IT service catalog aligns IT supply with demand

* ITIL’s IT service catalog

IT operations are increasingly “blessed” with a wealth of metrics concerning the supply of IT services. Dashboards and key performance indicators offer many IT shops a unique view into the cost of operations, the “hot” areas of growth and potential areas for savings and efficiency improvements.

Meanwhile, on the business side, projects are validated through ROI modeling and total-cost-of-ownership calculations.

In many cases, these two views are at a disconnect. In fact, as more IT services are productized and delivered by shared infrastructures, it becomes even harder to associate IT costs (supply) with business unit requirements and service-level agreements (SLA) (demand). IT service catalogs may help bridge that gap.

In our research on data centers, we are seeing increased adoption of the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) for management of IT service delivery. ITIL places the configuration management database (CMDB) at the core of IT service delivery. The CMDB is a repository containing configurations of all the IT elements and interdependencies that make up an IT service. So CMDBs help in managing the elements that are needed to deliver an IT service.

At a higher level, there are business services that the business units “consume.” These business services are made up of one or more IT services, in a hierarchical fashion. For example, the “e-mail” business service may be composed of a number of IT services, such as mailboxes, storage, authentication services, anti-virus, anti-spam. On the business side, there will also be some requirements regarding service availability or response times.

The gap is in translating these high-level business services, and their context (the requirements, SLAs) into the necessary configurations, architectures and combination of IT services at the element level (a full IT bill of materials). An IT service catalog is the portfolio of all business services that IT must deliver. It provides a single repository of information about the services and requirements of the business.

In the ITIL framework, the IT service catalog provides the interface between the business and IT, translating business requirements into IT technical requirements. Meanwhile the CMDB provides the foundation for translating these IT requirements into specific configurations for all the IT resources. By aligning the IT service catalog and the CMDB, IT managers can create cost transparency.

IT service catalogs can start to bridge the gap between supply and demand, more closely aligning business needs with IT service delivery. This in turn creates the circumstances for better allocation of IT resources by creating a transparent internal market for IT.

NOTE: Don't forget to check out the Data Center World spring conference in Atlanta, March 19-23, 2006. The conference is organized by AFCOM, the leading association for data center professionals.

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