Related Topics: SOA & WOA Magazine, VITO Report

SOA & WOA: Article

ITSM and ITIL Alleviate SOA Headaches

Streamlining SOA adoption

As IT departments continue to prioritize their investment initiatives, many will find Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) is a critical item to tackle. Although key business projects must always take precedence, McKinsey & Company reports that more than 60% of surveyed CIOs plan to use SOA projects as a way to achieve associated business objectives.

For good reason SOA is being heralded as a major architectural shift that enables IT teams to reduce costs and improve responsiveness and flexibility - two key business objectives for CIOs today. With SOA, IT ultimately becomes a service provider to the business itself - delivering infrastructure, applications, and processes as services throughout a company.

SOA certainly offers promise; but at the same time, successfully navigating the people, process, and technology changes associated with it can be risky. Of course, companies want to reduce this risk. According to Gartner a successful SOA program "necessitates new processes, ranging from governance, through development, to operations." SOA deployments require a commitment to planning and strategy, but the entire adoption process can be streamlined if the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) framework is already in place. In fact, companies that adhere to ITIL best practices prior to implementation will minimize many common issues, such as the complexity of change management, in an SOA deployment because of the rigor and discipline of their ITIL experience. The SOA adoption curve becomes much flatter with specific IT service support processes and tools locked and loaded.

At the heart of a solid ITIL implementation is IT Service Management, or ITSM. ITSM is the integration of people, processes, and technology into a well-designed system based on best industry practices. With companies' IT processes already in place, ITSM provides the roadmap to help maximize business value with controlled costs, while mitigating business risks. The goal of ITSM is to implement and manage IT services in an organization that meet the needs of the business. It is a long-term approach to the way an organization, whether it is technology-focused or not, operates. For example, an overnight delivery package being sent to a business partner may seem non-technical in nature. However, to deliver the product, the "back office" is dependent on a successful ITSM implementation that ensures there is a process in place to deliver the product on time and with maximum efficiency.

The power and benefits of SOA increase as its adoption across the enterprise increases. To obtain the maximum value of SOA adoption, it's important to drive SOA into all aspects of IT operations. Some people call this "operationalizing SOA." Companies that have a solid track record of implementing ITSM processes will likely find it easier and quicker to adopt the new processes required to successfully adopt SOA.

The Power of ITIL Frameworks
Developed by the British government in the 1980s, ITIL is a framework of best practices intended to facilitate the delivery of high-quality IT services. ITIL outlines an extensive set of management procedures intended to support businesses in achieving both quality and value in IT operations. ITIL is supported by a comprehensive qualifications scheme, accredited training organizations, consultancies, user groups, and implementation and assessment tools.

The "library" is currently in its second iteration but is being enhanced with a newer version slated for release on May 30, 2007. While ITIL v2 offers a consolidated view of IT processes, ITIL v3 will provide a more comprehensive approach that takes business lifecycle management into account and includes real-world examples, best practices models, and metrics.

The adoption of ITIL is gaining speed in the United States as companies find that ITIL can help cut costs, improve IT services through proven best practices, and increase productivity by providing a common IT language. These benefits are similar to those of SOA, and companies that adopt both approaches may see a multiplier effect as the benefits are self-reinforcing. Executives from the IT Service Management Forum (itSMF) project that the number of companies adopting ITIL in the U.S. could grow to about 75% by the end of 2007. Additionally, Forrester Research projects that 80% of the Global 2000 companies will adopt the ITIL framework by 2010. Similarly, Gartner predicts that SOA will be used in more than 80% of new mission-critical applications and business processes by 2010.

As a result of increased awareness of ITIL, there's been a corresponding increase in the implementation of ITSM projects. As companies define and manage IT services that are critical to enterprise business process, they need to be able to improve service quality with real-time information about IT impact on service level agreements, and then understand how to optimize service support. This mission-critical management is delivered through ITSM solutions that enable CIOs to run IT as a service delivery business. The ability to deliver a high quality of service is especially important when SOA is embraced as your architectural approach, as a single service may be used in, and therefore impacts a multitude of business-critical applications.

ITIL Paves the ITSM Road for SOA Implementations
SOA programs can deliver tangible cost and response benefits but the challenges for an SOA implementation shouldn't be underestimated. For starters, the task of identifying processes that are used by multiple groups in the organization can be complex. Getting those groups to agree on a common process definition can be even more complex. When you add ensuring consistency of understanding the underlying SOA technology stack along with the significant number of architectural choices that also have to be made, the complexity grows geometrically.

However, there are a series of other challenges that have to be addressed if SOA adoption is going to be successful. These challenges can be grouped into three buckets: governance, quality, and management.

SOA governance is commonly meant to be the process of increasing the collaboration between the major stakeholders: service providers, service consumers, and the SOA Center of Excellence. The SOA Center of Excellence, led by the enterprise architect or the CTO, is interested in balancing flexibility for the providers and consumers versus control so that standards are followed and SOA adoption is successful. Questions that have to be answered in the governance area include: "How do I find and trust services?" "Is the enterprise working on the right services?" "Can we establish a consistent and repeatable implementation process?" and "Can we effectively control the services that are in production?" In essence, the chief SOA architect is responsible for making sure that SOA doesn't come to mean "State of Anarchy."

