Charge back is one of those pesky little details that every IT person hates to address as it can be painful to implement and then equally cumbersome to administer. Yet the upside of implementing it provides data centers the ability to justify their costs as well as opens the door for them to have conversations with their clients as to what additional service offerings they want.
It is this somewhat thorny and complicated issue that the latest release of Symantec Veritas Operations Manager addresses in far more detail than in the past.
Putting in place an effective charge back system requires that data center managers first have two key components in place.
- Service catalog. Before data centers can charge back for the services they are offering, they first need a catalog of what services they offer and what each tier costs. Most enterprise data centers have at least two or three service tiers with larger, more complicated data centers possibly having multiple service tiers to meet the varying needs of their clients.
- Transparent reporting across these service tiers. Once these tiers are defined and in place, there needs to be a central repository into which all of this data is fed so it can be aggregated, reports generated and each customer appropriately billed for the services they used.
The difficulty with these two requirements is that in order to implement them, IT usually had to put in place two different systems. Most data centers now have multiple tiers of service and probably even have some form of a service catalog in place so their clients can pick what level of service they want.
But when it comes to implementing charge back, they either have to implement a separate product to do that or they resign themselves to a combination of scripts, reports and Excel spreadsheets to bill their clients for the services they are using.
Needless to say, neither of these charge back options is optimal. A separate product may not be able to detect some of the subtleties associated today’s data center technologies such as deduplication, RAID, thin provisioning and virtualization so they end up providing false readings as to how much capacity is actually being consumed. Conversely, relying a combination of home grown scripts, appliance generated reports and Excel spreadsheets for charge back can be time consuming and not convey the level of professionalism in billing that customers expect.
Delivering this service catalog and corresponding charge back functionality is now what the latest version of Symantec Veritas Operations Manager delivers. Data centers may already be using Veritas Operations Manager for some or all of their day-to-day management of their storage infrastructure so they have already accomplished one of the more difficult aspects of building out a successful charge back model – creating the underlying service catalog.
Veritas Operations Manager (VOM) improves upon what it already offers in two ways. First, it can now map new applications to the appropriate tier of storage capacity based upon VOM’s pre-defined service tiers. This shortens the time that data centers have to spend provisioning storage.
While this functionality is important, its new ability to do charge back according to what service tier is assigned to each application without forcing IT staff to jump through hoops is even more critical. What makes this so appealing is that the charge back module in VOM can take advantage of VOM’s awareness of the advanced features that exist in Symantec Storage Foundation.
Using this awareness, the new charge back features can more accurately report on how much storage capacity is actually used and available as it is taking advanced features like thin provisioning and deduplication into account when it does its calculations.
Charge back has been a millstone around the necks of data centers for years. They know they have to do it but it has been painful to implement and only able to provide levels of information and reporting that are questionable at best.
Symantec bringing a charge back feature into VOM solves a lot of these problems. Not only does it enable data centers to deliver charge back without jumping through a lot of hoops but it also delivers the more granular levels of reporting and advanced intelligence that today’s virtualized data centers need.