Tag Archives: industrialization

Lean ITIL Service Operation

This posting is ~7 years years old. You should keep this in mind. IT is a short living business. This information might be outdated.

The IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is a set of pre-defined processes and common practices (I try to avoid the word “best practice” when talking about ITIL) for the IT service management (ITSM).

When I talk with customers about ITIL, they often complain about the overhead of ITSM processes, that were designed according to ITIL. I already wrote about this in one of my previous blog posts (Is lean ITSM a myth?). Companies mainly have three problems during the implementation and/ or operation of ITIL processes:

  • slow processes
  • complex processes
  • error prone processes.

ITIL doesn’t tell you how to design a process. ITIL is a collection of common practices. Usually, you have someone that helps you to design and implement the processes and functions. If you don’t have an experienced consultant, you might get processes, that lead you to the wrong direction: Big, fat, complex, ugly, error prone processes.

At the end, your processes have to deliver value. But I saw so many crappy/ slow/ complex processes that doesn’t deliver any value, that I seriously began to doubt in ITIL. But again: ITIL isn’t slow, complex or error prone by default. The processes you design are slow, complex and error prone. The success of ITSM with ITIL is based on the processes that you design and implement.

The ITIL life cycle

The biggest difference between ITIL v2 and ITIL v3 is, that ITIL v3 focuses on the full life cycle of services, covering the entire IT organization.

ITIL v3 Lifecycle

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ITIL Service Operation

The ITIL Service Operation phase manages services in supported environments. The ITIL Service Operation volume describes the Service Operation phase as the part of the lifecycle, where the services and value is actually delivered to end-users and customers. The Service Operation phase is the only phase of the ITIL life cycle, that consists of process and functions.

Event ManagementService Desk
Access ManagementTechnical Management
Request FulfillmentApplication Management
Problem ManagementIT Operations Management
Incident Management

When designing the processs and functions, it’s important to focus on the delivered value! Without this focus, you will never be able to develop your IT from manufactory to factory.

Value Stream Mapping

Value Stream Mapping is method for analyzing the current state, and designing the new state of a process. Knowledge about the current state is mandatory for the design of the future state. Value Stream Mapping is a well-known method in Lean Management, and it can be applied to any value chain. A value chain is a number of activities to deliver a valuable product or service to a customer.

Value Stream Mapping can be used to analyze ITIL Service Operation processes and functions for potential waste. With the knowledge about potential waste, processes and functions can be optimized.

The Lean Management/ Toyota Production System knows three types of waste:

  • Mura (waste due to variation)
  • Muri (waste due to overburdening)
  • Muda (transportation, waiting, overproduction, defects, inventory, movement, extra processing)

I’m sure you can apply all three types of waste to ITIL Service Operation processes and functions. And because of this, methods and instruments known from the Lean Management can help to streamline ITIL Service Operation processes and functions.

Lean Managenent and ITIL

Lean Management offers a lot instruments and methods, that can be used together with the processes and functions of the ITIL Service Operation phase.

One of the greatest benefits is automation. Automate as much as you can. Kaizen (“improvement”) can be used as part of the Continuous Improvement of ITIL. Kanban can be used as part of the Service Desk, Incident or Problem Management. Problem-solving techniques, like A3, Kepner-Tregoe or 5W, can be used in the Problem and Incident Management processes. FMEA can be used for quality management as part of the Application, Technical and IT Operations Management. Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) can be used as part of the IT Operations Management. And there are many more possibilities to use methods and instruments of the Lean Management as part of the ITIL Service Operation Phase.


Every process may suffer from different types of waste. This can be due to bad design or bad execution. This can be a big problem in case of the processes and functions of the ITIL Service Operation, because these processes and functions  actually deliver services to end-users and customers. To provide the best possible service quality, you need effective and valuable processes and functions. The Value Stream Mapping can help to analyze current processes. With the knowledge about the value-adding activites of the current processes, IT organizations are able to design valuable and waste-free processes and functions. Methods and instruments of the Lean Management can help to achieve this.

Lean ITIL Service Operation must be the goal!

