|By Archie Hendryx||
|September 30, 2012 02:00 PM EDT||
Love it or hate it, ITIL and Change Management will always be an integral part of any IT set up with regulations such as BASEL II, FISMA, SOX (Sarbanes-Oxley) and HIPAA constantly breathing down the neck and conscience of organization leaders. Having once had a "purple badge" wearing ITIL guru for a manager, it always fascinated me how he'd advocate the framework as the solution to all our IT problems. While he'd hark on about defining repeatable and verifiable IT processes, it always ended up being theoretical as opposed to practical, often emphasized by his own IT competency, "Err, Archie how do I save this Word document and what on Earth is that SAN thing you keep going on about?"
That distinction between theory and practice was never more apparent than in the almost pointless CAB (Change Advisory Board) meetings that took place on a weekly basis. While the Change Management processes themselves were painfully bureaucratic and often a diversion from doing actual operational work, the CAB meetings were a surreal experience. With barely anyone in attendance the CAB would ask for a justification to each change, with a response of "approve" or "rejected" when it was clear that they had little or no idea of the technical explanation or implication that was given to them.
Then there was the Security/Risk Compliance chap who'd lock himself in his room glued to his Tripwire dashboard carefully spying on any unapproved changes. Such was his fascination with Tripwire that he too barely attended the CAB meetings, instead indirectly emphasizing his lack of trust and relevance of the Change Management system. So imagine his amazement when I introduced him to a new product we had implemented for our WINTEL environment called VMware and its feature VMotion. The fact that I had been seamlessly migrating VMs across physical servers without raising a change and without him being able to pick it up on Tripwire sent him into a perplexed frenzy. Somewhat amused by his constant head shaking, I decided to disclose that I had also been seamlessly migrating LUNs across different RAID Groups with HDS' Cruise Control to get more spindles working, upon which like Batman he'd rushed back to his cave to check whether "Big Brother" Tripwire had picked it up. Was I really supposed to raise a change for every VMotion or LUN migration?
Several years later after moving from being a customer to a technical consultant my impression of the effectiveness of the CAB failed to improve. Midweek and late in the day in the customer's data center with their SAN Architect, I'd pointed out that they had cabled up the wrong ports in their SAN switches and that this would require a change to be raised. "No need for that" replied the SAN architect, "I'm one of the CAB members". He then to my shock and in true Del Boy fashion, duly proceeded to pull out and swap the FC cables to his production hosts with a big grin on his face. Several minutes later his phone rang, to which he replied, "It's okay, I've resolved it. There was a power failure on some servers." Then with a cheeky grin, a swing of the head and a wink of an eye, he turned to me and said, "There you go sorted, lubbly jubbly!".
While my initial skepticism to ITIL's practicality was centered around my personal experiences it was only embellished by the number of long white bearded external auditors that would supposedly check whether proper controls existed within the many firefighting and cowboy organizational procedures I witnessed. Like a classroom of kids hearing the teacher coming up the corridor and scurrying to get to their desk to present a fabricated impression of discipline and order, I never ceased to be astounded by the last minute changes and running around of our compliance folk to ensure we successfully passed our audits. Despite having more daily Priority 1s than the canteen was serving decent hot meals, we still inexplicably passed every audit with flying colours, which in turn emboldened the rogue "under the radar" operational practices that served to keep the lights on.
So with such a tarnished experience of ITIL, it was with great curiosity and interest that led me to look closer at the movement and initiative of ITPI's Visible Ops. While still mapping its ideas to ITIL terminology, the onus of Visible Ops is on increasing service levels, decreasing costs and increasing security and auditability. In simplest terms, Visible Ops is a fast track / jumpstart exercise to an efficient operating model that replicates the researched processes of high-performing organizations in just four steps.
To summarize, the first of these four steps is what is termed Phase 1 or "Stabilize the Patient". With the understanding that almost 80% of outages are self-inflicted, any change outside of scheduled maintenance windows are quickly frozen. It then becomes mandatory for problem managers to have any change related information at hand so that when that 80% of "unplanned work" is initiated a full understanding of the root cause is quickly established. This phase starts at the systems and business processes that are responsible for the greatest amount of firefighting with the aim that once they are resolved they would free up work cycles to initiate a more secure and measured route for change.
Phase 2, which is termed "Catch & Release" and "Find Fragile Artifacts", is related to the infrastructure itself with the understanding that it cannot be repeatedly replicated. With an emphasis on gaining an accurate inventory of assets, configurations and services, the objective is to identify the "artifacts" with the lowest change success rates, highest MTTR and highest business downtime costs. By capturing all these assets, what they're running, the services that depend upon them and those responsible for them, an organization ends up in a far more secure position prior to a Priority 1 firefighting session.
