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Implementing ITIL: Getting started with ITIL v3 service management

What you'll learn: Find out why you should be implementing ITIL in your IT organization. Learn the five phases of ITIL service management, how ITIL v3 service management allows you to target infrastructure and organizational complexity, and the benefits of ITIL.

By implementing ITIL

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and its associated best practices, data storage professionals can receive guidance on how to employ IT service management, a framework designed to confront and reduce IT organizational complexity. The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) provides a framework on how best to coordinate storage management work with other teams. ITIL's main mechanism to address organizational complexity is through the concept of a service, which is defined by ITIL v3 as follows: "A 'service' is a means of delivering value to customers by facilitating outcomes customers want to achieve without the ownership of specific costs and risks." ITIL v3 service management is broken into five distinct phases:

  • ITIL service strategy
  • ITIL service design
  • ITIL service transition
  • ITIL service operation
  • ITIL continual service improvement

ITIL service strategy: The goal of developing an ITIL service strategy is to create service-level requirements that are then delivered to the service design phase. The first step is to determine what services will be offered to which user communities. After a set of services is defined, the next step is to define important attributes for the service. In addition to base functionality, there are many other service attributes that are important to the service's end users and customers, including availability, cost, security policies, performance and time to deliver. The storage function plays a critical role in service strategy by verifying that storage design assumptions are in line with anticipated service offering functionality and costs.

During the ITIL service strategy phase, service architects will determine whether there will be a separate storage service or if the storage functionality will be offered as a component of a more comprehensive service. There are a number of factors that need to be considered when deciding to create a separate storage service, including:

  • Organizational size. Organizations that have large storage environments may benefit from a separate storage service consisting of NAS, SAN and/or backup components that clearly defines the storage service offering and tracks service compliance via service metrics.
  • Organization breadth. Organizations with a broad application base that use repeatable or very similar storage solutions may benefit from a consistent and measurable storage service offering.
  • Organizational agility. Organizations that operate in turbulent or fast-paced markets, in which storage is an important part of their product delivery, may benefit from a separate storage service offering.

When creating a storage service, the first step is to decide on what entries the service catalog should include based on customer requirements. The service catalog is usually divided into two parts: internal catalog entries that are viewable and available to order by internal IT groups, and external catalog entries that are for groups outside of IT.

Service-level requirements should specify what's required from the service, and the availability of the service and security levels; the time to deliver objectives should also be included. For a storage service that includes backup, NAS, SAN and data archiving, attributes that are important to the service customer are time to deliver, performance, recovery point objectives (RPOs), recovery time objectives (RTOs) and cost; all should be detailed in a catalog for the service. The storage function should play a major role in helping to define these attributes.

The majority of the service catalog won't be available to the end users, but will be used by other services. For example, a server hosting service may include SAN options for an end user requiring large amounts of storage. The designer of the hosting service needs to be aware of how storage service attributes such as availability, RPO, RTO and performance affect the hosting service attributes.

ITIL service design: The storage function also plays an important role in the ITIL service design phase of the service lifecycle. Based on service-level requirements, the storage function is required to create the plans on how storage-specific requirements will be achieved. The results of the service design phase are a service design package that should include details on the end state of the storage solution. Guidance on how to transition the storage service components to operations should be a part of the service-level design package.

ITIL service transition: In the ITIL service transition phase, the service design package is implemented and set into operation. Following proper change management and deployment principles, the storage function prepares service desk and level-1 and level-2 storage support teams with proper diagnostics and maintenance schedule procedures. The storage team also maintains the service and technical documentation that supports the storage components. The team will take the lead in coordinating storage system changes as dictated by the service design package, while also owning the relationships with the outside storage vendors and service providers.

Another focus when implementing ITIL is process and service commonality. ITIL describes the attributes of change, request fulfillment, capacity, event, availability, problem, incident, and configuration and asset management processes, as well as the attributes of a service. An important part of moving to a service model is mapping the various processes and service roles to the storage functional teams.

ITIL service operation and continual service improvement: Storage technical management plays a direct role in technical operations. As stewards of data storage technology, this team is responsible for planning storage technology and technology upgrades, evaluating technologies and maintaining storage skills. The storage function must also monitor operations, and implement and oversee service improvements during the continual service improvement phase. The storage function will train front-line operations and request fulfillment teams to perform repeatable, low-risk storage management tasks such as rerunning a backup, provisioning and exporting a file system, and presenting a LUN. High-risk tasks, such as partitioning an array, SAN configuration and filer policy setup, should be performed by high-level storage management rather than general operations teams.

When implementing ITIL, the following benefits of ITIL are more apparent at the macro-enterprise level:

  • Improved coordination. Cross-functional process teams work together to implement policies in a standardized way, using common tools and a common language to help reduce the level of organizational confusion or misunderstanding. Because of the benefits of scale, an ITIL implementation may cost-justify process automation opportunities that previously weren't justified at a storage function-only level.
  • Reduced complexity. ITIL should help reduce or eliminate redundant processes, tools, technologies, queues and interfaces that the storage team has to work with.
  • Increased transparency. Service- and enterprise process-level reporting will provide management and auditors better quality and more actionable reports.
  • More successful releases. Introduction of new functionality and updates will have a better chance of being successful and maximizing return on investment.
  • Reduced outages. Better process-handoff definitions will result in fewer outages.

BIO: Tom Woods is currently global ITIL services transition manager at Ford Motor Company. At Ford, Tom has held storage operations, engineering and architecture positions, and has supervised the backup and NAS teams.


This was first published in October 2010

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