Is lean ITSM a myth?

This posting is ~8 years years old. You should keep this in mind. IT is a short living business. This information might be outdated.

When I talk with companies about IT processes and IT service management (ITSM), ITIL seems to be the de facto standard for ITSM. Implementing an ITSM without using ITIL, seems to be impossible. I have many customers that have implemented ITIL-based ITSM processes and most of them had enormous trouble during the implementation and/ or operation.

Lean ITSM and ITIL?

Companies mainly have three problems during the implementation and/ or operation of ITIL processes:

  • slow processes
  • complex processes
  • error prone processes.

ITIL doesn’t show you how to design a process. ITIL is a collection of best practices. Usually, you have someone that helps you to design and implement the processes and functions. If you don’t have an experienced consultant, you might get processes, that lead you to the wrong direction: Big, fat, complex, ugly, error prone processes.

You don’t have to implement all processes. It’s sufficient to implement some of the processes of the ITIL Service Operation phase to slow down you business. I used the term “agility” in one of my last blog posts (Industrialize your IT – after you have done your homework) to describe the ability of an organization to act flexible, proactive, adaptable and with initiative in times of change and uncertainty.

Agility needs lean processes

If your business has to be agile, your IT has to be agile. Agility needs lean processes. What are the characteristics of a lean process?

  • It delivers value

For sure, every process should deliver value. The value should, however, be determined by the customer. Only if the customer would pay for it, it’s has a true value.

  • It respects and involves the people who run the process

I don’t know how often I saw teams, that has to communicate over a ticket system, just because “it’s the process”. That’s not what I would call a process that respects and involves people. It’s a waste of time and knowhow.

  • It’s steamlined and free of waste

The Toyota Production System (TPS) knows three types of waste:

  • Mura (waste due to variation)
  • Muri (waste due to overburdening)
  • Muda (transportation, waiting, overproduction, defects, inventory, movement, extra processing)

To get a streamlined and waste-free process, you have to examine your current processes for potential waste. The Lean Management/ TPS knows different methods and instruments to streamline processes and to avoid waste.

Lean IT or ITIL? Or lean ITIL?

Some companies think that Kanban is all you need for Lean IT. No, that’s not all you need. Kanban is only an instrument to implement the pull principle. Lean IT is much more. But you don’t have to throw away your ITIL knowhow.

It can be useful to review your current ITIL processes for potential waste. Many Lean Management methods and instruments can be used in ITIL processes and functions. With a little skill, you can streamline your processes and get much leaner ITIL processes.

This is nothing new. ITIL and Six Sigma are often used together. In this case, Six Sigma is used to optimize the quality and the output of ITIL processes. So why not use Lean Management methods and instruments to put ITIL processes on diet?

Industrialize your IT – after you have done your homework

This posting is ~8 years years old. You should keep this in mind. IT is a short living business. This information might be outdated.

Today a tweet from Keith Townsend (@CTOAdvisor) has caught my attention:

Keith wrote a nice blog post and I really recommend to read it. His point is, that automation enables business agility.

The point of automation is to enable business agility. Business agility isn’t achieved by automating inefficient processes. The start of an IT automation project begins by examining existing processes and eliminating inefficiency.

Agility is the ability of an organization to act flexible, proactive, adaptable and with initiative in times of change and uncertainty. Can IT automation enable business agility? No, I don’t think that IT automation can enable business agility.

It’s all about processes

Business processes are the key to business agility. Keith wrote, that

Business processes are very organic systems that grow and evolve as a company’s business and culture matures.

and I’m totally fine with this statement. Processes tend to optimize themselves, if you let them. In cases where consultants are hired to improve faulty processes, the processes are often not the problem. The people who run them are often the problem.

Before you should think about IT automation, you should optimize your processes. Keith has a similar view:

Automation comes after you’ve established a repeatable process that has few if any points of contention.

Lean processes are the key

A business process has to deliver value. That’s quite clear. But a process has to deliver value and it has to be lean. Otherwise the business would lose its agility.

What are the characteristics of a lean process?