Phase 3 or "Establish Repeatable Build Library" is focused on implementing an effective release management process. Using the previous phases as a stepping stone, this phase documents repeatable builds of the most critical assets and services enabling their rebuilding to be more cost effective than to repair. In a process that leads to an efficient mass-production of standardized builds, senior IT operations staff can transform from a reactive to a proactive release management delivery model. This is achieved by operating early in the IT operations lifecycle by consistently working on software and integration releases prior to their deployment into production environments. At the same time a reduction in unique production configurations is pushed for, consequently increasing the configuration lifespans prior to their replacement or change which in turn leads to an improvement in manageability and reduction in complexity. Eventually the output of these repeatable builds are "golden" images that have been tried, tested, planned and approved prior to production. Therefore when new applications, patches and upgrades are released for integration these golden builds or images need merely updating.
The fourth and last phase, entitled "Enable Continuous Improvement" is pretty self explanatory in that it deals with building a closed loop between the release, control and resolution processes. By completing the previous three phases, metrics for the three key process areas (release, controls and resolution) are focused on, specifically those that can facilitate quick decision making and provide accurate indicators of the work and its success in relation to the operational process. Drawing on ITIL‘s resolution process metrics of Mean Time Before Failure (MTBF) and Mean Time to Repair (MTTR), this phase looks at Release by measuring how efficiently and effectively infrastructure is provisioned. Controls are measured by how effectively the change decisions that are made keep production infrastructure available, predictable and secure, while Resolution is quantified by how effectively issues are identified and resolved.
So while these four concise and particular phases look great on paper what really differentiates them from potentially just being another theoretical process that fails to be delivered comprehensively in practical reality? If the manner in which IT is procured, designed, configured, validated and implemented remains the same there is little if any chance for Visible Ops to succeed any much further than the Purple Badge lovers of ITIL. But what if the approach to IT and more specifically its infrastructure was to change from the traditional buy your own, bolt it together and pray that it works method and instead transferred to a more sustainable and predictable model? What if the approach to infrastructure was one of a green fields approach or seamless migration to a pretested, pre-validated, pre-integrated, prebuilt and preconfigured product i.e. a true Converged Infrastructure? What impact could that possibly have on the success of Visible Ops and the aforementioned four phases?
If we look at phase 1 and "stabilizing the patient" this can be immediately achieved with a Vblock where an organisation no longer has to spend time investigating and worrying about the risk and impact of change. By having a standardized product based approach as opposed to a bunch of components bundled together, thousands of hours of QA testing and analysis work can be performed by VCE for each new patch, firmware upgrade or update on a like for like product that is owned by the customer. With this acting as the premise of a semi-annual release certification matrix that updates all of the components of the Converged Infrastructure as a comprehensive whole, risks typically associated with the change process are eliminated. Furthermore as changes are dictated by this pre-tested and pre-validated process and need to adhere to this release certification matrix to remain within support, it helps eradicate any rogue based changes as well as inform problem managers comprehensively of the necessary changes and updates. Ultimately phase 1's objective of stabilization is immediately achieved via the risk mitigation that comes with implementing a pre-engineered, pre-defined and pre-tested upgrade path.
The challenge of phase 2, which in essence equates to an eventual full inventory of the infrastructure, is a painful process at the best of times especially as new kit from various vendors is constantly being purchased and bolted on to existing kit. Moving to a Vblock simplifies this challenge as it's a single product and hence a single SKU at procurement. Akin to purchasing an Apple Macbook that is made up of many components e.g. a hard drive, processor, CD-ROM etc., the Converged Infrastructure's components are formulated as a whole to provide the customer a product. The parts of the product and all of their details are known to the manufacturer i.e. VCE and can easily be transferred as a single bill of materials to the customer with serial numbers etc. thus ensuring an up to date and accurate inventory and consequently simplified asset management process. When patches, upgrades and additions of new parts and components are required they are automatically added to the inventory list of the single product, thus ensuring up to date asset management.
The Release Management requirement of Phase 3 offers a challenge that is not only embroiled with risk but also takes up a significant amount of staff and management time cycles to ensure that technology and infrastructure remain up to date. This entails the rigmarole of downloading, testing and resolving interoperability issues of component patches and releases and relies heavily on the information sharing of silos as well as the success of regression tests. The unique approach of a Vblock meets this challenge immediately by making pre-tested, validated software and firmware upgrades available for the end user enabling them to locate releases that are applicable for their Converged Infrastructure system. With regards to the rebuild as opposed to repair approach stipulated in phase 3, because a Vblock can be deployed and up and running in only 30 days, the ability to have a like for like standardized infrastructure for new and upcoming projects is a far easier process compared to the usual build it yourself infrastructure model. On a more granular level, by having a management and orchestration stack with a self service portal, golden image VMs can be immediately deployed with a billing and chargeback model as well as integration with a CMDB. The result is a quick and successful attainment of phase 3 of the Visible Ops model via a unified release and configuration management methodology that is highly predictable and enhances availability by reducing interoperability issues.
