Home �   ITIL�  Index

ITSM And The Utility Computing Puzzle

By Rick Leopoldi Phones and electricity are utilities, they provide us with services that we use everyday and ensure that life is convenient, predictable, and functional. We take for granted that when we need to use the utility, it is there; always on, ready, willing, and able for use, and, for a price.
Oct 11, 2004

ITSM Watch Staff

By Rick Leopoldi

Pick up a phone and hear a dial tone. Flip a switch and a light goes on. Phones and electricity are utilities, they provide us with services that we use everyday and ensure that life is convenient, predictable, and functional. We take for granted that when we need to use the utility, it is there; always on, ready, willing, and able for use, and, for a price. We expect that those services make use of a cost effective infrastructure that is available, reliable, serviceable, maintainable, and secure.

It is that expectation that we look to Utility Computing to provide for us, always on services for a fee. The goal is to achieve the high quality level of consistent service with the lowest possible cost and an infrastructure that is scaleable and will expand "on demand", as needed, when needed.

The Challenge
Lying behind existing utility models such as phones and electricity is not just the infrastructure and its availability, reliability, serviceability, maintainability, and security of services, but includes the subject matter expertise and the best practice methods and processes that have been developed and maintained to support the utility day-to-day operations and the plans for its strategic requirements in a cost effective manner.

The integration of people, processes, and technology within any given set of infrastructure usage requirements and the level of tactical and strategic application is critical. How this occurs relates directly to quantify and qualify the effectiveness and efficiency and whether the utility provides the highest consistent service at the lowest possible cost.

Maximizing the use of technology, both hardware and software, regardless of its breath, depth, and scope of implementation and usage, nor of its level of sophistication and maturity, cannot be achieved without the support of subject matter expertise that is capable of utilizing a well defined and tailored set of best practices. In fact, the use of technology by itself to achieve the goal of Utility Computing will attain a plateau of decreasing benefits that, over time, will cause a negative return on investment, providing lower levels of required service and greater levels of inconsistency.

The reason is threefold: almost all technology environments are intricate in level and complexity, the existing infrastructure is heterogeneous and will continue to be more so in the future, and finally technology refresh has been, is, and will continue to be done at an ever-increasing rate if for no other reason than the ever-decreasing cost.

The challenge then becomes the development and operation of an Utility Computing technology focused solution set to help ensure that its goal can be achieved tactically and strategically. Further, this needs to be scaleable, portable, heterogeneous, and adaptable as the technology infrastructure it will support and enable.

Employing ITSM to Achieve A Successful Utility Computing Model
IT Service Management and ITIL are an integrated, process based, set of best practices to manage IT services. The basic premise is that IT is a service provider to the organization. In this fashion, the parallelism between the nature of ITSM and the core of what Utility Computing is and what it is trying to achieve is readily apparent. It can be derived that ITSM which is founded in ITIL industry accepted best practices is the necessary enabler for Utility Computing to achieve its goals and realize its benefits.

Whereas ITIL defines and documents the best practices, ITSM employs them to meet unique customer requirements and priorities. Using the perspectives of people, process, technology, organization, and integration, the processes can be better defined, delineated, developed, and deployed to the Utility Computing model of "always on", "ever ready", "on demand" services and computing.

The following is a high level list of activities designed to leverage ITSM to enable Utility Computing:

  1. Determine through an assessment process the Business, Service, Operational, and Organizational requirements. The assessment would help to determine how well the organization is in alignment between IT and business and the cost effectiveness of the IT services and provide a roadmap to improve the quality of the services.

    Results would establish the level of expertise supporting the existing technology infrastructure, current best practice processes in use and would propose processes that are needed to be developed to meet the unique organization requirements. As well, the breath, depth, and scope of the level of utilization of technology within the customer IT infrastructure, how well and to what extent these technologies are integrated into the organization's day-to-day and long term total IT management strategy, and lastly the "appropriateness" of the usage of the technology infrastructure given the unique organization requirements are in place or being followed.

  2. Evaluate the maturity level for each perspective of people, process, technology, integration, and organization to determine where the organization is currently and where they would or are required to be in Service Support and Service Delivery areas. The maturity levels are standardized by the IT Service CMM as follows:
    • Initial: The process is recognized but there is little or no process management activity
    • Repeatable: The process is recognized and is allocated little importance, resource or focus within the operation
    • Defined: The process is recognized and is documented but there is no formal agreement, acceptance nor recognition of its role within the IT operation as a whole
    • Managed: The process is fully recognized and accepted throughout IT, it is service focused with objectives and targets that are based on business objectives and goals
    • Optimized: The process is fully recognized and has strategic objectives and goals aligned with overall strategic business and IT goals

  3. The following ITSM areas would focus on initially: Service Level Management, Availability Management (includes Security), Capacity Management (includes Performance), IT Service Continuity Management, and Release Management. This assumes that the organization is already performing Configuration, Change, and Incident Management and has a Service Desk both effectively and efficiently with a minimum maturity level of "Managed".

  4. In Service Level Management: Service Level Objectives, Requirements, and Agreements (SLOs, SLRs, and SLAs), Operational Level Agreements (OLAs) and any Underpinning Contracts (UCs) should be reviewed or developed as required.

    The various subject content areas should consist of: identifying the parties to the agreement, describing the service to be provided, specifying the volume of demand for service over time, defining the timeliness requirements, equating the availability, characterizing the reliability, quantifying the compensation for providing the service, and documenting the measurement procedures to be used.

  5. For Availability Management: Review and or develop the planning and maintaining of IT services and the recovery of failed systems and data unavailability to ensure services to customers is in accordance with Service Level Agreements. This is documented in the Availability Plan and includes the plans for Vital Business Functions. Availability Management is not limited to availability, but includes, reliability, serviceability, maintainability, and security (the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the data). This is for every IT interface link (hardware, OS, software, IT infrastructure, and network) within the chain from the server and the data to the customer/end user.

  6. Capacity (or Performance) Management: Review and or develop the effective capacity utilization and performance of all resources including servers, OS, software, storage, etc. This includes resource usage profile characteristics and requirements for both day-to-day monitoring, reporting and trending and forecasting for all resources.

  7. IT Service Continuity: Review and or develop findings based on Business Impact Analysis the criticality of the applications systems that support the business functions and that denote what IT infrastructure, OS, networks, application systems, and data is recovered and in what sequence.

  8. Release Management: Review and or develop the storage, protection, and release of management-authorized hardware and software in both centralized and distributed systems.
Once an initial requirements analysis and maturity assessment is completed, architect a "roadmap" that depicts how to get to the desired future state from the current state. Subsequently determine what steps are needed to execute the "roadmap". All perspectives of people, process, technology, organization, and integration need to be addressed.

Maximizing the use of hardware and software technology without employing subject matter expertise capable of utilizing a well defined and tailored set of best practices to support it will not be sufficient to achieve a Utility Computing environment that will provide the highest level of consistent service at the lowest possible cost.

Employing ITSM best practice IT management methods is a critical component to leverageing the use of resource expertise to help provide a scaleable, portable, heterogeneous, and adaptable technology infrastructure that can be supported both tactically and strategically, enterprise-wide.

Rick Leopoldi is a Consultant/Trainer with FoxIT having many years experience in IT developing and delivering process, methods, and technology infrastructure ITIL/ITSM related consulting solutions to major organizations worldwide. Mr. Leopoldi has held senior consulting positions in Hewlett-Packard and Amdahl/Fujitsu Corp. He holds a BA in Mathematics, an MBA from the University of Hartford in Connecticut.