  • It delivers value
  • It respects and involves the people who run the process
  • It’s steamlined and free of waste

Streamlining processes and avoiding waste are the anchors for IT automation! But you should only automate what you have fully understood. Keith mentioned a nice example:

Money and time are better spent implementing an IP management system and continuing the manual processes. The problem wasn’t self-provisioning of VM’s but waiting for IP address assignment.

This example clearly shows that it’s mandatory to check each and every process for potential waste and pain points. Only after this step, you will be able to design a new, lean process.

IT automation can’t enable business agility. But lean business processes can do. IT automation can help you to streamline your business processes.

Time is changing

At the end I would like to refer to an important statement in Keiths blog post:

All of this goes back to my drumbeat that IT infrastructure practitioners acquire business alongside their technical skill set.

100% agree! The time of the people who have been sitting in dark basements, with their “There are 10 types of people” shirts and the opinion, that IT is the navel of the world, comes to an end.

Kanboard – Kanban made simple

This posting is ~8 years years old. You should keep this in mind. IT is a short living business. This information might be outdated.

I really like the idea behind Kanban. I wrote about it in 2014 (Organize your work with Kanban), and I even wrote my bachelor thesis about it (Industrialisierung der ITIL Service Operation Phase unter Verwendung von Lean Management // Industrialization of the ITIL Service Operation phase with Lean Management).

The word “kanban” comes from the japanese and can be translated with “signboard”, “card” or “billboard”. Kanban is a scheduling system and helps to implement the pull principle in a lean manufacturing system. The methods and instruments of lean management are widely used, not only in the industrial manufacturing. Especially in the the agile software development, Kanban has reached a noteworthy distribution.

What is Kanban?

Kanban is used in the Toyota Production System (TPS), which was developed by  Sakichi Toyoda, Kiichiro Toyoda and Taiichi Ohno. Taiichi Ohno is often stated as the “father” of TPS. TPS was developed to achieve a just-in-time production and to avoid overburden (muri), inconsistency (mura) and to eliminate waste (muda).

Taiichi Ohno defined seven types of waste:

1. Delay, waiting or time spent in a queue with no value being added
2. Producing more than you need
3. Over processing or undertaking non-value added activity
4. Transportation
5. Unnecessary movement or motion
6. Inventory
7. Reduction of Defects

To this end, TPS is built on two main pillars.

  • Just-in-time (JIT) – Making only what is needed, only when it is needed, and only in the amount that is needed
  • Jidoka – Automation with a human touch

TPS know different methods to avoid the seven types of waste. One of these methods is the pull principle. Kanban is an instrument to implement the pull principle in an industrial production process.

Lean Manufacturing is often used as a synonym for TPS. TPS and Lean Manufacturing are similar, but not the same. Lean Management is a more generic approach. Lean Manufacturing has been defined by Womack / Jones / Roos after they have studied the japanese automotive industry.

How can I use Kanban to improve my work?

In 2014, I wrote a blog post on how to organize your work with Kanban (Organize your work with Kanban). Kanban is used not only in the industrial manufacturing, but also in areas like software development or agile project management.

Kanboard – Simple and open source visual task board

Kanboard is not for everybody, it’s made for people who want to manage their projects efficiently and simply.

I’m stumbled over Kanboard some weeks ago. Kanboard is an open-source project management software, based on the Kanban methodology. It’s developed by Frédéric Guillot.

Kanboard is simple – easy installation, no fancy GUI. Focused on simplicity and minimalism.

It uses the visualization and the Kanban methodology to give you an easy overview of projects and tasks. You can use subtasks, attachments and comments to breakdown complex tasks. You can use the markdown syntax to format comments.  A central dashboard gives you centralised view over all projects, the number of tasks etc. Kanboard also offers Gantt charts to visualize the timeline of your projects.


