The further along the enterprise progresses in the transition from traditional business models to digital service architectures, the more it will shift away from basic infrastructure management to IT as a service.
This is a more complicated processes than it seems, however, because the focus of activity is no longer on deploying and maintaining top-notch systems but on delivering the best experience for users. And that is a task that is exceedingly hard to define given the virtually unlimited and constantly evolving set of requirements demanded by today’s knowledge workforce.
According to Gartner, the evolving field of IT Service Management (ITSM) is likely to become one of the key growth areas in the coming years, particularly as the Internet of Things floods the world with billions of connected devices, also known as data users. This will require ITSM to become much more proactive and predictive than it is today, given the speed at which devices communicate, and provide the means to scale up quickly and securely to ensure that the enterprise can implement its policies throughout an increasingly ill-defined data ecosystem. To that end, expect to see future platforms embrace a range of technologies, such as agentless network scanning, advanced configuration management database (CMDB) techniques and highly granular root cause analysis.
Already, developers like SunView Software are introducing artificial intelligence and predictive analytics into their platforms to make service management as self-governing as possible. The firm’s ChangeGear system was recently upgraded with the Service Smart Technology stack that analyzes user interactions, support tickets and other data points to foster rapid problem resolution and self-service support portals. In this way, the company hopes to free up about 30 percent of IT’s support capacity and ultimately extend automated service processes throughout ERP, CRM, BI and a host of other enterprise productivity functions.
The enterprise could learn a lot about IT service management by emulating the health care industry, says Nexthink engineer Steven Little. Today’s medical professionals access a wealth of information from a wide range of sources to not only identify and treat presented ailments but to analyze underlying risk factors in both the patient and his/her environment. In much the same way, IT can leverage key data sets to perform the same kind of triage for users and continuously evaluate the broader data ecosystem for big-picture fixes. Just as doctors have shed the “take two Aspirin™ and call me in the morning” ethos, IT should free itself from “shut down and reboot.”
Enhancing ITSM capabilities will also become more important as the enterprise seeks to merge private and public clouds into hybrid architectures. As Diginomica’s Kurt Marko notes, top providers like Amazon are launching new managed service offerings built around their home-grown automation tools and APIs. The intent is not to support wholesale conversion of the entire enterprise stack to AWS (although they certainly won’t discourage such a move), but to integrate with legacy ITSM and other solutions to provide a seamless, integrated management for distributed, software-defined data environments. Marko warns, however, that Amazon’s culture is built around very rapid development, so it may be difficult for all but the most technologically savvy organizations to keep up with the company’s pace of change.
Despite the influx of automation and machine intelligence to ITSM, it is unclear whether service-based management will be any easier than the traditional infrastructure approach. Sure, techs will no longer have to worry about charting network pathways, provisioning storage and compute resources and the myriad other tasks that take up much of the workday, but this will likely be replaced by troubleshooting performance issues, identifying and developing new services, and overseeing the interactions among services and microservices.
This represents a pretty big change in the way data environments are managed and optimized, and will certainly require new skills among the IT workforce. But it should also produce a more efficient and effective data environment – one in which users and technicians can work together to make problems go away.
Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.