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Manage cloud computing with policies, not permissions

Bernard Golden | Oct. 17, 2013
Cloud computing obsolesces the idea that IT operations must put users through the ringer to get their hands on scarce resources. Many organisations continue to insist that someone must review resource requests when, in reality, an automated policy engine can do the same thing -- and put computing power in users' hands that much faster.

If You Block Users' Access to Resources, They'll Find Them Another Way
Organizations struggling to make this transition should consider the following:

The world has changed. It's now obvious that the need for human approval is no longer necessary for routine circumstances. More to the point, it's no longer tenable. Businesses are now creating and running applications that are directly tied to financial interactions with customers and that experience erratic workloads. Trying to operate a process that imposes lengthy delays in resource availability due to manual process is unacceptable in a world where digital engagement with customers is the norm. Existing processes need to be updated to operate effectively in this new world.

Codify your policy and capture it in a rules engine. I constantly hear about the need for "someone to review requests." When I ask why, it turns out a fairly straightforward set of heuristics are being applied. If a credit application can be automatically assessed, certainly a request for a virtual machine can't be too complex to evaluate against a set of organizational requirements.

Automate the process and reduce exceptions to the minimum. Putting a process in place that requires requesting resources from someone presents a power dynamic and poses real threat of organizational tension. After all, how would you feel if you had to contact your bank and ask for permission every time you wanted to buy something with your credit card? It's vital to make every day resource requirements automated. Make it clear that only unusual requests require face-to-face discussions.

Recognize the imperative automation imposes. If you fail to meet the benchmark external providers offer, users will abandon your offering. That presents a real risk of stranded investment, which can make for unpalatable economics. It's a new world, and you have to be prepared to support it. Falling back on shibboleths and anecdotes about irresponsible users is a dangerous game. Instead of substituting your judgment for theirs, enable them to make their own decisions with supporting facts and economic information.

Put another way: Let users make their own mistakes rather than shielding them from the consequences of their own decisions. If they're wrong, they'll learn. If they're right, your intervention wasn't necessary.


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