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Most projects are done in teams, so it should be no surprise that you can work in teams with Kanban. Even international teams are no problem, because Kanboard is available in 26 languages. You can create local uses or you can use external authentication sources, like a LDAP directory (Microsoft Active Directory). In addition, you can use Google, Github or Gitlab as authentication source. If you wish to use something else, Kanboard offers a custom authentication system that is using a flexible authentication reverse proxy. You can use customizable user roles to implement different project roles and some kind of role-based access control. If you need a bit more security, you can implement 2-factor authentication.

Kanboard offers some nice integrations/ plugins. You can use APIs or web hooks to interact with other systems, you can subscribe to calenders using RSS, or you can use SMTP to create new tasks in Kanboard. Furthermore, Kanban is able to notify you using Hipchat, Slack, RocketChat, Mattemrost and Jabber.

Automation is mandatory. You can use automation to change nearly everything automatically, for example the assignee of a task, the color of a card, categories etc.

Controlling is also mandatory. Because of this, Kanboard offers a nice time tracking feature to keep track time for tasks and subtasks. The embedded analytics and reports helps you to analyze and improve your work. They offer simple flow diagrams or the burn down charts.

How to install Kanboard

The installation is really easy. All you need is a web server (Linux, Windows, FreeBSD etc.) with PHP support. For small deployments, you don’t need a database. In this case, Kanboard will use sqlite. Download the software, upload it to your webserver and extract it. Make sure that the “data” folder is writeable for the user, that is running the web server. Open a browser and enter the URL (depends on your deployment, whether it is a subfolder or whether you are using virtual servers). The first login is username “admin” and password “admin” (don’t forget to change it!). That’s it.

Make sure that you read the documentation, especially if you want to use integrations / plugins. In addition, you should read the documentation to familiarize yourself with the functions of Kanboard.


Kanboard is a simple and lightweight way, to use the Kanban methodology for agile project management. I like the simple installation and the really lightweight and responsive user interface. I really recommend to give it a try, not only if you are searching for a agile project management tool. You can treat everything as a project.

Complexity knows only one direction: Getting more complex

This posting is ~8 years years old. You should keep this in mind. IT is a short living business. This information might be outdated.

Complexity, in general usage, tends to be used to characterize something with many parts in intricate arrangement.


Following this disambiguation, and assuming that “many” means N > 2,  all systems with at least two or more components are complex. But that would be an exaggeration, right?

Why is information technology complex?

Most systems in information technology (IT) are complex. Almost everything we are working with, consists of two or more components, regardless if it is hardware or software. But it’s a question of the perspective. If you look at a system from a higher level, you will only be able to identify some of the greater components. If you look closer at it, you will be able to identify more, smaller components. Every system consists of hardware and software. Hardware is nothing without software. Think of a storage system, with all those disks, controllers, disk enclosures, firmware etc. Or think bigger: A complete infrastructure based on a VMware vSphere cluster with multiple servers, network switches, SAN switches, storage systems, synchronous mirroring between data centers etc. The system can be split into its components and sub-components. And each component and sub-component is more or less important of the operational function of the whole system. Adding more features makes a system even more complex. With each added feature or modified feature, the probability rises, that something breaks or doesn’t work as expected.

IT systems and infrastructure tends to act like a nonlinear system.

Matter of opinion

In fact, there is no uniqe definition of complexity. What complexity means, is in the eye of the beholder. If you understand each component of a complex system very well, the whole system isn’t complex for you. But the same system would be a “complexity hell” for someone else.

I’ve talked to many customers in the last months. Most of them don’t try to understand each aspect of their infrastructure. All they want, and all they need, to know is how to keep it running. And most of them have accepted that they need external help (like me), even for “simple tasks” e.g. adding a vSphere ESXi host, create new LUNs, adding VLANs, recovering a database etc. This also includes planned site failovers, even if the failover is done with a few clicks. It’s the order of the necessary tasks and the knowledge about dependencies, that prevents customers to do this on their own.

Interestingly, this is not only a problem of smaller companies, or smaller IT teams. I also observed this in bigger companies and IT teams. The only difference is, that you have more specialized staff in bigger organisations. One-track specialists. Knowledge is distributed over more individuals. Each and everything has to be discussed in bigger teams, meetings etc, because each individual knows only a small part of a bigger picture.