SOA quality is the process of ensuring that services meet the functional and performance requirement of the organization, with a minimal amount of effort in the testing process itself. Since services used by multiple business processes can be single points of failure, it's critical to extend enterprise testing processes to address the specific SOA needs . Without extended quality processes, adopting a service that's created by someone else is just too risky for developers to do. Further, since the use cases for a generalized service are numerous, any change to a service must be tested against a seemingly unlimited number of test cases. This can strain already thin testing resources to the breaking point, both in test management and test execution.

Finally, SOA management is the process of managing services that are in production. There are multiple aspects to SOA management:
• The process of monitoring the availability and performance of the services and applications that use them.
• Rapidly restoring availability when issues are detected - or even finding problems before they impact an end user.
• Setting service level agreements between the consumer and provider, and reporting on the achievement of the service levels.
• Managing the policies that control the interaction of the services at runtime.

ITSM has been adopted by companies to improve the management processes listed above. When ITSM is implemented using the ITIL framework, the SOA implementation process is both accelerated and simplified. This is critical because SOA only has benefits when it is successfully deployed, and ITSM helps make SOA deployment successful.

Managing traditional applications is difficult enough - how long has it been since you've been affected by a performance or availability issue in a computer system? SOA management multiplies the complexity. As anyone who's deployed SOA in their IT environment knows, one hiccup in a system can cause serious degradation across several previously unrelated applications and business processes. Tracking down system issues can be tedious and consume a considerable amount of budget. Because ITIL focuses on monitoring and reporting IT resources, mature incident and problem management processes and tools can reduce the time needed to find a "needle in the haystack" when faced with problems in the system.

Better Business & IT Alignment
A major catalyst to SOA deployment is the promise of more efficient and cost-effective systems and services. Since IT operations are optimized for greater responsiveness, this comes in the form of agility. However, successful adoption of SOA requires updated processes. These processes, across governance, quality, and management, should be deployed following best practices.

As with all IT projects, SOA implementation must meet all mandated compliance initiatives, such as Sarbanes-Oxley. These regulatory and compliance requirements demand solid reporting of processes, something that implementing these best practices helps facilitate. By providing consistency and predictability, the best practices of ITSM help businesses become stronger and organizations run more efficiently, enabling the company to apply additional effort on other initiatives. SOA, similarly, since it improves flexibility and lowers cost, frees bandwidth for IT to focus on its core mission of helping the organization achieve its business objectives.

SOA implementations with proper governance result in customers that are most satisfied with their overall implementation strategy. Results from a recent Ovum Summit report show a high correlation between a customer's level of satisfaction with SOA and the depth and breadth of commitment to ITSM best practices and tools, which includes service desks, asset and configuration management tools, IT portfolio management tools and business service management (BSM) performance monitoring dashboards. SOA customers who emphasize traditional development and test issues without considering how SOA changes the way they need to manage IT on a day-in-day-out basis tend to be the least satisfied.

Furthermore, from our experience, customers who have made progress implementing end-to-end ITSM strategies tied to business-oriented SLAs and supported with appropriate enabling technologies are twice as likely to report that their SOA investments are meeting their goals.

Successfully implementing and operating SOA environments clearly requires sophisticated operational, runtime management tools and strategies. Enterprises' experiences show that implementing SOA in tandem with ITSM best practices and tools is one of the best ways to ensure the SOA solution meets their goals and is a value-add to the business.

The bottom line is that to meet expectations with an SOA investment, it's valuable and important for ITSM to be in place according to ITIL best practices. If you've begun adopting ITSM, you're going to be more successful adopting SOA. If you haven't adopted either, consider adopting ITSM in parallel with SOA to save yourself time, money, and headaches.

More Stories By Ken Hamilton

Ken Hamilton is founder and past-chairman of itSMF USA, and currently a director of the ITSM Practice at HP Education Services. He is also a recipient of the itSMF USA Life-time Achievement award. Ken has over 20 years of experience in IT, is a certified IT Service Manager and has led the development of IT Service Management methods and ITIL/MOF best practices in the U.S. As a director of ITSM Practice in HP Education Services, Ken drives business development and growth ITSM training services. He also develops HP's ITSM strategy in the rapidly growing market in the United States.

More Stories By Mark LaJeunesse

Mark LaJeunesse is the service-Oriented architecture (SOA) program manager for Hewlett-Packard Services' Consulting and Integration business. He is responsible for the development of SOA Services, Sales and Delivery Training, driving HP's EAS SOA visibility and differentiation in the market. Mark has 20 years of experience in the high-tech industry.

Comments (1) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.

Most Recent Comments
Serge Thorn 06/04/07 10:14:07 AM EDT

Good day,
I have written several posts related to ITSM and SOA.

The convergence between SOA Repositoty and CMDB
Release Management in a SOA context
ITSM and SOA Service Catalogues
Service Level Management in an ITSM and SOA context

Kind regards