Automating IT Services Is Not As Hard As You Think

Edward Newman By Edward Newman February 27, 2013

I am often asked why there is so much interest in automating IT services today. I think it is really about the realization of the promise of IT service management for the last 20 years. Essentially we now have the opportunity via software and tools and hooks into the infrastructure to truly automate services and turn IT from a cost center into a service provider. The technologies that exists today in terms of virtualization, as well as software defined infrastructure and management, allow us to be able to fully orchestrate the provisioning and reporting and management of composite IT services as  opposed just  the delivery  of  infrastructure.

I think that service automation is so important that I recently hosted a webcast on the topic, entitled “Getting Practical with Service Automation.”  If you weren’t able to attend, you can catch the recording, including a question and answer session.

I’m interested in helping IT organizations get their service automation efforts going, but many shy away because they think it’s too hard.  Here are my thoughts and tips for making your service automation efforts more successful.

There are several keys to success in regards to automating services. The first is to understand the scope of your initial delivery of those services and choose target audiences for which this will be appropriate. Our customers who have had the greatest success start with software test and development environments. There is typically a lot of turnover in those environments, people launching new applications, tearing them down at a rapid pace. As we have seen with the rise of the lean startup mentality in the DevOps movement, you want to essentially fail fast and have limited capital outlays for new projects.

Choosing an environment like test and dev where you have developers who need to stand up new environments, add new environments on a very frequent basis is a great place to start. It`s understanding the scope of what you trying to accomplish, who the audience is and then automating something that has meaning not just to IT but to the business. So that means involving the application owners, involving the business owners as well as IT. Bringing all those stakeholders together and automating a service to standup development environments with archiving and source code control.  It`s going to be a lot more valuable than just standing up a virtual machine. Understanding what you need to deliver is certainly a key to success.

On the other hand, thinking about where our customers have hit road bumps, one problem is essentially trying too much and trying to automate everything before automating one particular service. We have seen a lot of success with standing up one service that’s  truly meaningful , rather than trying to automate all provisioning of VMs  or all provisioning of storage. Taking this service-oriented approach is definitely a key to success and automating and orchestrating where necessary as supposed to the entire environment is also very important.

A good way to get started with service automation is a practical approach. Understand and bring together something of value to many different participants and stakeholders. Practically speaking you want to have some decisions about the toolsets that you going to use, what you going to automate and who it`s going be for, and deliver that through a portal—type approach.  What we’ve seen with cloud computing and this is also true for service automation is that the consumption model really is how the end-user views these services. To drive this consumption model, it’s necessity to deliver services via a portal and have that portal really discern what services end-users should see and choose, based on an individual’s role or where they are in the organization.

Get your service to the business with a portal

Practically speaking, you want to get the portal to enable your services as soon as possible. And your portal should deliver not just the provisioning of those services, but also the reporting, management and chargeback associated with it as well.  In terms of getting started with service automation, choose one service and fully articulate it with service levels, the service costing, how you scale up, scale down, etc.  Then go ahead and implement that full service before you tackle the next service.  You’ll gain experience and gather feedback from the business that will make all of your subsequent service automation efforts more successful.

Edward Newman

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