A typical reaction is to source less known, or “complex”, systems out. Out of sight, out of mind. I hear you say “Migrate to public cloud / IaaS / PaaS etc”. But does this make it more simple? No. Complexity is only shifted. Automation can reduce complexity! No, automation can hide complexity. You should only automate, what you have fully understood. A nice GUI can reduce complexity! No, a nice GUI can hide complexity. So there is no way out?


One possible way out of the “complexity hell” is to try to understand most (not all… that’s nearly impossible) of the components, and how they are interacting with each other. This seems to be the best way, right? No, it’s not the best way. To achieve this, you would need to invest much more time in building up knowledge. Sure, that might be a way for someone who has time, or someone who is being paid for his knowledge. But this seems to be not the best way for most customers.

Another possible way out of the “complexity hell” is to try to reduce components. Keep it simple. Focus on a lean design. Focus on the problem. Focus on the requirements. Lean thinking and a A scientific approach during the solution design, can help to build less complex systems. A customer doesn’t need a synchronous mirrored storage or replication, only because he has two datacenters. Sometimes, distributing primary storage and backup into different datacentes is sufficient. Stop using iSCSI or Fibre Channel for three or four node VMware or Hyper-V clusters. Focus on SAS for storage interconnect. Skip 24×7 support contacts if the customer only works from 9 to 5. Design the backup concept from the recovery perspective.

You get no prize for the prettiest solution. IT isn’t a beauty contest. Build simple and robust solutions. Complexity can’t be reduced with specific products. It’s a question of the design.

Certificate-based authentication of Azure Automation accounts

This posting is ~8 years years old. You should keep this in mind. IT is a short living business. This information might be outdated.

Before you can manage Azure services with Azure Automation, you need to authenticate the Automation account against a subscription. This authentication process is part of each runbook. There are two different ways to authenticate against an Azure subscription:

  • Active Directory user
  • Certificate

If you want to use an Active Directory account, you have to create a credential asset in the Automation account and provide username and password for that Active Directory account. You can retrieve the credentials using the Get-AzureAutomationCredential cmdlet. This cmdlet returns a System.Management.Automation.PSCredential object, which can be used with Add-AzureAccount to connect to a subscription. If you want to use a certificate, you need four assets in the Automation account: A certificate and variables with the certificate name, the subscription ID and the subscription name. The values of these assets can be retrieved with Get-AutomationVariable and Get-AutomationCertificate.


Before you start, you need a certificate. This certificate can be a self- or a CA-signed certificate. Check this blog post from Alice Waddicor if you want to start with a self-signed certificate. I used a certificate, that was signed by my lab CA.

At a Glance:

  • self- or CA-signed certificate
  • Base64 encoded DER format (file name extension .cer) to upload it as a management certificate
  • PKCS #12 format with private key (file name extension .pfx or .cer) to use it as an asset inside the Automation account

Upload the management certificate

First, you must upload the certificate to the management certificates. Login to Azure and click “Settings”.


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Click on “Management Certificates”


Patrick Terlisten/ www.vcloudnine.de/ Creative Commons CC0

and select “Upload” at the bottom of the website.


Patrick Terlisten/ www.vcloudnine.de/ Creative Commons CC0

Make sure that the certificate has the correct format and file name extension (.cer).


Patrick Terlisten/ www.vcloudnine.de/ Creative Commons CC0

Finish the upload dialog. After a few seconds, the certificate should appear in the listing.


Patrick Terlisten/ www.vcloudnine.de/ Creative Commons CC0

Create a new Automation account

Now it’s time to create the Automation account. Select “Automation” from the left panel.


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Click on “Create an Automation account”.


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Give your Automation account a descriptive name and select a region. Please note that an Automation account can manage Azure services from all regions!


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Click on the newly created account and click on “Assets”.


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Select “Add setting” from the bottom of the website.


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Add a credential asset by choosing “Add credential” and select “Certificate” as “Credential type”.


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Enter a descriptive name for the certificate. You should remember this name. You will need it later. Now you have to upload the certificate. The certificate must have the file name extension .pfx or .cer and it must include the private key!


