Increasing IT Agility by Integrating SOA with BSM
Many IT organizations are at the crossroads of finding better ways to meet the needs of the business and manage an increasingly complex IT environment more cost-effectively. They must integrate cloud computing, virtualization, and Software-as-a-Service technologies and applications with an existing, and often rigid, IT infrastructure. To compound the challenge, they also need to support the business with accurate and integrated real-time information from disparate sources, and achieve better performance while cutting costs. They must deliver all of this with greater availability, agility, control and transparency. In addition, IT organizations are expected to keep IT priorities aligned with strategic business objectives, and enable applications to expose their functionality as “services,” the IT infrastructure information that supports business applications. These services must be made available to partners, suppliers and others within and outside of the IT enterprise.
To address these challenges, leading IT organizations are now leveraging a service oriented architecture to gain the IT agility needed to meet the forever changing needs of the business. Increasing in its maturity, SOA refers to a set of agile design principles, based on a service provider/service consumer model, used to link resources on demand. It is a framework for building composite applications that incorporate autonomous services with standardized interfaces so that these applications mirror business processes. SOA makes it possible for applications to be reused and interoperable, no matter what protocol, platform, language, internal data or algorithm is used. This architecture is particularly appealing because it promises to enable the collaboration and exchange of information across business boundaries, such as between partners and suppliers and the companies they are serving.
Exposing IT capabilities as autonomous services with standardized interfaces is critical for achieving flexibility in this environment. It enables business processes for an enterprise that are powered by loosely coupled software components to be flexibly assembled, and reassembled to drive how a business accomplishes its many tasks. An SOA ecosystem, especially the area outside the enterprise where customers, partners and suppliers can access applications, will likely include multiple layers of standards-based interfaces—for autonomous services, contracts and policy formulation, workflow orchestration, governance, and service level agreements—that mirror real-world processes
Organizations must align the business and IT to achieve the maximum value out of SOA. To that end, Business Service Management (BSM) is exactly what SOA needs to add business relevance to IT agility. BSM, rooted in ITIL, is a software management strategy that helps organizations manage IT from a business perspective. BSM focuses on using solutions that can show the linkage between IT infrastructure components and business services. By identifying and mapping business-critical processes to the underlying IT infrastructure and services, BSM connects key business services to the IT services that manage them, such as routers, servers, and applications. While BSM does the mapping, SOA serves as the framework that connects the infrastructure. Hence, the BSM methodology and SOA are synergistic and the integration of BSM into SOA is pivotal to IT agility.
Organizations can achieve a tremendous value from the synergy between BSM and SOA, which includes:
Managing SOA ecosystems
SOA is a “framework” that enables broad-based interoperability and adaptive computing, giving IT the flexibility to deliver services when and where the business needs it. SOA enables applications to dynamically collaborate as needed to help IT organizations support changing service goals. Hence, SOA begins with a set of agile design principles and a transformation roadmap focused on the premise of aligning IT with business objectives.
However, to leverage that adaptability in a way that optimizes business value and alignment, the SOA service ecosystem needs a holistic management partner. There is a growing consensus that Business Service Management (BSM) strategy is the “partner” that adds business relevance to IT agility. This connection between SOA & BSM focuses on ensuring that the IT flexibility enabled by SOA is applied in a way that delivers services based on business priorities. The BSM methodology entails identifying and mapping business-critical processes to underlying IT infrastructure and services. It is a method for connecting key business services to the IT services that manage them, such as routers, servers, and business applications.
Simply put, BSM empowers companies to connect the language of IT and the language of business. The continuing promise is that business stakeholders can readily understand and predict how technology changes will impact the business and, vice versa, how changes in the business processes directly impact the technology infrastructure.
To deliver on business service agility, IT must adapt to changing business needs and new business imperatives. IT must know whether the server is fast enough, if the IT-dependent activities are working well, if the business is at risk due to poor performance, and so on. There is a growing urgency to shift the traditional mindset from IT driving the business to the more effective mantra of the business driving IT. The SOA ecosystem makes applications that are built for one enterprise or line of business available across business boundaries for partners, suppliers and customers alike. The key to success is then how to manage and govern an SOA ecosystem based on a holistic end-to-end BSM methodology. The powerful synergy between SOA and BSM allows IT organizations to proactively resolve IT problems prioritized on business needs, thereby providing value that extends far beyond simply managing the underlying technology.
Limitations of Traditional IT
Historically, IT systems management was piecemeal, bottom-up, and IT-centric. It produced an environment where the IT infrastructure and applications were tightly coupled, as shown in Figure 1 below. Another drawback of a tightly coupled IT environment is that it disproportionately puts too little emphasis on information and too much on technology.
Yet, in IT, it is the information that supports business processes and creates business value.
