Increasing Development Velocity with Self-Service IT

Find out how Dell Technologies' IT practices what it preaches by launching an internal self-service portal for cloud services.

In IT, it’s understood that users, particularly developers, don’t like to wait to get the infrastructure they need. Dell Digital, Dell’s IT organization, has an internal cloud service portfolio to ensure they don’t have to.

We call it our Dell Digital Cloud—a centralized self-service, marketplace for internal business partners, stakeholders and some 9,000 developers to consume our infrastructure services. In a step towards self-service nirvana, it lets developers and infrastructure engineers alike get what they want, when they want it, without IT getting in the way.

Dell Digital Cloud runs on Dell’s hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI), namely VxRail and PowerFlex, at the heart of our modern data center. Users can provision services—virtual machines (VMs), containers, data services, databases and more—in less than an hour compared with waiting weeks via a typical IT provisioning process.

Replacing tickets with on-demand

Traditionally, someone would request an IT service through a queue-based ticketing system like ServiceNow and that request would go into the system. It would be vetted and approved, and then move through the system with queue wait times and people doing their work in a very waterfall approach.

With the cloud portal, Dell Digital no longer needs to curate what users can have or when they can have it. Instead, we curate the services on the back-end and create strong standards that tie the service catalog into our security, compliance, governance, monitoring, reporting, etc. We still have all the rigor around what we’re doing.

Available to everyone at Dell, portal users are primarily developers and an occasional product team. It is used across business groups, including product groups, cybersecurity and team member experience.

Getting IT out of the way

Besides the fact that developers and other IT users have, of course, always wanted access to what they need without waiting, there were several other reasons we decided to create the portal.

One is that building out our private cloud environment over the past three years using Dell and VMware technology has resulted in infrastructure that lowered our cost to serve, reduced provisioning time and increased agility. We’ve automated many processes, providing users on-demand access to platforms, databases, compute, storage and networking via self-service.

Dell Digital saw a need to make a public cloud-like experience for our developers and our internal business partners and that’s what we did. By creating stronger standards in this catalog that people are consuming, it mimics a public-cloud experience and a cost structure that is highly competitive, which is a common expectation with today’s workforce.

If a user still needs services on a public cloud service and they have a viable business reason, we can assist in brokering those services using Dell-approved top-level accounts and security parameters. By offering users a multi-cloud approach, Dell Digital has visibility into what users are consuming. We can also ensure adherence to our security policies around public cloud usage. If user demand for a particular service in the public cloud reaches a pivotal threshold, we often add those services internally, repatriating those workloads to the Dell Digital Cloud to take advantage of our substantial cost and performance benefits.

We provide portal users with show back on the cost of the services they provision, along with the ability to “try before they buy” services for 30 days.

We also have a team dedicated to working with our stakeholders, offering consulting on how to onboard into the portal. If users have a traditional legacy application and want to start consuming some of these services to gain efficiency and higher performance, we help them find the best way to do that. 

An API marketplace

We operate in a product model approach to add and iterate on features, based on feedback from developers and other stakeholders. While the portal is often the focal point of the conversation, all the back-end services that the portal uses are APIs. They are available through the Dell Digital-wide API marketplace, where our public and private APIs are cataloged and managed across Dell Digital.

Many of the workflows are directly accessed with APIs from CI/CD pipelines and other key software initiatives and the experience is much more streamlined for our developers and engineers.

All APIs in the marketplace are vetted via our CI/CD development pipeline, where they are validated and tested before being published.

We are continuing to expand our catalog to gain self-service efficiency across our IT infrastructure, from the basics like VM and container provisioning to day-two operations including how we secure, grow, manage and maintain the services.

As a company that shows our customers how HCI can help them gain flexibility, automation and standardization to improve business velocity, our internal Dell Digital Cloud is proof of practicing what we preach to remove IT as a barrier to services.

Suzan PIckett

About the Author: Suzan Pickett

Suzan Pickett is Director of Infrastructure Product Acceleration and CTO of Dell Infrastructure Platform Enablement. She is responsible for advancing Dell Digital’s infrastructure transformation to a modern product delivery organization, enabling teams to quickly deliver quality infrastructure products and services. Suzan leads efforts in accelerating Dell’s infrastructure engineering teams toward a product-focused organization, including DevOps practices and technology. She also oversees the strategic direction for the infrastructure organization’s roadmap. Before joining Dell, Suzan succeeded in numerous roles leading large global infrastructure teams ensuring architecture, engineering and operational success, including U.S. Bank, Nike, and Columbia Sportswear. Suzan began her career in Oregon, but has recently relocated to Austin, Texas with her husband and two Labrador retrievers. Check out Suzan in a presentation at Dell Technologies World 2021: Practicing What We Preach: Replacing “IT as a Barrier” with Digital Infrastructure.