ITaaS, short for IT-as-a-Service, is one of the more misleading acronyms around. Because it follows the ubiquitous “XaaS” pattern, many assume that like SaaS, PaaS, or IaaS, it’s just another cloud delivery model or technology platform. This mistaken assumption could prove to be very costly for many in enterprise IT.
ITaaS is in fact a new IT business and operating model, not a delivery platform. While definitions abound, ITaaS is basically about IT becoming a service provider that offers and orchestrates IT services instead of organizing around traditional technology silos. The model provides users self-service access to internal and 3rd party services through an integrated service catalog that supports consumption-based chargeback and billing.
While cloud is a useful enabler of ITaaS, virtualized and even dedicated IT services can be packaged and offered up to users as well. The ITaaS model is based on the premise that IT needs to define, offer, and orchestrate services described in terms of business users, not technology silos. The specific delivery model for these services is independent of technology, and in fact may even be delivered manually. The important point is that the service is as standardized as possible, with a clear SLA and cost data.
While they may not use the specific ITaaS term explicitly today, many in enterprise IT intuitively recognize that they’re now competing in the IT services market for business budget, and need to become service providers themselves. But they fail to realize that becoming an ITaaS provider is not a choice; it’s a decision being made for them by their users. By failing to realize this important fact, IT tends to focus on familiar technical issues, and not on higher level questions around what services need to be delivered or why.
This is reflected in the fact that many enterprises respond to this competitive pressure by taking a bottom-up, infrastructure-first approach to launching new internal cloud services, with the starting point centered around existing data centers. The focus tends to be on how to deploy private clouds atop current infrastructure, while also providing users access to public cloud IaaS / PaaS platforms as appropriate. This approach makes the classic mistake of focusing on the technology, not the users and their problems.
Organizations serious about ITaaS transformation start instead with business users and services. They focus on answering fundamentally different questions that are out of the traditional IT comfort zone like:
- What services do our business users and developers want and need to drive innovation?
- Is internal IT truly best positioned to deliver these services to users?
- Can IT deliver these services at a sustainable, market-competitive price?
- How will our processes and policies need to change to support the new services lifecycle?
The answers to these questions are what then drive the development of the right delivery models and platforms. The answer may be public, hybrid cloud models, or even a virtualized or dedicated legacy environment. But it is user demand that should drive the ITaaS services train.
ITaaS embodies a new operational model that requires new skills, processes, policies, and approaches. Many CIOs will find that these challenges far more difficult to overcome than the technical hurdles associated with delivery the model. Describing ITaaS in purely cloud or technology terms completely misses this point.