Transparency and Control in a Cloud-y World

The Enterprise Cloud will revolutionize how people do their jobs. Believe it or not, that is not hyperbole but something that we see everyday here at ServiceNow. Yet, while many of the world’s leading enterprises are well down the path toward a complete digital transformation, I do hear concerns about the opaque nature of cloud computing.

Cloud computing exists somewhere out on the Internet and, as I have said often, is not made from combining hot and cold air. Somewhere out there you will find aluminum and silicon atoms in the form of infrastructure, networks and servers. Many cloud computing vendors will not tell you the cities where these atoms physically reside, the availability of your specific services or when your services will be upgraded. Consumers using products such as Gmail, Facebook, or Whatsapp tolerate this complete lack of visibility and control but it is not tolerable to an enterprise CIO who is responsible for the services that run the business.

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This lack of transparency has led to enterprises to consider building private clouds in their own data centers – where you control every aspect of the environment. You can own the atoms and that is one way to gain full visibility and control. But, this answer also comes with significant expense, security and operational issues and the need for personnel with the right expertise. It’s a non-trivial undertaking and does not allow the enterprise take advantage of the wealth and agility of public cloud services.

At the same time, public clouds give the enterprise the ability to quickly launch services that change how work gets done. Examples of these services include: 1) virtual machines for developers and quality engineers, 2) storage for backups, 3) desktop productivity applications such as email and calendaring and 4) IT, security, legal and customer service workflow applications. While nearly every enterprise wants all of these services, across the industry transparency and control that the CIO expects is not there today.

We built the Enterprise Cloud for the last use case above – to be the platform that drives all enterprise workflow. We set out to give our customers more visibility and control than we were seeing in the market – what the enterprise expects. We knew that this was a key aspect to our service that would give our customers confidence that the service that we built could be used across their entire enterprise. The key was to build a public cloud service that gives as good as or even better the visibility and control that enterprises are used to having in their own data centers.

A key example of our focus on providing visibility is that you can request that your service and data resides in one of our eight paired datacenter regions. We built these redundant datacenter regions for data sovereignty reasons and so that you will know where the atoms that provide their service physically reside.

Adding to the visibility equation is our Real Availability dashboard. Our unique and highly-scalable multi-instance architecture allows us to show Real Availability on a per-customer, per-instance basis. We don’t group multiple customers into large groups or pods where everyone is treated the same and presented with one set of metrics. We show availability on a per customer basis and then break that down further to show the availability of each instance. If there is an availability issue then we show you the root cause incident with all the details. If the incident results in a problem that needs to be fixed in our software or a change that needs to happen on the infrastructure, then you can track those issues transparently too.

We also give the ultimate in granular transparency – we offer the ability to view and download every transaction that is performed on their instance. We don’t hide issues from our customers like other service providers – we provide the transparency that the enterprise expects and is used to from running their own services.

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Beyond visibility, we have learned that enterprises want full control of their instances. You want to control when your service will be upgraded or new features enabled. Our multi-instance cloud gives you that control for compliance, testing and user acceptance reasons. You can control the date and time of upgrades and manage all aspects your instances individually, just as you would expect in an enterprise environment. CIOs and their internal enterprise customers don’t wake up one day to see their services changed unless you want them changed.

In the end, the cloud computing market today can be opaque without transparency and control. On the Enterprise Cloud we have made a conscious effort to build and operate a service in a similar manner to how an enterprise runs their services. These elements are critical to the success of the enterprise as they join us on their journey to a service-oriented world.

Stay tuned for our next post in the series coming soon!

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Allan Leinwand
Allan Leinwand has built a reputation for managing the world’s most demanding clouds – in B2B and B2C. He is the chief technology officer at ServiceNow responsible for building and running the ServiceNow Enterprise Cloud – the second largest enterprise cloud computing environment on the planet. In this role, he is responsible for overseeing all technical aspects and guiding the long-term technology strategy for the company. Before joining ServiceNow, Leinwand was chief technology officer – Infrastructure at Zynga, Inc. where he was focused on building one of the largest consumer cloud computing environments used in the delivery of the company’s social games to more than 80 million players daily. He got his start as a cloud pioneer at Cisco before “cloud computing” was a term and the idea of accessing applications from anywhere was still very new. In addition to expertise in running large enterprise cloud computing environments, he also provides expertise in software engineering, quality engineering and product-market fit to companies including Spoke, Inc.; Bulletproof 360, Inc.; MapAnything, Inc.; Founders Circle Capital; and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. He is a Board member of Marin Software. Leinwand has served as an adjunct professor at the University of California, Berkeley where he taught computer networks, network management and network design. He holds a bachelor of science degree in computer science from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

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