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IBM SmartCloud Control Desk: ITIL meets cloud

Long before cloud computing came into my life, IBM decided I should be ITIL certified. At that time, about seven years ago, I was just a young IT specialist with a partial view of IT complexity and some skepticism about the possibility of implementing IT processes successfully. Over time I have learned to appreciate ITIL enough to be convincing to my clients (and myself) when implementing IT Service Management solutions. Yet when I started approaching cloud computing, my skepticism surfaced again.

Having read Vasfi Gucer’s post “ITIL and cloud combination: bread and butter or oil and water?” I knew I was more oriented towards “oil and water.” To use Vasfi’s words, I thought that “ITIL’s process-heavy approach conflicted with the dynamic, agile and on-demand approach provided by cloud computing.” There are thousands of articles on the Internet discussing this topic and today I am neither adding my opinion nor trying to convince you that ITIL and cloud are like bread and butter. Instead, I will introduce an IBM solution that can help reduce the oil’s viscosity: IBM SmartCloud Control Desk.

What is IBM SmartCloud Control Desk?

It is an integrated Service Management solution that allows you to manage different ITIL processes across cloud-enabled data centers, endpoints and smarter infrastructure (therefore it is not only a cloud solution). In a nutshell, it leverages the workflow engine made available by IBM Maximo infrastructure and a flexible self-service interface to implement the following ITIL processes: Incident Management, Problem Management, Service Request Management, Service Catalog Management, Change Management, Configuration Management, Release Management, IT Asset Management, License Management and Procurement Management.

Ok, what about the relationship with cloud?

As organizations deploy cloud and virtualized environments, users have the expectation of seeing their requests fulfilled within minutes. This is true in development and test environments that don’t have many governance requirements, but when the same requests are made in production environments (that are subject to change governance and ITIL best practices) similar quickness and responsiveness are more difficult to achieve. Let’s have a look at the example in the picture to understand how SmartCloud Control Desk can help in this case.

ITIL-cloud-infrastructureAssume you have to add memory to a server in a production environment, which requires reboot. In a traditional IT environment, such a simple change would require time for the assessment of potential impact, time for approvals, time to identify the timeframe that minimizes impact and time for the actual implementation. Let’s see what can happen instead in a cloud-enabled data center leveraging SmartCloud Control Desk where the server is a virtual machine:

  • A user submits a request for additional memory through the self-service GUI.
  • The tool validates the request and, according to the provided information, it decides if it is a standard change.
  • If the change is standard, the tool performs an automatic assessment to evaluate the potential impact on the business. Such evaluation is done by leveraging the information on relationships with other IT components and with the business services they support that are stored in the CMDB implemented by the tool. The picture below shows the results of impact analysis in the tool’s console: impacted business component are automatically identified and highlighted in yellow in the topology view.
  • If the impact is low the change is automatically implemented by leveraging integrations with automation tools.
  • After the change is performed, the CMDB is automatically updated.

CMDBIf it is not a standard change or if the impact (and therefore the risk) is high, the change has to go through normal approval steps implying manual intervention. Anyway for routine requests, the tool allows to execute ITIL process with full record keeping and zero touch in a timeframe compatible with cloud environments.

This was just a simple scenario and of course SmartCloud Control Desk can do much more that what I quickly described, including the integration with IBM Endpoint Manager (which was made available in the latest version) and (in the next future) with SmartCloud Provisioning and SmartCloud Orchestrator. Further information is available on the official documentation web site (referenced below), and of course I am happy to deepen the subject with you here (do not hesitate to ask) or on Twitter (@alfredolivieri).

References:

IBM Cloud TechTalk – ITIL at Cloud Speed using the IBM SmartCloud Control Desk: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NCaKXNqRaA

IBM SmartCloud Control Desk 7.5.1 documentation: https://www.ibm.com/developerworks/community/wikis/home?lang=en#!/wiki/Tivoli%20Documentation%20Central/page/IBM%20SmartCloud%20Control%20Desk

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