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How has ITSM had to change in order to adapt to the cloud pay-as-you-go model?

With the cloud often touted by industry sources as having the potential to provide huge savings for organisations, the contribution of IT Service Management (ITSM) and its ability to accommodate the on-demand and flexible nature of cloud computing poses a complex question. Adam Miller, consultant at GlassHouse Technologies (UK), discusses how ITSM can work with the cloud.

Both the concept of ITSM and the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) framework emerged in the 1980s, driven by various (mainly political) events. Although ITSM has continually evolved since then, and will continue to do so, the changes witnessed have not been led by the flashing lights of the latest technology. Originally developed as a framework for ITSM, ITIL was intended to improve efficiency and control of IT resources. In the latest recognised standard of ITIL, ITIL version 3, we have seen a lifecycle approach applied to ITSM – continuing the migration from a technology-centric approach to a more service-oriented way of thinking, aligning IT with the needs and demands of the business.

With the growing uptake of cloud services, ITSM plays different roles for cloud service providers and customers looking to move their data or applications into the cloud.

From the perspective of an organisation that is moving their data into the cloud where it will be managed by a provider, the importance of ITSM is actually relatively low – unless performance, service levels or regulatory issues are affected their focus will be on the bottom line and their business as usual activity; which in 99% of cases is why they will have adopted cloud services in the first place.

From the cloud provider perspective, it is a very different story. As mentioned already, the advantages of cloud as a platform include flexibility and scalability; customers can expand and shrink the infrastructure on a whim (although it is usually more considered). Without the processes and controls in place that a robust ITSM strategy provides infrastructure will rapidly become disparate, resulting in reduced profitability from poor utilisation and increased risk. As a result, customers that have trusted the provider with their data may then become dissatisfied and take their business elsewhere.

To avoid potential heavy losses, or in the best case to avoid paying out regular service credits, it is vital to ensure that the cloud provider keeps its “house in order”. The processes and approach required to support and maintain data in the cloud shouldn’t be too dissimilar to existing ones, but it’s essential that these processes are reviewed and tested thoroughly before even contemplating placing customers (that the business has spent years building relationships and trust with) on the new cloud platform. Areas such as capacity management should be reviewed to maintain the correct balance between platform availability and over-provisioning (which could reduce profitability). It should also ensure that configuration management processes are flexible enough to enable customers to make ad hoc changes, while other customers on the platform remain unaffected.

In summary, although ITSM itself hasn’t changed specifically for cloud services, ITSM processes should be reviewed and adapted so that they match the service needs of end customers and, just as importantly, deliver profitability for the business.