ITSM – yesterday, today and tomorrow (Part 2)

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In Part One, we discussed how analytic and cognitive approaches are applied to IT service management (ITSM). This blog post will continue the discussion of new approaches to ITSM.


Automating repetitive tasks is a well-understood topic in ITSM. We have clients who schedule tens of thousands of tasks every day. We have clients that automate their IT processes using the process-automation platform, frequently based on the ITIL framework. We have clients that automate the provisioning of infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and even application landscapes–triggered by a single click in a self-service portal. And these are only 3 examples of automation.

In 2015, however, a new kind of automation started to get enormous traction: Runbook Automation. In the past, clients were not ready for an automatic mitigation of problems. That was partly because of a lack of standardization, partly because the appropriate automation technology didn’t exist or in some cases simply because clients didn’t consider it worth the attention. Clients now need to look for new opportunities to cut costs while being assured of availability.

In IBM Systems Lab Services, we have had an offering for quite some time in order to automatically respond to incoming events with the appropriate action. For instance, on a “filesystem full” alert, we remove temporary files, prune logfiles and potentially extend the volume group. The ITSM development team has taken over and started to develop a Runbook Automation solution. This solution acknowledges the varying degrees of maturity in our client base: in addition to a fully-automated solution, the offering will also support semi-automatic runbooks as well as manual runbooks. These levels will also support a client growing into runbook automation: that client first documents his runbooks and make them accessible in-situ to an event. From there, more frequent or error-prone manual operations can be automated and reconfigured as semi-automated runbooks, eventually leading into full automation for a given event. Feedback from clients so far is extremely encouraging. Especially in regards to the ease of use of the solution, and the ability to plug in additional triggers (the “IF” part) and execution methods (the “THEN” part) is a key ability that clients bring up. We are in beta for several months and expect the offering to be released in first quarter 2016.

ITSM as a service

The final theme I’ve observed recently is a push toward as-a-service consumption models. These models don’t observe the classic rules of consumption from the cloud, but rather it’s a hybrid approach. The classic IT service management functions are provided on premises, while new functions are provisioned from the cloud. A key reason is that an SaaS model provides functions much more quickly compared to a traditional on-premises release: No installation, no hardware or network acquisition, no complex system architecture. Another reason is that the function is not requested by a central IT department, but rather by a line of business

I am certain that 2016 will be an important year in the journey towards cognitive operations. Relevant technology components exist, like the Watson ecosystem, and innovative clients are partnering with us on those projects. Some of those clients start with IT, to be prepared for an application of the technology in their lines of business. The role of IT changes, and I am excited to be working with clients in shaping their future roles.

Distinguished Engineer, Architecture and Solutions, IBM Systems - Middleware

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