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Service-oriented management in the channel

Service-oriented management (SOM) is becoming a hot channel opportunity. Dan Sullivan, author of "The Definitive Guide to Service-Oriented Systems Management," recently discussed how VARs can take advantage of this systems management approach.

What is service-oriented management (SOM) and why are we hearing more about it now?
Service-oriented management (SOM) is a rationalized approach to systems management that focuses on the core processes and operations rather than just the devices that make up an IT infrastructure.

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Business needs are driving the evolution of systems management to a more service-oriented approach. Specifically the need to align IT operations with business objectives, protect systems and information integrity, maintain systems availability and remain in compliance crosses traditional functional IT boundaries. It is no longer sufficient to think of systems management in terms of Windows servers, Unix servers, firewalls and desktops. We need to think in terms of services delivered, acquiring and deploying systems, implementing access controls, managing end-user support and demonstrating compliance. Can you briefly explain the key components of SOM?
The key components of SOM are:
  • Service level management
  • Financial management for IT Services
  • Capacity management
  • Change management
  • Availability management
  • IT Service continuity management
  • Application management
  • Software and hardware asset management\
While there are a number of diverse components, they are consolidated in SOM models with a unified management framework built on modular services and an open architecture. Which companies may be in an ideal position to benefit from SOM?
SOM will be especially beneficial to companies that have at least one of the following characteristics:
  • A large installed user base
  • A diverse array of platforms, such as Windows, Linux, Unix, etc.
  • Need to reduce systems management costs
  • A dynamic business environment that requires responsive IT support
  • Compliance requirements
What are the benefits? How would a channel professional sell SOM to a customer?
The purpose of SOM is to reduce the cost and improve the quality of systems management. SOM is a tool for doing more with less. By leveraging information technology to support information technology, components like the Configuration Management Database (CMDB) can support multiple processes, including patch management, end user support and compliance reporting. Similarly, implementing and enforcing policies with automated tools will reduce the cost of maintaining compliance and the cost of correcting damage caused by violations in those policies. What services might a channel professional consider offering customers to jumpstart an SOM business?
Channel professionals can support their customers in several ways, including:
  • Assisting with the deployment of SOM supporting systems, like CMDBs, patch management systems, service support software
  • Providing consulting and training on SOM-related practices, such as ITIL and COBIT
  • Conducting readiness assessments to determine organizational changes, such as formalizing IT policies and procedures that might accompany the implementation of SOM
  • Evaluating and recommending SOM supporting systems
  • Integrating SOM practices and tools with other initiatives, such as compliance efforts
What are some pitfalls or challenges to consider before offering an SOM solution?
SOM works best when organizations commit to following formal procedures. Implementing SOM management systems, like a CMDB, but continuing with ad hoc processes will lead to less then optimal payback.

SOM should be implemented incrementally. Start with a CMDB implementation and a limited process, such as asset management. First try to understand what you have before trying to optimize it. The ideal of keeping things simple at first needs to be balanced with the need to identify a pain point within the organization. SOM can bring early successes but one must be careful to not sell the idea of SOM as a silver bullet that works instantly. Adapting to methodical management procedures can be difficult in some organizations. What is IT governance and how does SOM fit in?
IT governance is the practice of keeping IT operations in alignment with business objectives and doing it in such a way that the organization is both efficient and in compliance. Broadly speaking, governance is about managing risks, delivering value from IT investments and protecting the integrity and availability of IT assets.

SOM is a supporting practice of governance. Executive managers will implement formal management models in order to reduce IT costs, improve quality of end user services, ensure adequate availability of services, understand and mitigate risks, as well as to ensure and demonstrate compliance. What impacts will SOM and IT governance have on businesses tomorrow? What trends do you foresee in the future?
Formal management practices like ITIL and COBIT are growing in popularity because they support governance efforts. Although these frameworks do not address every management challenge, they do provide a solid starting point for best practices in IT management. SOM, in turn, supports multiple elements of these frameworks, such as asset management, patch management, service delivery and risk management.

The future will bring more formalization of systems management. Current best practices, like ITIL and COBIT, will evolve and will better integrate with more focused standards, such as the security standard ISO 17799. Eventually, a broad consensus of management practices will emerge that is analogous to the generally accepted accounting practices found in financial management. There will still be plenty of work and challenges for IT professionals, but the basics of infrastructure management will be well defined and well automated.

About the interviewee: Dan Sullivan, Chief Technology Officer of Redmont Corporation, specializes in evaluating, designing and implementing enterprise content management and unstructured data management systems for Global 2000 companies. Dan's 17 years of IT experience include engagements in enterprise content management, data warehousing, database design, natural language processing and artificial intelligence. Dan has developed significant expertise in all phases of the system development lifecycle and in a broad range of industries, including financial services, manufacturing, government, retail, gas and oil production, power generation and education. Dan is the author of various books, columns and articles, and he is the leader of The Realtime Messaging and Web Security Community where he posts to his Messaging and Web Security weblog and produces his expert podcast.

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