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Image: ITSM Meets Cloud Management: RightScale and ServiceNow

Tea for two, and two for tea
Me for you, and you for me
Can’t you see, how happy we will be?

OK, borrowing 1920s Broadway musical lyrics for a blog post is a reach, but I couldn’t resist. It’s the jingle that keeps coming to mind when I think of how our customers are combining RightScale’s multi-cloud management platform with ServiceNow’s IT service management (ITSM) platform to transform how they deliver IT. We’ve been integrating RightScale and ServiceNow for lots of enterprise customers over the last year, and the response has been so positive that I decided it would be worth sharing more widely.

Before diving into specifics, let me take a step back. Have you ever tried to define the holy grail of IT transformation in the new world of cloud? Might seem like a strange question, but it’s actually quite relevant to enterprise cloud management. Here’s my attempt at an answer: A centralized system to streamline delivery of IT services and assets to your company’s consumers, and manage those services and assets simply, securely, and cost efficiently using automation. This acknowledges the emerging role of IT as a broker of services in addition to its past role as builder and operator of infrastructure, with the same focus of delivering value to the business across a range of users.

The reason I raise the IT transformation question is that it’s important for us to keep our eye on that goal, however challenging it might be to achieve it. We know that the domain being managed by enterprise IT has become so diverse, complex, and specialized — especially with the advent of cloud offerings — that no single system can manage and track it all. Add to that the fact that IT serves such a wide spectrum of customers — from business to ops to developers — and needs both to enable and to track their issues, requests, and usage all while maintaining security and compliance. It’s a daunting proposition.

Notes from the Field

Customers are telling us that the combination of RightScale and ServiceNow provides two critical pieces needed for IT transformation — service management/delivery and cloud management/brokering. The integration of the two provides a solution that includes an agile, self-service interface to requesting IT resources on any major cloud platform (public or private); business workflow approvals using company directories; automated provisioning and orchestration; monitoring and alerting and auditing; cost and usage tracking and chargeback; and ops-friendly controls — all recorded and accessible from a centralized configuration management database (CMDB). Effectively, this gives enterprise IT visibility and governance across all major cloud systems it uses today.

One particularly compelling and representative use case worth highlighting comes from our customer Technicolor. Mark Dickerson, Technicolor’s vice president of cloud delivery and operations, and Daniel Pitt, vice president of enterprise architecture, recently shared their transformation story with me. Like many cloud pioneers, Mark and Daniel are helping Technicolor to drive innovation in the business using cloud — the goal being to enable the company to maintain its leadership position by “delivering products and services to the market faster than the guy next to you.”

To do this, the team at Technicolor has created its own IT platform called Constellation, which combines ServiceNow and RightScale to deliver one-click self-service provisioning of resources across seven cloud environments from a single interface. Allocation of all resources — servers, storage, networking, web services, etc. — are approved through standard workflows and registered as assets in ServiceNow’s CMDB, providing global visibility and auditing. Notifications are sent when the resources are de-provisioned.

How Technicolor Is Driving IT Innovation

Managers across five major business units now have access to data on usage and trends that enable better decision making on application placement, while the multi-cloud automation and orchestration capabilities from RightScale allow them to choose among a variety of cloud platforms, and even move among them, for any particular workload. It’s the classic story of advancing from 4- to 6-week requisition cycles to 10- to 15-minute nearly instant gratification in IT delivery.

Tweet this > > > Like many cloud pioneers, Technicolor “delivers products and services to the market faster than the guy next to you.”

Technicolor runs hundreds of thousands of CPU cores globally, and the process of managing all that used to be too often based on spreadsheets and paper documents, siloed in business units, without the global visibility and agility they desired. Today, through its Constellation Cloud Management Platform, Technicolor can launch render farms with thousands of cores — or continuous integration environments for its dozens of websites — using automated workflows that can allocate resources on any of its approved private or public cloud environments. And once running, critical maintenance tasks like patching a security vulnerability can be handled using one-to-many template-based updates in just a few hours.

Here’s what the typical IT delivery cycle now looks like in Technicolor’s Constellation:

  • Users request an application or resource from ServiceNow using a front-end portal built by Crossfuze, all integrated with and governed by Technicolor’s central user directory. This triggers a business process workflow to get appropriate approvals.
  • Once the users’ requests are approved, ServiceNow calls RightScale to provision the required resources. RightScale controls all the various proprietary cloud APIs and systems to launch and orchestrate the compute, storage, network, and other resources to instantiate the application. Low-level configuration of server software is handled using Salt.
  • As the resources launch and become operational, RightScale handles the multi-cloud monitoring, auditing, and automation — and calls back to ServiceNow to register the new assets in the central CMDB and continues to keep the CMDB up to date as the dynamic infrastructure changes occur (auto-scaling, de-provisioning, enhancements, version changes, etc). IT can see who launched what, when, where, and against which cost center.
  • Finally, RightScale Cloud Analytics provides detailed cost-tracking and usage information via a portal.

The New Role of IT

Before launching Constellation, Mark and Daniel visited many business unit leaders in Technicolor to gather input. They pointed out to me that central IT organizations are not the “most loved” departments in many enterprises: They’re not typically profit centers and can be seen as a drag on the business. So they set out to demonstrate to the business unit leaders in Technicolor how things could be better — how they could leverage IT as a cloud broker to create net new projects vs. just keeping existing systems operational. In doing so, it was essential to design Constellation to be simple, and keep power in the hands of the end users.

Today, Technicolor is succeeding with this internal entrepreneurial effort in brokering cloud services to a $5B organization — creating an end-to-end IT environment that is transforming its business and putting the company in a position to capitalize on the 100X growth in data processing and storage it expects during the coming decade.

What’s your definition of the holy grail for enterprise IT transformation? We’d love to hear in the comment section below. And if you’re interested in learning more about the Technicolor story, the team will be speaking at the ServiceNow Knowledge15 conference in Las Vegas on Tuesday, April 21, from 2:40-3:30 PM on “Speeding Movies to Market: Cloud Provisioning at Technicolor.” We’ll be there, too — please come by and say hello.