ITIL struggles to catch up with private cloud
Framework needs to keep fit
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.
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 ®.
Thing about government IT projects is that the successful implementations are transparent to the end user. So, yes, government has just put a system live early and under budget delivering payments on a scale that would scare the crap out of you.
And, no, its not an exception. The IT supporting Universal Credit is one of the most innovative and challenging IT projects that any one could ever work on.
I've been i both private sector and public and when you trot out the old line about public sector IT you sound like a complete twat. Is that what you want?
When you've delivered £200million of IT changes into a vast legacy infrastructure with multiple stakeholders, deadlines set by election dates rather than the critical path activities ministers and news crews looking for a screw-up and no ability to sweep the mess under a carpet of commercial confidentialty the you can talk.
Until then, how about a bit of professional respect eh? .
ITIL Is Not a Cure-All!
I've done admin and systems design work in a few "ITIL shops". The reason that's in quotes is because, in my experience, being an ITIL shop involves paying 7 figures to an enterprise software vendor for service desk/change management software. The software is then deployed with zero customization, and every single ITIL process, including the ones that don't make sense for that particular org, are put in place.
This is the kind of environment where requesting a change involves the *entire* ITIL procedure, including filling out generic change management forms in the software with 150+ mandatory fields, the change management meeting, backout plan approvals, scheduled maintenance windows, post-change reports, etc.
Unfortunately, I wish there was a better way to do what ITIL sets out to do. It seems like you either have a situation where it takes 21 days and the CIO's personal approval to provision a network port, or mad cowboy admins from the local tech degree mill wreaking havoc on live systems 24/7.
The sad thing is, because of these cowboy idiots, those of us who take the time to properly learn the sysadmin trade are reduced to form-fillers and button-pushers. I'm all for planning a change properly and not getting yourself into a situation where you can't recover, but when it gets crazy, that's no fun either. (Example I've heard -- RAID 1 drive fails, change management process prohibits replacing the mirror drive without a million approvals, and the other drive in the mirror dies before the change can be approved! A zero-downtime change becomes a multi-hour outage...)
Ironically, VM technology makes things much more flexible, giving the cowboys even more power if you don't control it. I'm guessing the changes in ITIL for the virtual world are going to involve even further separation of duties (you'll have a "VM provisioner", a network guy, a storage guy, and a security guy all involved with any server build or change, etc.) ITIL is sold to CIOs and corporate boards as a complete cure-all for IT ills -- just have your staff follow this entire set of guidance and you will never have downtime. Reality is (a) the cowboy admins will find a way around it, (b) the processes are so paperwork-intensive that the environment stagnates because no one wants to go through the hassle to fix something, and (c) the better IT staffers will leave to work somewhere that gives them just enough freedom to keep things running.
A couple of points on your great article:
I don't think ITIL is struggling per se. In my experience most 'ITIL Implementations' fail (note the carefully placed quotes) because companies use ITIL as the end/objective, not as what it should be: the means to an end and an enabler of IT as it delivers the services the business needs. A lot of companies go into 'IT Process Management' mode instead of 'IT Service Management' mode. Hence, the appearance of bureaucracy and bottlenecks. It is called IT Service Management because you're delivering Services, not Processes. ITIL processes will help you deliver the services, cloud or otherwise, based on proven, repeatable activities; Implementing ITIL processes (or the tools used to support ITIL, for that matter) by themselves does not provide any intrinsic value to the organization, in my opinion.
Also. when considering IT Service Management frameworks, ITIL should not be considered in isolation. There are others that need to be taken into consideration, specially by management, to make sure IT Services delivers the value that the company's looking for. And this is crucial: if management wants to just 'do ITIL' that would be the first sign of trouble.
I don't necessarily believe that ITIL, or other similar frameworks, will become irrelevant by the Cloud. I do believe that the next version of ITIL will take into account Cloud Service and other things, but I don't think Cloud Services by themselves will render ITIL irrelevant. Organizations need to look at managing the Cloud as they look at managing other services: delivering services at agreed costs, service levels and with the value required by the business.