Measuring the success of metrics such as MTTR and MTBF as detailed in Phase 4 is ultimately linked to the success of the monitoring and support model that's in place for your infrastructure. With a product based approach to infrastructure the support model will also be better equipped to ensure continuous improvement. Having an escalation response process that is based on a product, regardless if resolving a problem requires consultation with multiple experts or component teams, ultimately means a seamless and single point of contact for all issues. This end-to-end accountability for an infrastructure's support, maintenance and warranty makes the tracking of issue resolution and availability a much simpler model to measure and monitor. Furthermore with open APIs that enable integration with comprehensive monitoring and management software platforms, the Converged Infrastructure can be monitored for utilization, performance and capacity management as well as potential issues that can be flagged proactively to support.
As IT operational efficiency becomes more of an imperative for businesses across the globe, the theoretical practices that have failed to deliver are either being assessed, questioned or in some cases continued with. What is often being overlooked is that one of the key and inherent problems is the traditional approach to building and managing IT infrastructure. Even a radical and well researched approach and framework such as Visible Ops will eventually suffer and at worse fail to succeed if the IT infrastructure that the framework is based on was built by the same mode of thinking that created the problems. Fundamentally whether the Visible Ops model is a serious consideration for your environment or not, by adopting the framework with a Vblock, the ability to stabilize, standardize and optimise your IT infrastructure and its delivery of services to the business becomes a lot more practical and consequently a lot less theoretical.
Lacking the traditional fanfare associated with any technology that can use the word "container" or mention "Docker" in its press release, Ubuntu Core and its new Snappy system management scheme was introduced late last year. Since then, it's been gaining steam with Microsoft and Amazon and Google announcing support for the stripped-down version of the operating system. Ubuntu Core is what's being called a "micro-OS"; a stripped down, lean container-supporting machine that's becoming more pop...
May. 3, 2015 02:15 PM EDT Reads: 842
This is a no-hype, pragmatic post about why I think you should consider architecting your next project the way SOA and/or microservices suggest. No matter if it’s a greenfield approach or if you’re in dire need of refactoring. Please note: considering still keeps open the option of not taking that approach. After reading this, you will have a better idea about whether building multiple small components instead of a single, large component makes sense for your project. This post assumes that you...
May. 3, 2015 02:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,755
The stack is the hack, Jack. That's my takeaway from several events I attended over the past few weeks in Silicon Valley and Southeast Asia. I listened to and participated in discussions about everything from large datacenter management (think Facebook Open Compute) to enterprise-level cyberfraud (at a seminar in Manila attended by the US State Dept. and Philippine National Police) to the world of entrepreneurial startups, app deployment, and mobility (in a series of meetups and talks in bot...
May. 3, 2015 01:00 PM EDT Reads: 2,180
This digest provides an overview of good resources that are well worth reading. We’ll be updating this page as new content becomes available, so I suggest you bookmark it. Also, expect more digests to come on different topics that make all of our IT-hearts go boom!
May. 3, 2015 01:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,780
SYS-CON Events announced today the DevOps Foundation Certification Course, being held June ?, 2015, in conjunction with DevOps Summit and 16th Cloud Expo at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. This sixteen (16) hour course provides an introduction to DevOps – the cultural and professional movement that stresses communication, collaboration, integration and automation in order to improve the flow of work between software developers and IT operations professionals. Improved workflows will res...
May. 3, 2015 12:30 PM EDT Reads: 3,188
Containers and microservices have become topics of intense interest throughout the cloud developer and enterprise IT communities. Accordingly, attendees at the upcoming 16th Cloud Expo at the Javits Center in New York June 9-11 will find fresh new content in a new track called PaaS | Containers & Microservices Containers are not being considered for the first time by the cloud community, but a current era of re-consideration has pushed them to the top of the cloud agenda. With the launch ...
May. 3, 2015 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 3,663
I woke up this morning to the devastating news about the earthquake in Nepal. Sitting here in California that destruction is literally on the other side of the world but my mind immediately went to thinking about my good friend Jeremy Geelan. See Jeremy and his family have been living in Kathmandu for a while now. His wife, in fact, is the Danish Ambassador to Nepal!
May. 3, 2015 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 942
SYS-CON Events announced today that B2Cloud, a provider of enterprise resource planning software, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. B2cloud develops the software you need. They have the ideal tools to help you work with your clients. B2Cloud’s main solutions include AGIS – ERP, CLOHC, AGIS – Invoice, and IZUM
May. 3, 2015 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 4,329
The world's leading Cloud event, Cloud Expo has launched Microservices Journal on the SYS-CON.com portal, featuring over 19,000 original articles, news stories, features, and blog entries. DevOps Journal is focused on this critical enterprise IT topic in the world of cloud computing. Microservices Journal offers top articles, news stories, and blog posts from the world's well-known experts and guarantees better exposure for its authors than any other publication. Follow new article posts on T...