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Finish the upload of the certificate. Now add three additional assets (variables).


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Select the name, the value and the type from the  table below. The name of the certificate is the descriptive name, you’ve previously entered when uploading the certificate.

AutomationCertificateNameName of your certificateString
AzureSubscriptionNameName of your subscriptionString
AzureSubscriptionID36 digit ID of the subscriptionString

Done. You’ve uploaded and created all the required certificates and variables.

How to use it

To use the certificate and the variables to connect to an Azure subscription, you have to use the two cmdlets Get-AutomationCertificate and Get-AutomationVariable. I use this code block in my runbooks:

$AzureSubscriptionName = Get-AutomationVariable -Name "AzureSubscriptionName" 
$AzureSubscriptionID = Get-AutomationVariable -Name "AzureSubscriptionID" 
$AutomationCertificateName = Get-AutomationVariable -Name "AutomationCertificateName"
$CertificateName = Get-AutomationCertificate -Name $AutomationCertificateName

Set-AzureSubscription -SubscriptionName $AzureSubscriptionName -SubscriptionId $AzureSubscriptionID -Certificate $CertificateName
Select-AzureSubscription $AzureSubscriptionName

Works like a charm.


Certificate-based authentication is an easy way to authenticate an Automation account against an Azure subscription. It’s easy to implement and you don’t have to maintain users and passwords. You can use different certificates for different Automation accounts. I really recommend this, especially if you have separate accounts for dev, test and production.

All you need is to upload a certificate as a management certificates, and as a credential asset in the Automation account.  You can use a self- or CA-signed certificate. The subscription ID, the subscription name and the name of the certificate are stored in variables.

At the beginning of each runbook, you have to insert a code block. This code block takes care of authentication.

A brief introduction into Azure Automation

This posting is ~8 years years old. You should keep this in mind. IT is a short living business. This information might be outdated.

Automation is essential to reduce friction and to streamline operational processes. It’s indispensable when it comes to the automation of manual, error-prone and frequently repeated tasks in a cloud or enterprise environment. Automation is the key to IT industrialization. Azure Automation is used to automate operational processes withing Microsoft Azure.

Automation account

The very first thing you have to create is an Automation account. You can have multiple Automation accounts per subscription. An Automation account allows you so separate automation resources from other Automation accounts. Automation resources are runbooks and assets (credentials, certificates, connection strings, variables, scheudles etc.). So each Automation account has its own set of runbooks and assets. This is perfect to separate production from development. An Automation account is associated with an Azure region, but the Automation account can manage Azure services in all regions.


A runbook is a collection of PowerShell script or PowerShell workflows. You can automate nearly everything with it. If something provides an API, you can use a runbook and PowerShell to automate it. A runbook can run other runbooks, so you can build really complex automation processes. A runbook can access any services that can be accessed by Microsoft Azure, regardless if it’s an internal or external service.

There are three types of runbooks:

  • Graphical runbooks
  • PowerShell Workflow runbooks
  • PowerShell runbooks

Graphical runbooks can be created and maintained with a graphical editor within the Azure portal. Graphical runbooks use PowerShell workflow code, but you can’t directly view oder modify this code. Graphical runbooks are great for customers, that don’t have much automation and/ or PowerShell knowledge. Once you created a graphical runbook with an automation account, you can export and import this runbook into another automation accounts, but you can modify the runbook only with the account which was used during the creation of the runbook.

PowerShell Workflow runbooks doesn’t have a graphical presentation of the workflow. You can use a text editor to create and modify PowerShell Workflow runbooks. But you need to know how to deal with the logic of PowerShell Workflow code.

PowerShell runbooks are plain PowerShell code. Unlike PowerShell Workflows, a PowerShell runbook is faster, because it doesn’t have to be compiled before the run. But you have to be familiar with PowerShell. There is no parallel processing and you can’t use checkpoints (if a snapshot fails, it will be suspended. With a checkpoint, the workflow can started at the last sucessful checkpoint).


