Everywhere you turn these days some provider of a cloud computing service is announcing that it has created a portal through which IT organizations can manage service access. From the provider's point of view, the basic idea is to give customers access to a self-service portal that eliminates any of the friction associated with consuming a service. This not only reduces costs for the provider, it also encourages consumption. From an IT perspective, it also creates a central point of management through which it can monitor how many services are being consumed.
The latest cloud computing service provider to join this parade of portals is Hubspan, a provider of a business process management and workflow service. According to Stuart Lisk, Hubspan senior product marketing manager, Hubspan is responding to the need customers have for some type of command and control system through which they can manage the overall Hubspan environment via a new service called WebSpan Manager.
As useful as a portal from a cloud computing service might be, the issue that IT organizations are going to have to contend with is that every cloud computing service provider is going to have its own portal. Perhaps then, instead of individually managing multiple portals, IT organizations should set up their own portals. Any and every provider of a service or application could then be made available to the rest of the organization via this portal, which would reside on premise or be hosted on a cloud computing service.
This approach would not only give more command of the applications and services moving through that portal, it would also prevent users from invoking duplicate applications and services. If it's not registered in the portal, that application or service should be rendered inaccessible until it gets approved by IT. This approach will rein in costs and it should preserve the sanity of the internal IT organization.
In general, cloud computing providers operate on relatively thin margins that require them to have extremely efficient IT management processes in order to be successful. As they build those IT workflows out, they are essentially creating a playbook on how to run IT more efficiently. So maybe starting with the portal concept, the best thing an internal IT organization can do right now is get a hold of one of those playbooks and copy it. After all, if your ambition is to run IT as a service, then maybe cribbing companies that make a living by providing IT as a service is an excellent place to start.
At the end of the day, whoever controls the master portal through which IT services are delivered controls IT. While it's great that every cloud computing provider has its own portal, the important thing to remember is to make sure those portals are merely extensions of a master portal that leaves no doubt as to whom is actually in charge of IT.