Reaping the Benefits of the ITSM/SOA Connection

Service-oriented architecture (SOA) is one of the hottest topics in IT today. As SOA concepts are being increasingly applied to solve integration problems, many IT departments still don’t realize trouble could be looming in the background.

More SOA Articles on CIO Update

The Economic, Cultural and Governance Issues of SOA

SOA and MDM: A Match Made in Heaven?

Practical Approaches for Creating a SOA-based Organization

Staffing for SOA Success

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Allen Bernard, Managing Editor.

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A way to minimize those issues is to implement IT Service Management (ITSM) utilizing the widely accepted approach of the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL).

The benefits that come from combining SOA and ITSM are becoming ever more apparent. While SOA is a key driver in the design of manageable platforms and allows for the incorporation of management toolsets, ITSM and ITIL facilitate the roadmap so IT is treated more like a business.

When a company links SOA, ITSM, and ITIL together in their approach to IT alignment, business becomes more agile, efficient, and cost-effective.

Behind the Curtain

But, before we go further, let’s define some of these terms. SOA refers to an architectural style allowing consumers to use the services offered by providers without having dependency on them.

It’s a way of reorganizing the assets and processes within an IT organization so IT ultimately becomes a service provider to the business itself—delivering infrastructure, applications and processes as services throughout a company.

The essence of SOA lies in consumer-centric behavior and ensures services can be located dynamically, and allocated on an as-needed basis.

ITSM is a disciplinary practice built on integrating people, processes, and technology to align the delivery of services to agreed business goals. ITSM leverages comprehensive IT best practices outlined in ITIL, which is essentially a framework detailed in a series of books.

These books provide a model view of controlling and managing IT operation in various areas. The library is currently undergoing a revision, or “refresh” as it is widely known, with ITIL v3 slated for release in early 2007.

Because of HP’s legacy and experience in service management, we were selected to write the book in the series devoted to Service Operations. The remaining books of ITIL v3 are: Service Strategies, Service Design, Service Introduction and Continual Service Improvement.

The Need for Service Processes

If IT processes aren’t aligned with the business services offered, SOA investments won’t fully pay off. In fact, your IT department could be opening themselves up to more IT headaches down the road.

Think about it. If you are implementing an SOA infrastructure in an environment without ITSM, this means the IT department will need to work much harder to deploy and manage it. This translates to higher costs and a much more expensive project than originally intended.

It also means that when services are deployed but don’t have the necessary processes to govern them, they won’t run as efficiently as expected. In the end, the benefits SOA brings will not be as extensive. Nor will the value of your IT environment, in the form of responsiveness, be passed onto your customers.

It’s debatable whether SOA or ITSM should be implemented first, but no one can argue they facilitate each other and provide greater benefits when working in tandem.

It may seem more manageable to focus on single components of a full IT transformation but the piecemeal approach really isn’t as beneficial as it may seem. In the case of one of HP’s clients, a global telecommunications company, taking a holistic view of ITSM enabled a significantly higher return on investment by applying a phased and prioritized long-term solution rather than a quick-fix plan.

Rough Road

The challenges encountered during an SOA implementation can be brutal. For starters, the task of identifying universal processes and tools that are used by the entire organization and by separate departments can be extremely complex.

A successful SOA involves the coordinated application of technology, expertise, and resources. Governance is a key element of this, and the right management tools are also vital.

In addition, it’s important to consider any gains from cross-visibility of IT projects since they tend to be worked in a vertical fashion, hampering the chances to leverage best practices. If you enable the proliferation of services without governance, or continue to have siloed development, any system becomes too difficult to manage.