Schedules are used to run runbooks to a specific point in time. Runbooks and schedules have a M:N relationship. A schedule can be associated with one or more runbooks, and a runbook can be linked to one or more schedules.


This is only a brief introduction into Azure Automation. Azure Automation uses Automation accounts to execute runbooks. A runbook consists of PowerShell Workflow or plain PowerShell code. You can use runbooks to automate nearly all operations of Azure services. To execute runbooks to a specific point in time, you can use schedules Runbooks, schedules and automation assets, like credentials, certificates etc., are associated with a specific Automation account. This helps you to separate between different Automation accounts, e.g. accounts for development and for production.

IT industrialization: From manufactory to factory

This posting is ~10 years years old. You should keep this in mind. IT is a short living business. This information might be outdated.

If you want to see highly automated and efficient production processes, you have to leave the information technology (IT). Look at the the automotive industry, or generally a industry with a high amount on industrial production. What is the output of IT? It is an IT service. What is a service? A for the customer convenient usable combination of knowledge, technology and processes. The following is the definition for a IT service used in the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) v3:

A Service provided to one or more customers, by an IT service provider. An IT Service is based on the use of information technology and supports the customer’s business process. An IT Service is made up from a combination of people, processes and technology and should be defined in a service level agreement.

You can use this definition and transfer it onto the automotive industry. You will notice, that a service-orientated IT and a automotive factory doesn’t differ much if you abstracted it.

To transform your IT into a service-oriented IT, you have to adopt IT service management (ITSM). You have to implement processes that transform people, knowledge and technology to a customer consumable service. The server you setup for a new application is only means to an end. Your customer, regardless if it’s an internal or external customer, doesn’t care if the server is from IBM or Hewlett-Packard. He doesn’t care if you are running VMware ESXi or Microsoft Hyper-V. He doesn’t care if you are running Apache or Microsoft IIS. He needs an additional web server, because the other webservers in the cluster are under high load, the website is to slow and potential customers are not willing to wait and move on to the competitors website.

Please note that when I talk about customers, I mean internal and external customers. IT always serves a customers, regardless if it’s an internal or externel customer.

The Manufactory

I know companies that act more like a manufactory than a service-oriented IT. Each server or VM will be installed by hand. Additional terminal server will be installed by hand. To avoid differences between servers, the administrators have to follow a step-by-step instruction (347 pages, every step documented by screenshots). And, even if there is a step-by-step instruction, each server will be a bit different. Virtualization? Uhhh, witchcraft. And if it is used, then resources will be reserved and the configuration will be more static than elastic. Don’t trust the hypervisor! If you ask the customer “Why don’t you automate?” you will get an answer like “We don’t have time and/ or knowledge to do this.” or “We’re to small.”. I saw several companies that used a very simple monitoring: The phone. If it rings and the customer complains about an error, something has broken. These companies don’t think in services, they think in prodcuts. Business requirements often end up in the statement like “We can not fulfill this requirement today. We need x months and x to fulfill these requirements.” Each solution designed to fulfill a business requirement is something between a masterpiece and a quick ‘n dirty solution. The wheel is often invented several times. Mostly the IT in these companies sees oneself as the center of the universe. And trust me: This is nothing that I only saw in small companies…

The service-oriented IT

To do ITSM is a good thing. Most companies I know that do ITSM, use ITIL for it. When I talk with other IT pros about ITIL, I get as a rule two reactions:

  • hatred
  • frustration

Exceptions prove the rule... ITIL is a common practice and doesn’t describe how a process has to look like. Someone told them how the process has to look like, and they adopted it. I know a lot companies that adopted ITIL processes without, or with only a few customizations. Service-oriented IT divisions have understood the need of processes and of a strategic approach to manage IT. They have understood that they deal with customers and that the customer pays the bill. This usually leads to the fact that they are trying to reduce costs and improve quality. So it’s not unusual that they are trying to automate most of their enviroment or that they use economies of scale. Sharing infrastructure between customers leads to lower fixed costs. They use tools to proactively monitor their environments. You can’t control what you can’t measure. And measurement is essential for dealing with service level agreements and to improve quality. But there is a dark side… The personal worst example was a company, in which a server deployment needed between three and six weeks. From the arrival of the hardware until the handing over to the operating. The effectiveness of the change approval and authorization was so bad, that sometimes business requirements were obsolete before the change was approved. This bad example shows the main problem of ITIL/ ITSM: The processes. ITIL/ ITSM isn’t bad, but sometimes it’s bad implemented. It’s mainly the excessive bureaucracy that deters many IT staff.

