Provisioning and ITIL

By , June 1, 2006 09:36

We recently had a longer email discussion about the influence of provisioning tools like our N1 portfolio onto the ITIL disciplines. (N.B.: I’m not ITIL-certified, so I might seem a little bit biased.) The discussion started around the following email w.r.t. an annoucement:

From the itSMF International Board Report:

“itSMFI has agreed to endorse an initiative by a group of software vendors (BMC Software, CA, Fujitsu, HP and IBM) which plans to develop an open, industry-wide specification for sharing information between Configuration Management Databases (CMDBs) and other data repositories. The group plans to submit a draft specificatino to an industry standards organisation later this year.”

Does anyone know more about this?

This discussion was leading to the role of N1 P1 and N1 P2 (check Dave Levy’s blog for more info on these upcoming versions of the N1 product portfolio) and on the role of CMDB’s in these environments. Let me quote my colleague Jorgen Skogstad:

In my simple world: N1 SM, N1 SPS, P1, P2.. and similar ‘stuff’ are all CMDBs (aka Configuration Management DataBases).

Continuing later on, he opened the following question:

IMHO technology will always be just technology and can be applied in many ways. Some good, some bad. The same applies when taking technology to achieve an efficient IT operation; easier said than done. If it was easy, why are our customers struggling of deliver business aligned services at an efficient cost? Why are they even going down the outsourcing route.. so and so forth. :)

In simple terms; what would happen if you in _theory_ had 100 Sun systems running 100*4096 containers? That equals 409600 “systems” that each individually demand maintenance and support. Couple that with the service complexities running on top of it; for instance full blown application life-cycle management. Without a properly defined model to approach that problem you will inevitably run into problems.

Didier Kirszenberg then made a swing and stated:

Most customer lauch their ITIL initiative foccusing on “Help Desk” and CMDB. They try to fill their CMDB by inventory process. This can be efficient for infrastrucure but not for the fast moving applications (using photo to capture a movie). N1 SPS is maybe the only tool in the market able to do the “application release mangement” and with his central database bring to the product choosen as the unique and central CMDB the exact view or the application asset at all time.

Jorgen then replied:


I agree with you; SPS is not a CMDB as per se. It performs more the function of the DSL in ITIL terms, but then again the DSL is a functional part of the CMDB. In any case, I’ve written up two papers on the topic of ‘applied provisioning’ + ‘the itil dsl in an agile infrastructure environment’. Sort of states the same that you’re mentioning beneath. If you’re interested, have a look at them. You may find them here:

Then I jumped in:


but still, I do not like us to “reduce” the value of N1 SPS (and the upcoming N1 P2 product) to the “Release Management” part.

If you use a release management tool, and the release management does keep a record, it automatigally becomes a CMDB, right?

Doing it the “back way” by trying to focus on “gathering, what’s there” in order to “populate an inventory” might be a way to “handle the past”, but is this really, what we want?

Or, to turn it around:

Does a car manufacturer really want to keep a record of every lightbulb in every switch in every dashboard in order to service the “light switch”? Or is the “light switch” the thing he wants to be able to “replace” as a total, or even the “switch board” as a complete unit?

As such, the “gathering, what’s there” approach might be wrong…


Jorgen answered:

Agree; in ITIL terms SPS fills a number of roles. It facilitates Release Management, Configuration Management, Change Management .. but also is central in the CMDB + DSL. It does not “implement” either one in it’s entirety, but it provides an engine to manage them efficiently. If you look to my ‘applied’ paper, that’s what it is stating. The other paper states how the DSL in ITIL terms should function in an agile infrastructure environment which is what SM, SPS, P2 … etc .. provides, right.

We then turned to the definition of the CIs (configuration items), and Jorgen continued:

Hence if you are provisioning systems, services, applications etc through SPS, SM etc that _are_ in fact CI’s that can fail, be patched, brought down, requested for ‘change’ and so forth you would want the CMDB (aka for example Remedy) to have state information about that CI. Without a proper history of that, the Servicedesk staff and other users of the ITIL processes will not be able to perform their work ..

In simple terms; to have an efficient ‘enabling ITSM’ CMDB system it has to know about all CI’s out there. This includes servers, switches, routers and so forth, but more importantly applications, services and aggregate services. They fail, they are managed, changed, developed and so forth. So, unless state information and history is available within the ITIL processes you immediately have a problem of communication and ownership. :)

.. hence the importance of the itSMFI initiative. If it would be possible to tie “all” systems together, this would aleviate the problem and enable a more consistent way of managing an IT environment.

My main idea was:

If we do use provisioning tools to provision complete infrastructures, and if we have a “compare” feature inside these tools, that can simply find “deviations” to the “specifications”, do we then really need to have a tool to “gather, what’s there”? Because if we determine, that there are deviations, we can simply “re-provision”, right?

I need to leave out the further discussion, because it got to specific to upcoming products, but rest assured, we address the issues!

Simply put: “Our goal is to offer a pragmatic implementation of a CMDB.” (Doan Nguyen)

Feedback is welcome!

One Response to “Provisioning and ITIL”

  1. Hi i from Germany
    Very nice site…
    mfg.Andre Pfützner

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