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ITIL struggles to catch up with private cloud

Framework needs to keep fit

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Data centres run on the back of good operational processes that are repeatable and trusted. IT management best practices have sometimes been criticised as being monolithic and failing to keep up with change.

ITIL (the Information Technology Infrastructure Library), for example, was defined in the 1990s as a best-practice framework for large-scale UK government systems.

Is ITIL still appropriate framework for the private cloud?

The long-standing goal of data centre management the private cloud has been dynamic IT, or the allocation of IT resources on demand according to the needs of the business.

ITIL has evolved since it was first defined and is now running at version 3, which is considered a complete overhaul.

PCs gone mad

Many enterprise management toolsets take into account the principles articulated by ITIL, and organisations that succeed in using ITIL to its full potential and recognising it as a framework, not a prescriptive methodology, remain strong advocates.

But for some the implementation of ITIL is unsuccessful, creating a situation where, instead of enabling service delivery, it acts as a bottleneck.

Some pundits see private cloud and ITIL as chalk and cheese

According to one IT manager cited by the commentator Judith Hurwitz, “It’s bureaucracy gone mad. This approach will not help make IT more responsive, it will do the opposite.”

ITIL v3 builds in elements such as activity-based demand management, but it still incorporates management processes and an interface between IT and the business that can cause unnecessary overheads if implemented poorly.

Losing control

Against this background, the advent of private cloud has led some to wonder if the framework’s days are numbered.

Some pundits see private cloud and ITIL as chalk and cheese, while others argue that frameworks are more relevant than ever.

Flexibility is at the heart of both arguments. Inflexible operational management may negate the benefits of the private cloud, but at the other end of the scale freedom without controls leads to anarchy and an inability to respond when things go wrong.

For a specific example, consider the configuration management database (CMDB) – the place where information is stored about the assets and resources that exist in the IT environment.

What the experts say

The structure of a CMDB has been the subject of vigorous debate but few would deny its importance. Indeed, as we saw in a previous article, the presence of such a repository can make things more agile, not less.

The point about ITIL is that it is an encapsulation of best practice as learned by experts in the field. Some elements may need to be tweaked to take into account changes in IT but the core principles are unlikely to become any less valid for the private cloud.

ITIL processes should not, however, be implemented in a way that put bureaucracy first and service delivery second. Such implementations were never intended by the designers of ITIL but they have given the framework its chequered reputation.

Poorly implemented management best practice may have worked, however clumsily, for older IT environments. But it could well undermine the essence of dynamic IT and should therefore be avoided if all the benefits of private cloud are to be achieved ®.

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