As with many new technologies, there are downsides and upsides to the whole cloud revolution. On the downside there is a long list of challenges that prevent the full promise of cloud from being achieved. But the upsides are significant, particularly from the cost and agility perspectives, and benefits are strong enough to warrant continued efforts to find the path to success. In order to fully appreciate the options for success, EMA’s recently published white paper titled Delivering Effective Service Automation through Cloud Technologies examines both the challenges and opportunities at hand.

As documented by EMA, some of the top challenges with the move to cloud have been security concerns, lack of staff expertise, difficulty understanding application performance, and issues onboarding/adapting legacy applications for the cloud environment. Other than the specific challenges of adapting existing applications to the cloud environment, these issues aren’t so very different from the challenges faced when deploying any IT environment. Traditionally, each of these issues would be taken on and solved using a mix of training, tools, and external services over time. But therein lies the rub. Cloud is supposed to be fast and agile, and no one wants to take the time required to do things the old way.

However, there is hope for addressing these challenges within a parallel initiative that EMA has been following among enterprise IT teams. While trying to get cloud up, working, and delivering results, IT organizations are also looking for broader techniques to automate services and bridge the gaps between technology silos. This same strategy should be applied to cloud, and in many cases this approach is being catalyzed by cloud projects themselves. In order to avoid creating even more silos that require their own expertise and management tools, cloud platforms must be integrated with existing infrastructure and work processes, and automation is the key.

Time and time again, EMA research has found that organizations that embrace automation are able to best optimize the business value and ROI of cloud services.  And automation becomes even more critical when dealing with the growing use of complex hybrid environments, where systems are partly hosted on premises and partly on public or private clouds.

So how can the cloud be leveraged for automating service management? The quickest way is to use the cloud itself to host and serve automation solutions, typically using a SaaS approach. And along the way, EMA has found two important decision points.  First, mixed/hybrid deployments must be supported. It might be desirable to maintain local hosting for some service management features while choosing the cloud for others. Most critical here is preserving choice and flexibility so every organization can mix and match components and hosting techniques to meet its own specific needs and objectives.  Second, service management solutions must embrace and support the multi-cloud reality. Enterprise organizations already live in a world of multiple public/private and internal/external clouds. Only by embracing this reality can service management successfully play its intended role as the “glue” between heterogeneous hybrid cloud infrastructure components.

Cloud is not the only answer for the future of IT, but it certainly has become an essential building block and can serve as a much-needed catalyst for change. IT teams should take advantage of the drive towards cloud to rethink and adjust management strategies by leveraging service automation. Not only will automation improve results for mixing cloud and traditional services, it’s likely that the many promises of cloud will remain unreachable without it.

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