Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Back to the Future – What IS a Service!!

Last year I set a goal of integrating SAE with other frameworks and standards. Inevitably this has been a considerable task, but to date I am pleased to say we have mapped to the TOGAF 9 framework, and of course aligned the SAE meta model and profile closely with the SoaML standard.

I started to look at the ITIL framework last year, but to be honest found it a slippery beast. But I have now created the time to have another go and I am pleased to report I have this month published guidance on how to use the SAE and ITIL frameworks collaboratively. The issue that I struggled with last year is that ITIL is a highly generic framework. It provides process guidance for service management activity, where the service is almost anything you want it to be. Whilst it is perfectly understandable that the service providers like HP, IBM, TCS et al envisage the scope of their services to be ever expanding, it doesn’t make it easy to get to grips with processes that are reduced to highly generic descriptions.

Further the nomenclature is very hard to work with. Whilst there is an ITIL glossary, there is no meta model, and similar to the Event Architecture space where, last year I also struggled with the Event Processing Glossary[i] for the same reasons, I found lots of inconsistency and no attempt on the part of the ITIL community to address core issues of nomenclature.

The root problem, (there are many more but I will focus on the core issue) is that ITIL describes the service as, “A means of delivering value to Customers by facilitating Outcomes Customers want to achieve without the ownership of specific Costs and Risks”. The term is in direct conflict with the SOA community that has established formal standards backed up by automation around the term Service. However the ITIL community choose to ignore this, leaving their customers to resolve the inevitable confusion.

The IT infrastructure professional makes word associations with Service that go along the lines of Network Service, ERP Service, Desktop Service and so on. Whereas the Application Architect thinks of a Customers Core Business Service, or an Events Service.

The ITIL documentation is really no help. In fact there is a section in the ITIL books headed WHAT ARE SERVICES? Which admits “.. over the years organizations have debated the definition of what is a service”, yet completely fails to provide answers, just generalizations. I have to admit some frustration with this, and it probably caused me to drop the research topic last year. No less than 10 years ago we were grappling with nomenclature in the service domain, and it seems incredible that we should have to repeat the experience.

In consequence, in my work this month on the collaborative use of SAE and ITIL I felt I couldn’t write sensible guidance unless I had some semantic consistency. I have therefore proposed a nomenclature and a simple classification system which I hope will at least avoid senseless time wasting over semantics.

I suggest in context with SAE and ITIL in collaboration, the ITIL service is called an IT Service and the first class SOA concept is called a Service. I have then provided outline meta models for the (ITIL SAE) intersection which is aimed at creating delivery and life cycle consistency.

In my report I do say that “we recommend SAE users adopt this approach as . . . it is essential to have clarity and consistency of core concepts. However we are not wedded to the specific term IT Service, and we will encourage standards organizations to resolve this. So in the meantime local solutions may be preferable. Consequently, if a major service provider chose to substitute the IT prefix with their company or division name, that might actually be a great solution that also representing very effective marketing!”

A wider issue is how and whether we should incorporate the concepts into the SAE meta model without any rigorous work from the ITIL community.

I do believe this is an area where the standards bodies need to undertake some work on an urgent basis, and maybe this needs to happen outside of the ITIL community in order to achieve a sensible result. Meantime, if you follow our advice, you will at least have internal consistency.

CBDI Report: SOA and ITIL Framework Collaboration
ITIL (The IT Infrastructure Library) is becoming widely adopted as the standard for IT Service Management. Described as a service management framework, the service concept at the heart of the ITIL process is about the general capability delivered by a service provider, which might coincidentally include SOA based services amongst the range of components delivered and managed. In this report we provide guidance on how to use the ITIL framework in collaboration with the Service Architecture and Engineering Framework (CBDI-SAE) for the Service Strategy and Design stages, and how to deliver better service management for SOA and modernization programs. By David Sprott