Since the advent of virtualization, cloud computing, and the exponential growth of network-centric Web applications, awareness of the limitations of the tightly coupled IT approach has grown. In order to enable changing business requirements with flexible IT resources, technology infrastructure and applications instead must be loosely coupled. SOA brings with it an advanced level of application virtualization that decouples (i.e. abstracts or virtualizes) business processes from the underlying IT infrastructure (see figure below).
SOA is bringing about a major shift that loosely couples applications with technology, while tightly coupling applications with business processes. This shift requires a different way of thinking about boundaries and governance/management within the IT industry. When applications are used across business and geographical boundaries, and thus across systems and infrastructure boundaries, IT personnel must deal with systems and resources that are outside of their direct control.
For example, a critical service provider could be running on a system maintained by an independent business partner located on another continent and communicating through the public Internet. At the same time, IT personnel have to contend with new complications stemming from sharing services with external partners and customers. Conventional metrics that focus on resource utilization and other server-centric concepts are not sufficient for managing business processes running in a connected, virtualized, federated environment because they do not provide the necessary big-picture view.
In the past, IT operational management fell back on managing and monitoring selective components of the underlying IT infrastructure, piecemeal and from the bottom-up. Clearly missing was the comprehensive big-picture, top-down, holistic view that correlates the interactions of the business processes and the underlying IT resources.
The Rise of Holistic Service Oriented Management
Astute industry watchers are aware that the transformation from mainframe and client/server to business-driven SOA is not only a major undertaking, but also a disruptive shift. This shift goes beyond the design/creation phase of the SOA-based service ecosystem (the area outside the enterprise where partners and suppliers can access applications). It will likely include multiple layers of standards-based interfaces for autonomous services, contracts and policy formulation, workflow orchestration, governance, and service-level agreements that mirror real-world processes.
From now on, IT management must begin to shift from traditional infrastructure-centric management to holistic business service management. We should point out however, the present SOA ecosystems for most organizations will be a mixture of both old and new, namely the business-process-centric composite services as well as the traditional commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) applications. In other words, organizations will still have to contend with managing the multitude of stovepipe applications that already existed. Nevertheless, it is crucial that a quasi top-down topology and hierarchical views of the virtual enterprise should be used to approach BSM.
Moving from concept to tactics, the steps needed to achieve this BSM approach include:
Special attention should be given to the network and the messaging infrastructure that serves as the middleware of the SOA-based service ecosystem. Relying on conventional monitoring agents in servers alone might omit vital information from holistic root-cause analysis and likely lead to haphazard, and even erroneous, decision-making.
In addition, the most cost-effective way to manage a business focused SOA ecosystem is to augment the traditional technology focused bottom-up approach with an overarching big picture focus on business objectives.
The figure at right illustrates an end-to-end visualization methodology for managing the SOA ecosystem outlined as follows:
Business Service Management: Key Components
As mentioned earlier, BSM is the strategy for aligning IT with the business. One of the key underlying components of a business service management approach to an SOA is a configuration management database. IT organizations that are aligning themselves to the best practices methodology of the IT Infrastructure Library® (ITIL) are likely to have implemented early stages of CMDBs. The CMDBs should contain a broad range of real-time resource status and state information from across the enterprise.
A federated CMDB will play a pivotal role in making holistic BSM successful. It facilitates three crucial elements of BSM: asset management, change management, and configuration management. For scalability, virtual federated CMDBs will likely be the predominant architecture in the future.
A federated CMDB can be characterized by the following functions:
Convergence of SOA and Holistic BSM
In a virtualized, federated SOA-based service ecosystem, operational management must shift from managing stovepipes and technology components to managing the delivery of business process-centric end-to-end services through holistic BSM. This methodology is the fusion of people and IT technology manifested through business processes.
The basic premise of the holistic BSM methodology is connecting people (business users) with IT technology through some type of business process link. The “people” connection encompasses the end users’ expectations, the quality of service provided, and the quality of the user experience. Service Level Agreements (SLAs) are negotiated between IT and the business as a means of measuring the service provided to their customers. If expectations/SLAs are not met, typically the user calls the help desk and a help ticket is generated.
The technology elements include the IT infrastructure ) that ultimately deliver the quality of service. When an end-user SLA is not met, the incident is usually accompanied by alerts/exceptions from one or more monitors in the IT infrastructure layer. An exception may be the result of an ‘incident’ that has occurred. An incident is defined as any event which is not part of the standard operation of a service and which causes, or may cause, an interruption to, or reduction in, the quality of that service. The cause of the service degradation must now be determined. In order to perform probable root-cause analysis, there is a need to filter, normalize and correlate the events (alerts) that are being generated by the infrastructure component.
