The Service Measurement Index (SMI) could be the answer for high-tech organizations struggling to understand how services perform across hybrid cloud environments.
Quantifying business service performance can represent a bit of a challenge for IT organizations supporting sophisticated environments and relying on external service providers in part to deliver IT services to end users and customers.
The current conundrum is exacerbated by the growing popularity of cloud computing and the trend toward sending services outside of the company. Some companies are opting to develop private clouds, others rely mostly on public cloud offerings, and many are choosing the third option: hybrid cloud environments. That means not only are IT organizations providing business services across an internal infrastructure, but they are also depending upon third parties to deliver services to end users and customers. While there may be obvious operational, cost and other benefits, monitoring and measuring the performance of these services across disparate environments could stump some IT leaders and prevent them from realizing the full value of cloud services.
This problem certainly isn’t new, even if it is taking a fresh form under the cloud moniker. Applications teams have long worked toward better understanding application performance, in particular, from the end-user perspective. Efforts put into measuring how an internal user might encounter an application versus someone logging in remotely help those teams design better applications. And network teams would have to determine how an Internet service provider impacted the speed of the network across multiple locations from the local-area to the wide-area network. These types of measurement efforts and performance metrics now must be applied to the cloud.
That’s why the Service Measurement Index (SMI) could provide the answer to the question many IT organizations are asking now: How does my service perform in the cloud provider’s environment? That higher level question could be broken down into myriad, more granular questions, such as: how does the performance differ between the two environments?; do my end users and customers have different experiences depending on the provider of the business service?: and how can I measure performance in an external environment in a comparable manner to internal services?
The Cloud Services Measurement Initiative Consortium (CSMIC), the group led my Carnegie Mellon University that is currently developing the hierarchical framework originally established by CA Technologies, defines the SMI has a “set of business-relevant Key Performance Indicators (KPI) that provide a standardized method for measuring and comparing a business service regardless of whether that service is internally provided or sourced from an outside company.”
SMI uses seven categories to measure performance: accountability, agility, assurance, financial, performance, security and privacy, and usability. Under these top level categories are three or more attributes. SMI enables service owners to apply the attributes when rating the service provider organization. The service owner, say an IT organization, assigns a weight to each of the attributes and categories, based on the desired business result. The data collected on the KPIs can be used to determine if one provider is a better fit than another or if performance is on par with promises. Such information can not only help IT leaders get the services and performance levels they want, but also enable them to quantify how well a cloud service performs, regardless of where it lives.
IT organizations are making the shift from thinking in siloes to understanding the business service, and as cloud computing continues to represent a cost-effective means to add agility to the environment, understanding how those business services behave is critical to quality service delivery. SMI work is in the early stages, but with the rampant rush to cloud adoption, end user and customer demand will drive further development of this framework that will ultimately equip IT leaders with the intelligence needed to design their cloud environments and deliver optimized business services.