Mark Wann discusses the challenges of integrating cloud services in an ITSM environment and outlines the vision to overcome them.
With most enterprises now dealing with cloud service providers, we frequently hear of the challenges our clients face in integrating their cloud and ‘as a Service’ providers within their traditional ITSM environments.
In his recent article, my colleague Patrick Keogh posed the question: Are we witnessing the death of ITIL®?
He believes ITIL has not been adapting to the changing business environment and that it needs to adapt to new approaches (Agile, DevOps and BPM among others).
I’d argue that ITSM also needs to adapt and evolve to better incorporate ‘cloud service management’, in order to address the challenges and remain relevant.
Plus, with IoT on the horizon, this new management capability will also need to extend to the many ‘things’ out there – as well as your cloud-based ICT infrastructure, applications and services.
How is cloud challenging ITSM?
Many enterprises encounter a clash between what cloud providers are prepared to supply, and what they’ve been used to having delivered under an IT Service Management model.
Unlike traditional service providers, cloud providers operate at arm’s length from the enterprise: the vendor is hosting the services and the enterprise is accessing them via the internet.
Their staff are not visiting you onsite regularly or working as part of your existing ICT team. In fact, you may not even be offered your own dedicated service manager to discuss performance or answer your questions.
Additionally, customising cloud services to meet your internal SLAs and ITSM-based arrangements may not be possible.
Service levels are usually standardised and non-negotiable, and cloud service deliverables are typically ‘off the shelf’ with limited options – as are support engagement models.
In the future, some of these challenges will hopefully be addressed as both sides become more sophisticated in their approach to service management.
In the meantime, the FitSM Standard offers help in dealing with cloud and aaS providers. Positioning as ‘lightweight ITSM’, this free set of standards offers a framework for federated IT management, providing an overlay or adjunct to other frameworks like ITIL.
Three ways to bring cloud in line with ITSM
So, how should cloud service providers adapt to enable us to better manage cloud service delivery and, eventually, a whole new range of internet-connected devices?
Here are three areas that I believe need to change to better integrate cloud and ‘as a Service’ offerings within an ITSM environment.
1. A single source of truth
Today, many cloud service providers offer dashboards accessible via online portals to inform their customers of current status of services.
This means that the enterprise has to keep an eye on as many portals and dashboards as they have service providers.
A major improvement would see service providers offering an automated trickle-feed of service level data – or at least make it able to be extracted.
This will allow the enterprise to perform real-time analysis across all services via a single tool set.
It will also give the ability to assess dependencies between services provided by different vendors. For example, “If that platform is down, these applications will be inaccessible and those users will be impacted”.
2. Automated alerts and ticketing
Typically, incidents affecting cloud service performance and availability are only detected when end users call or support staff check a service dashboard.
Under ITSM, that’s simply not satisfactory or timely enough, and the information received may not be sufficiently complete to enable accurate impact analysis.
What we need to see is automated alerting by the provider of outages to all impacted customer enterprises.
These alerts must be generated using standard protocols, which allow the enterprise to raise incidents in their ticketing system, automatically.
These incidents can then be integrated into the enterprise’s existing Incident Management services, and the enterprise can launch Major Incident Management or their contingency plans, if required.
3. Standardised support requests
At the moment, IT teams must usually raise requests with cloud service providers via their individual online portals.
While this makes it easy for the service providers, who can deliver ‘virtual’ follow-the-sun support regardless of the location of their customers, it’s not compatible with efficient service management.
In the future, it’s hoped that configurable, standardised APIs will allow easy integration with internal service and incident management systems.
This will enable both the service provider and the enterprise to track issues in their native tool set. It will also result in less manual data entry between tracking systems and ongoing data exchange will allow end-to-end tracking of tickets through the fulfilment lifecycle.
Just for a moment, image Utopian service management... Intelligent devices self-detect when they’re in trouble (or about to be) then either alert a human and/or self-fix themselves.
This level of automation would minimise intervention or even remove the need for it.
The Internet of Things is coming, and many of these cloud service management principles can be applied to IoT.
What happens when a device is ‘in distress’? Who does it alert and how? Probably the vendor by default.
But, provided the relevant APIs are in place and configurable, the device could integrate with the enterprise as part of the complete ITSM picture – sending health status to be aggregated in centralised dashboards.
I’m confident that new standards will emerge in the delivery of cloud services.
As service provision becomes more competitive, cloud and aaS providers will need to add additional features and options to attain competitive advantage. Integrating with ITSM and providing with greater visibility over their cloud-based services would become the baseline for dealing with larger enterprises.
Those who’ve invested in establishing and achieving the benefits of ITSM will be hoping that their investment will continue to pay off as enterprise IT infrastructure continues to extend way beyond the enterprise itself.
About the Author
Mark Wann is a Senior Consultant at CSC Consulting with 30 years’ experience in the IT industry fulfilling a variety of technical and managerial roles. During this time, he has implemented and managed new services for a number of enterprise clients, encompassing a range of different technologies. And once upon a time, he was a programmer.
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