As we slog into another year of the global pandemic, attention to cloud spending and provisioning is at an all-time high in the enterprise, requiring renewed attention to cloud procurement. Consequently, as part of a service desk or self-service cloud brokerage, the cloud services catalog grows in importance.
By design, a cloud service catalog should be tiered or hierarchical with well-crafted services catalog entries that include the essential technical and pricing information your stakeholders will need when buying a cloud service for their project.
Clarity and accuracy are key
A service catalog entry should be a “technical outcome” that includes all of the components and professional services that an internal or external service provider assembles for a customer. In other words, it should be much more than a discrete combination of items in a traditional bill of materials.
For example, a catalog entry for a virtual machine may describe the VM as an instance with a combination of vCPU, RAM, and storage, with a service level objective (SLO) of immediate provisioning and a service level agreement (SLA) of 99.95% uptime. A detailed catalog entry of the VM will include all of the compute, storage, networking hardware, and software assembled by engineers to create and deliver that service under those terms.
Writing a service catalog entry isn’t about being a copywriter like Don Draper or a senior cloud architect. Instead, it’s about recording technically accurate information and current pricing that come from collaboration between technology and business teams. Depending on the breadth of cloud services you offer, your catalog entries may span multiple cloud service providers (CSPs) and even add-on professional services and cloud training for your employees.
Take a close look at this wireframe example of a typical cloud services catalog entry:
Now let’s break down the common elements of a cloud service catalog entry.
A services catalog entry starts with a short, descriptive name for the cloud service. You should avoid acronyms and use the CSP’s official name for the service.
Write a short description of what the service provides. Your description should be detailed but straightforward. If you run a multicloud environment, you may want to consider documenting any equivalencies among the services you offer. Also, be conscious of your audience’s level of cloud knowledge, whether they’re business users or engineers, to craft entries that supply a suitable level of detail. Strive to get early feedback from your user community about the descriptions in your catalog. After all, one of your goals is to promote more self-sufficiency.
The billable unit is critical come budget time because it’s a fixed unit price for the cloud service. Include the cost that comes from your cloud services contract agreement via your reseller or directly from the CSP as part of your catalog entry.
A service catalog entry should capture the cost of billable time, which could be a one-time, hourly, monthly, or annual fee that your CSP charges for setup or related services. This entry could also capture hourly rates for professional services. Chargebacks for services between internal departments would also appear in this field.
Service catalog prerequisites
Service catalog prerequisites are a common pain point in overall service catalog compilation and design. Prerequisites are catalog items that you must buy along with the catalog entry. If you forget a prerequisite, your users won’t be able to use the service. Thus it’s important to involve the solution architects who build your cloud services in crafting and reviewing your catalog entries. You also need to be conscious of prerequisites as you add and drop services from your catalog. Work on your service catalog should start during the earliest planning phase of your organization’s cloud initiative.
Related service catalog entries
You should also capture any similar or related cloud service offerings that are available for purchase optionally or alternatively to your catalog entry. Examples might include alternative compute or storage options.
Depending on the cloud service, your customers might have to perform specific tasks or prerequisites for successful services delivery or to support the agreed-upon services level. These customer responsibilities should also be documented in the catalog entry.
Give your internal customers information about the specific tasks that the service provider delivers, including one-time and recurring tasks as proper. Beyond the catalog entry, it’s wise to hook your key internal stakeholders up with representatives from your service provider to start collaborating before your business users start purchasing cloud services from your catalog.
Service level agreement
Be sure to include the contractual agreement that clearly describes the metrics the service must meet as part of the catalog entry. There may be separate SLAs for various components of the service. For example, you may have an SLA for a provisioning portal of 99.99% availability. However, the items you provision using the portal, such as virtual machines and storage, may have an SLA of 99.95% availability.
Service level objective
It’s necessary to include an SLO with each cloud service in your catalog. The SLO captures the tasks the service provider performs, along with the conditions under which the service provider performs them, to achieve the SLAs set in your contract. The SLO entry may also include definitions of the SLO tiers you can expect, such as the resolution of Severity 1 cloud problems in two hours or less.
Terms and conditions
You should capture the terms and conditions for the cloud services offering, whether a third party or an internal team is supplying the service. Terms and conditions outline specific requirements for service delivery, such as a particular region or data center. You should also outline your discount structure (if any) in your terms and conditions.
Suppose you’re a large enterprise buying cloud services through a systems integrator or reseller. In that case, your cloud services catalog entry should capture any contract dependencies that the terms and conditions don’t articulate. Consult your organization’s contracts and procurement staff to ensure that the dependencies are correct and accounted for by the business side of your organization.
Lower barriers, lower cloud costs
It’s time to elevate the role and importance of the cloud services catalog in your organization, both for business reasons and for cybersecurity reasons. A well-crafted cloud services catalog not only paves the way to cloud cost optimization, but also frees up your engineers and solutions architects (who become bottlenecks when they’re the only ones who can answer questions about prerequisites) and promotes self-service cloud adoption across the organization. Well-crafted catalog entries also expose important contractual details that are often lost or overlooked by business and technology teams in the race to launch new cloud services.
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