How incidents are dealt with according the ITIL is known as Incident Management and the aim is to restore normal service operation as quickly as possible with minimum disruption to the business, thus ensuring that the best levels of service quality and availability are maintained.
The goal is to minimize the adverse effect on the business of incidents and problems caused by errors in the infrastructure and to prevent the reoccurrence of incidents related to errors. The process known as Problem Management seeks to get to the root cause of incidents and then initiate actions to improve or correct the situation.
Business impact is determined by linking the events back to the service model. Then users must be notified that there is a problem in a specific application, and the appropriate service person (for example, the system administrator or DBA) must be asked to correct the problem. The service model information is stored in the CMDB. It is therefore essential that CMDB be kept up to date. To build a service model requires the discovery of assets (physical, logical, and their dependencies) and the ability to understand them as they relate to a business service. The process of Configuration Management provides a logical model of the IT Infrastructure by identifying, controlling, maintaining and verifying the versions of all configuration items in existence. Configuration Management covers the identification, recording and reporting of IT components, including their versions, constituent components and relationships.
According to myriad reports in leading technical magazines, the majority of incidents are the results of unmanaged changes in the environment. So, in addition to managing assets, BSM requires rigorous governance and change management. The process of Change Management ensures that standardized methods and procedures are used for efficient and prompt handling of all changes, in order to minimize the impact of any change-related incidents upon the service and consequently improve the day-to-day operations of the organization and all changes should be automatically reflected in the CMDB and Service Models. In addition, there is also the process of Release Management which takes a holistic view of a change to an IT service to ensure that all aspects of a release, both technical and non-technical, are considered together.
These five processes are known as ‘Service Support’ activities within ITIL ‘Service Management’.
Completing the holistic BSM closed-loop management requires incorporating tools and methodology and is addressed by the ITIL activities known as ‘Service Delivery’. For example, the Capacity Management process aids in understanding the current and future business requirements of the organization from both a technical and business perspective, and ensure that all current and future capacity and performance aspects are provided cost effectively which may require changes to the environment and will therefore initiate the change management process.
Service Level Management is required to maintain and improve business aligned IT service quality, through a constant cycle of agreeing, monitoring, reporting and reviewing IT service achievements and through instigating actions to eradicate unacceptable levels of service. For example, SLAs will on occasion be required to be renegotiated and inputs from other processes, such as Capacity Management, will be required to determine whether or not the new requirements can be meet.
IT Service Continuity Management addresses the requirements for the overall Business Continuity by ensuring that the required IT technical and service facilities can be recovered utilizing failovers backup and disaster recovery functions, within the required and agreed business timescales. For example, your most critical systems, such as online banking, may have hot standbys in case of failure where as your print servers would not require such investment.
The process of Availability Management aims to optimize the capability of the IT Infrastructure and supporting organization to deliver a cost effective and sustained level of availability that enables the business to satisfy its objectives. In addition, it ensures that availability is there when required, such as month end and during peak business hours.
Financial Management ensures the cost effective stewardship of the IT assets and the financial resources used in providing IT services. The overall solution must be financially viable on an ongoing basis and in the long term.
Conclusion: The Journey from Stovepipes to SOA via BSM underpinned by ITIL
Businesses are in the midst of transitioning to a new computing model based on standards-based services and process oriented computing. An important goal of IT organizations is to align IT with business priorities and to enable valued entities located outside a company’s IT environment to access and collaborate with its processes and business services.
SOA offers the agility to provide a virtual ecosystem, layered around services to support the business processes. It will include a series of standards-based interfaces for autonomous services, contracts, policy formulation, workflow orchestration, governance and service-level agreements. SOA will facilitate business collaboration that mirrors real-world processes. It will help partners, vendors and others that do business with a company be able to easily access important applications that are found within the enterprise of the company they are supporting. As a result, it will be easier to conduct business collaboration more effectively.
How these dynamics play out has a lot to do with the architecture and business priorities. However, organizations must align the business and IT to achieve the maximum value out of SOA. To that end, Business Service Management (BSM) is exactly what SOA needs to add business relevance to IT agility. BSM, rooted in ITIL, is a software management strategy that helps organizations manage IT from a business perspective. BSM focuses on using solutions that can show the linkage between IT infrastructure components and business services. By identifying and mapping business-critical processes to the underlying IT infrastructure and services, BSM connects key business services to the IT services that manage them, such as routers, servers, and applications. While BSM does the mapping, SOA serves as the framework that connects the infrastructure. Hence, the BSM methodology and SOA are synergistic and the integration of BSM into SOA is pivotal to IT agility.
Organizations can achieve a tremendous value from the synergy among ITIL, BSM and SOA, which includes:
So what are we waiting for? Let the SOA BSM integration begin!
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