The factory

Let us pick up again the automotive example. Suppose that the transmission supplier changes. If you are the boss of the automotive company, what would you tell your production manager if he tells you “Sorry, but the transmission supplier has changed and we have to stop the production for four weeks. We need to search for a new supplier for the clutch and we have to modify some parts of the engine.” You would kick him out of your office, right? Me too… But that’s reality in IT. Changes in business requirements often causes changes in IT. Yesterday I found this interesting statement:

Today’s businesses cannot afford to deal with traditionally disruptive tasks, such as rolling or forklift upgrades. Systems and workflows must be always online and available.

I found it in the article “Completely Dismissing the FUD against Nutanix!” on Andre Leibovici blog. Nutanix is not the topic in this article, but Andres statement confirms my “empirical experience”. The next step for a service-oriented IT is to streamline processes and to modularize the service portfolio. This is what sometimes is called “IT Industrialization”. It describes the adoption of methods and instruments of the industrial production into IT. There are five essential characteristics about IT Industrialization:

  1. Streamline your processes. If you use ITIL for ITSM, than analyse your processes and try to reduce the waste. If you use another ITSM method, do the same. Reduce waste of resources and increase the quality. Strive for perfection. Take a look at Lean Management, TQM, Six Sigma. Streamlining processes will help you to react faster to changing business requirements.
  2. Products not projects. You have to focus more on products than on project. An IT service is a product that leaves an IT factory. Focus on that. If a customer wants a webserver, he wants a webserver. Not a project to installa a webserver.
  3. Standardization and automation. Don’t invent the wheel again and again. Try to achieve the highest possible standardization grade. Don’t ask your customer how many memory or vCPUs he want. Let the customer choose if the needs a big, mid or small VM. The number of manual operations should be as low as possible. This leads to automation.
  4. Use a standardized sales channel, e.g. self-provisioning.
  5. Reduce the production depth. Make or buy. If someone produces something with a better price/ quality ratio, don’t hesitate to buy his services.

Maybe you already realized that some of my enumerations sound like “cloud”. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) lists five essential characteristics of cloud computing:

  1. On demand self-service: A consumer can unilaterally provision computing capabilities, such as server time and network storage, as needed automatically without requiring human interaction with each service provider
  2. Broad network access: Capabilities are available over the network and accessed through standard mechanisms that promote use by heterogeneous thin or thick client platforms.
  3. Resource pooling: The provider’s computing resources are pooled to serve multiple consumers using a multi-tenant model, with different physical and virtual resources dynamically assigned and reassigned according to consumer demand.
  4. Rapid elasticity: Capabilities can be elastically provisioned and released, in some cases automatically, to scale rapidly outward and inward commensurate with demand
  5. Measured service: Cloud systems automatically control and optimize resource use by leveraging a metering capability at some level of abstraction appropriate to the type of service.

Where is the connection?

On your way, from the manufactory to the factory, elements of the cloud computing can help you to industrialize your IT. IT Industrialization is not a question of scale. Even if you are a small IT division, you can profit from IT Industrialization, but on a smaller scale. You don’t need the VMware vCloud Automation Center to setup self-service provisioning of VMs. You can use the VMware vCenter Orchestrator, Microsoft Systems Center or Puppet. Think about the five characteristics of IT Industrialization and try to adopt them on your needed level. Streamline processes and to modularize your service portfolio. Standardize and automate where you can. Try to reduce the waste of resources. And never forget who’s paying the bill…

Feel free to leave a comment or pick up this article and express your own view to IT Industrialization.