ITxpo Monday wrap-up: blogger meeting call

Well, that’s it for my first day at ITxpo. I’m off to Toronado.

Hey, a quick thought to other bloggers at the conference: while Gartner is mediating a networking breakfast on blogging on Thursday, I’ll be heading out on Wednesday night. If you’re interested in having an impromptu blogging meet-up on Tuesday or Wednesday—in or out of the scope of the conference—ping me.

Afternoon impressions: CMDB conquers all

After the posting flurry of the morning, my battery (laptop and biological—damned jet lag) ran out, so I caught a nap before heading back to the Moscone for the afternoon sessions and the opening of the ITxpo floor. The sessions that I attended after the IBM presentation were complementary, so I’m going to wrap my notes up in one post.

The session on ITSM and IT Operations was a good overview, discussing the IT Management Process Maturity Model (an IT-centric take on the CMM), with an emphasis on building the service portfolio and treating it as a marketing document. The session on Configuration Management focused on tools that map dependencies between assets (hardware, networking, software and software components); this sort of approach is required if you are to provide effective support for an end-to-end service in the enterprise.

Both sessions had a fairly grim assessment of the move toward service-oriented IT service management. The ITSM session stated that through 2008, 65% of organizations will be focused on non-service-focus metrics like availability of individual servers, rather than end to end availability; and that it would take about five years for application development to start mapping service dependencies as part of the development process. Both sessions agreed that at least for the next year to 18 months, configuration management was going to be a largely manual activity.

It seems, with the proliferation of tools that provide configuration management for some piece of the IT puzzle, that the opportunity is for someone to provide a general standards-based interface to span across multiple CMDBs and to create connections and integrate key ITIL processes, particularly change management. But the cost could be dear: Ray Paquet estimates that, depending on the scope of your configuration tracking, you could have as many as 100,000 assets in a moderate-sized organization, and that the number of relationships that could be tracked scales exponentially. The challenge is to provide intelligent oversight across these databases but to provide drillthrough where required so one solution isn’t holding all the data.

IBM: Making ITIL actionable

IBM unveils a stack of IT Service Management products, including new products and fourteen enhanced products. Key is an open federated configuration management database. Positioning as helping provide tools and practices to make ITIL more implementable. More coming…

IBM says that they’re uniquely positioned to bridge development and infrastructure, between Rational and Tivoli. This positions them to help make IT services more manageable.

Organizations have choices: implement lots of point solutions to fix specific problems, adding complexity; outsource, possibly losing a competitive strength; or apply ITSM. Customer testimonial from Patty Medhurst at Royal Bank of Canada. Complex environment, automated testing, etc. First step to ITIL is documenting the service catalog, which is a “gruesome but necessary” process; next step is automating key services.

Steve McMillan, leader of IBM Integrated Technology Services: moving from resource management to systems management to services management. In services management, need models: business reference model, process reference model for IT, and implementation reference model for IT. Business reference model: uses Component Business Model from PwC; move those into IT Process Reference Models and then into a Unified Process Model. (Aside: So far this is about architecture and modeling, not management…)

Customer testimonial 2: Don Woodward, American Express. He talks about using simulation tools (WebSphere Integrator) to build a simulation of the end to end infrastructure and to model the effects of process improvement on cycle time.

Now, focus on change management. Existing products fit in different steps. Now the new IBM Change and Configuration Management Database (CCMDB) maps changes in relationships and business data, plus policy and workflow actions. IBM IT Service Management: new platform in IBM Tivoli CCMDB. IT Process Managers: workflow capability, customize workflow, enable application of IBM/Tivoli technology to each step of process. Plus of course services.

IBM Tivoli Unified Process: process reference model for IT, aligned with ITIL. “Customers don’t have the sophistication or capability to map their processes, so here’s this online tool to help you do that…” And OPAL: expanding to auto-discovery. The process modeler is graphical, providing detailed workflow and activities for each step.

Other points: enhancing Tivoli Configuration Manager and Provisioning Manager with patch management and autodiscovery; new Federated Identity Manager, enabling extension of Tivoli Identity Manager out across the supply chain and to customers.

(Incidentally, here’s the press release—took quite a few clicks to find it.)

The CCMDB: Integrates supporting products and higher level processes, includes a process workflow and modeling engine, supports policy administration, provides support for configuration items and relationships, autodiscovery, reconciliation of discovered data, data federation. Works with Peregrine and Remedy.

Focus for Tivoli Process Solutions: Release Management, Availability Management, Integration Life-Cycle Management.

ITxpo: Web Services lead presentation

Web Services in the Enterprise (Frank Kenney): Not about having services but about controlling them. Theme emerging from conference so far: important thing is to ensure that what is provisioned is supported. Show customers (partners, end users) that management layer is in place. Kenney discusses ESBs, APS and middleware, as well as vendor strategy, in considering the management of web services. (Wonder what Radovan Janecek at Systinet would say about the ESB point.)