May. 3, 2015 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,763
SYS-CON Events announced today that MangoApps will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY., and the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MangoApps provides private all-in-one social intranets allowing workers to securely collaborate from anywhere in the world and from any device. Social, mobile, and eas...
May. 3, 2015 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 4,259
There is no doubt that Big Data is here and getting bigger every day. Building a Big Data infrastructure today is no easy task. There are an enormous number of choices for database engines and technologies. To make things even more challenging, requirements are getting more sophisticated, and the standard paradigm of supporting historical analytics queries is often just one facet of what is needed. As Big Data growth continues, organizations are demanding real-time access to data, allowing immed...
May. 3, 2015 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 5,493
One of the most frequently requested Rancher features, load balancers are used to distribute traffic between docker containers. Now Rancher users can configure, update and scale up an integrated load balancing service to meet their application needs, using either Rancher's UI or API. To implement our load balancing functionality we decided to use HAproxy, which is deployed as a contianer, and managed by the Rancher orchestration functionality. With Rancher's Load Balancing capability, users ...
May. 3, 2015 10:45 AM EDT Reads: 2,073
There are 182 billion emails sent every day, generating a lot of data about how recipients and ISPs respond. Many marketers take a more-is-better approach to stats, preferring to have the ability to slice and dice their email lists based numerous arbitrary stats. However, fundamentally what really matters is whether or not sending an email to a particular recipient will generate value. Data Scientists can design high-level insights such as engagement prediction models and content clusters that a...
May. 3, 2015 10:15 AM EDT Reads: 4,247
As a company making software for Continuous Delivery and Devops at scale, at XebiaLabs we’re pretty much always in discussions with users about the benefits and challenges of new development styles, application architectures, and runtime platforms. Unsurprisingly, many of these discussions right now focus on microservices on the application side and containers and related frameworks […]
SYS-CON Events announced today the IoT Bootcamp – Jumpstart Your IoT Strategy, being held June 9–10, 2015, in conjunction with 16th Cloud Expo and Internet of @ThingsExpo at the Javits Center in New York City. This is your chance to jumpstart your IoT strategy. Combined with real-world scenarios and use cases, the IoT Bootcamp is not just based on presentations but includes hands-on demos and walkthroughs. We will introduce you to a variety of Do-It-Yourself IoT platforms including Arduino, Ras...
May. 3, 2015 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 3,790
What’s hot in today’s cloud computing world? Containers are fast becoming a viable alternative to virtualization for the right use cases. But to understand why containers can be a better option, we need to first understand their origins. In basic terms, containers are application-centric environments that help isolate and run workloads far more efficiently than the traditional hypervisor technology found in commodity cloud Infrastructure as a Service. Modern operating systems (Linux, Windows, e...
May. 3, 2015 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 703
The cloud has transformed how we think about software quality. Instead of preventing failures, we must focus on automatic recovery from failure. In other words, resilience trumps traditional quality measures. Continuous delivery models further squeeze traditional notions of quality. Remember the venerable project management Iron Triangle? Among time, scope, and cost, you can only fix two or quality will suffer. Only in today's DevOps world, continuous testing, integration, and deployment upend...
May. 3, 2015 09:30 AM EDT Reads: 3,198
Financial services organizations were among the earliest enterprise adopters of cloud computing. The ability to leverage massive compute, storage and networking resources via RESTful APIs and automated tools like Chef and Puppet made it possible for their high-horsepower IT users to develop a whole new array of applications. Companies like Wells Fargo, Fidelity and BBVA are visible, vocal and engaged supporters of the OpenStack community, running production clouds for applications ranging from d...
May. 3, 2015 09:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,151
Chuck Piluso will present a study of cloud adoption trends and the power and flexibility of IBM Power and Pureflex cloud solutions. Speaker Bio: Prior to Data Storage Corporation (DSC), Mr. Piluso founded North American Telecommunication Corporation, a facilities-based Competitive Local Exchange Carrier licensed by the Public Service Commission in 10 states, serving as the company's chairman and president from 1997 to 2000. Between 1990 and 1997, Mr. Piluso served as chairman & founder of ...
May. 3, 2015 09:00 AM EDT Reads: 699
To manage complex web services with lots of calls to the cloud, many businesses have invested in Application Performance Management (APM) and Network Performance Management (NPM) tools. Together APM and NPM tools are essential aids in improving a business's infrastructure required to support an effective web experience... but they are missing a critical component - Internet visibility. Internet connectivity has always played a role in customer access to web presence, but in the past few years u...
May. 3, 2015 08:45 AM EDT Reads: 1,231