few hours on the online training provided internally by SkillSoft, as well as utilising my free training at Pluralsight (as a current vExpert), and the study notes shared by Edward Chung

Today I made the journey up to Leeds (there appear to be no Prometric or Pearson Vue testing centres in Sheffield these days), to attempt the certification.

It’s a 40 multiple choice question exam, allowed 1 hour for completion – so quite a lot shorter than the recent VMware exams I’ve been taking. I must have revised well as I got through the 40 questions in under 10 minutes! Another 10 minutes re-checking the ones I’d had to think about, then I hit the End Test button.

The slightly ancient PC then paused for what seemed like an age before confirming that I’d passed, with a score of 98% – I just got the one question wrong, and I even think I know which one!

Do I recommend it? If your company is a believer in ITIL, then definitely – it’s not a difficult exam. If they don’t, well it may still give you some ideas about how things can be done better.

I can’t believe I’m championing one of those boring methodologies that I used to turn my nose up at, I must have a lie down….