I’m going to diverge from Frank’s talk for a second and bring it back into an IT Services Management framework. ITIL would say that there are several processes that connect to a hypothetical web service: service level management, configuration management, and availability management are key. Unfortunately a lot of ITIL implementations begin with a focus on incident/inquiry management and (if you’re lucky) problem and change management. This is good, but it’s still a reactive situation. If you’re managing proactively, you’re monitoring your services so that you can actively gauge when you’re meeting your service levels, not reacting when someone tells you you’re out of compliance, at which point it’s too late.

The issue is that there are tradeoffs in how you monitor the services. Frank covers that, but also has some interesting insights about the market as a whole: considering 12 major vendors in the market, there’s less than $50 million in 2004 revenue across all of them and fewer than 100 production customers. Also consider that many of the firms are on their second or third rounds of funding, and consider their exit strategy — likely acquisitions — before you buy.

Implementing ITIL

Implementing ITIL (Shafqat Azim): suggestions include defining service catalog up front, defining dependencies (messaging systems, reporting systems); manage communications about benefit of process up to management and out to users; have a clear taxonomy and way of describing the scope of your initiative; have a clear vision of where you’re going; look at a reference model with enough depth to know the challenges and dependencies that you will be facing. Consider the level of maturity of processes on which you are dependent. Focus your effort on a handful of processes to refine, but consider how to mitigate the weaknesses of the other processes.

Validate process through use cases of particular issues—implementing a server, responding to change, etc.

Once you have the organizational requirements and use cases, think about tools. The process comes first; tools come second. (Is this ever not true?) Use use cases to develop matrix of functionality for automation, and have a bake-off.

This is all fine, but: I wonder where the trade-off is between process paralysis and avoiding useless tool expenditures.

ITxpo Keynote: managing complexity

The opening Gartner keynote is a tad condescending in the opening (who told Gartner’s CEO to cite “portal software” as an example of complex new IT challenges?), but quickly gets more interesting and starts delivering some insights, including: a quote attributed to Ezra Pound (“Man is an overcomplicated organism. If he is doomed to extinction it will come from a want of simplicity”—source?) and a citation of the Law of Requisite Variety. Complexity is a bell curve; claims there is an inflection point beyond
which if you make a system more complex value diminishes rather than increasing. They
suggest a consideration for review and acceptance of technology: “positive return on complexity.”

They make a very strong case that one way to mediate complexity is through process. Sounds good to me—that’s what ITIL is all about. Also useful: consider where to place complexity: away from the users. Don’t make IT’s life easier at the expense of the end user experience.

There’s a tradeoff between business needs and managing complexity. Also deep relationship between complexity and change management. Framework for understanding n-order change (this is when people start leaving): understand interaction between cultural systems (org structure, people) and technology systems (technology and tasks). First order change: tasks affected. Second order change: tasks and people. Third order change: affects every single variable, e.g. ERP. Fourth order: affects partners, customers, and other external connections.

Here comes the sale: there is a Gartner decision framework that helps you think across the strategic issues in managing complex new projects.

(Aside: wonder if there is a point to be made that blogging got adopted and is a profoundly transformative technology precisely because it’s less complex than other knowledge management tools?)

Managing complexity checklist:

  1. Standardization: can reduce complexity or increase capacity to manage more complexity. One consideration: number of vendors and products, but be careful of lock-in.
  2. Automation: from the traditional (adding additional tools to replace human labor) to augmentation (e.g. expert systems). Can hide complexity, but frequently not from IT; also raises the bar for IT staffing and pay.
  3. Best practices:
    1. Don’t do everything at once.
    2. Buy what you need, not what you might need.

Remember process! This is the connection between the organization and technical complexity.

Gartner blogging

I don’t know how much blogging I’ll be doing at the Gartner conference, but apparently the conference organizers have already beaten me to it: check out the official conference blog. And they are offering to point to other blogging coverage from attendees. Cool. Next thing you know they’ll be rockin’ it unconference style. Or not. All I know is, if there isn’t a backchannel for this conference I may have to start one.

Wrong Airport Blues

I made it to San Francisco last night, no thanks to our travel agency. Not only did the hotel not have my reservation, but somehow they had decided that it was perfectly OK to offer my an itinerary that flew into La Guardia and took off again from JFK. It turns out that the two airports are traversable via cab, provided of course that you leave enough time for the inevitable traffic jams.

I’ll be heading into the conference in a few minutes, but right now I’m just enjoying the brief sunshine from my hotel window, and my view of the San Francisco Chronicle offices. Pictures later, maybe.