How to Apply ITIL to SOA Operations Management
An overview of its disciplines in the context of SOA requirements

Service-oriented architecture (SOA) proposes a model of software as a distributed network of cooperating services, in contrast to the traditional, more monolithic application model. Operationally managing such applications requires a sophisticated management organisation and operating framework that are capable of defining and sustaining service levels to customers across the enterprise.

ITIL is the widely adopted framework for service management, defined as the management of an IT infrastructure of hardware, software, communications equipment and facilities, documentation, and skills used to provide the required service at the required level of quality.

This article proposes that a framework like ITIL is required to adequately support SOA and will provide an overview of its disciplines in the context of SOA requirements.

ITIL: 1000ft View
ITIL divides service management into a number of disciplines, grouped into two main areas:

  1. Service support: The practice of disciplines that enable IT services to be provided effectively.
  2. Service delivery: The management of the services to ensure that services are provided as agreed upon between the service provider and the customer.

ITIL and SOA
Configuration Management
Configuration management is responsible for the provision and maintenance of information about all the components related to the delivery of services. Typical configuration items include hardware, software, people, relationships, documents, contracts, incidents, solutions, policies and procedures (see Figure 1).

Configuration management is central to all the service management disciplines and ideally requires a central database (CMDB) that is consistent, contains no duplication, identifies relationships, is accessible, and can generate management information.

SOA requires a CMDB in the form of a service registry (repository), which is a readily accessible catalogue of all available services. The registry could be implemented in terms of a traditional CMDB solution, but has distinctive requirements such as runtime access that perhaps warrant a specialized solution. In this case it is imperative that this solution integrates with existing asset management repositories, e.g., in order to determine the relationship between services and servers for capacity management purposes.

Service Desk
The service desk provides a human point of contact for service customers and has responsibility for dealing with user problems or information requests, notifying users about service disruptions (planned or otherwise), and tracking incidents through to resolution.

Service desks play a vital role in supporting SOA and will need to recognize that software services are supportable assets just like the applications they are more used to dealing with. The fine-grained and enterprise nature of services will mean increased load on service desks but this may be mitigated by the use of a "quality" service registry that is able to easily answer common customer queries and provide notifications. Quality that is, both in terms of the registry software and the data contained therein.

About Robert Morschel
Robert Morschel is chief architect at Neptune Software Plc and has extensive experience in distributed software development for companies such as British Telecom, Nomura and Fidelity Investments. He blogs on SOA at soaprobe.blogspot.com.

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