IBM's Integrated Service Management Quickens Pulse

Despite all the buzz about software as a service (SaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS), IT as a service is nothing new. That is what IT, when provided by support organizations, always has been and always will be. However, making that service better and extending its reach and range beyond traditional boundaries is critical to forward movement. That is where service management comes in.

David Hill

March 16, 2010

7 Min Read
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Despite all the buzz about software as a service (SaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS), IT as a service is nothing new. That is what IT, when provided by support organizations, always has been and always will be. However, making that service better and extending its reach and range beyond traditional boundaries is critical to forward movement. That is where service management comes in.

To emphasize the importance of these issues, IBM labeled its Pulse2010 conference in Las Vegas "The Premier Service Management Event" with the subtitle "Optimizing the World's Infrastructure." Given the magnitude of the conference, with over 5000 people, including IBM customers, partners and employees, plus a host of press and analysts in attendance, that claim is likely to stand up under scrutiny. IBM's Software Group—in which Tivoli had the major role—did yeoman's work in making Pulse a Las Vegas scale event.

Not Surprisingly, IBM led off Pulse by emphasizing its Smarter Planet strategy. Smarter Planet is not simply the media blitz, as seen in scores of TV, radio and magazine ads, but also represents a rationale for allocating current and future IT resources (people, time, and money). That will lead to the sale of new products and services, of course, but IBM's vision extends beyond that point. As a for-profit company IBM needs to make money now, but it also sees huge potential in evolving trends like Smarter Planet and understands that can accelerate that trend and potential revenues and profits with an intelligently placed push. Moreover, aligning its products and services for the needs of a Smarter Planet could well give IBM a competitive advantage over those competitors who do not act swiftly enough.

Integrated Service Management's Key Role in the Smarter Planet
One way that IBM is aiding the move to a Smarter Planet (with its three I's mantra of Instrumented, Interconnected, and Intelligent) is through integrated service management. To a large extent, service management is about how the connections between software and IT infrastructures can streamline or impede service delivery processes. The integrated service management concept that IBM wanted Pulse2010 attendees to absorb overcomes traditional piecemeal approaches where pieces of software are managed separately and often ineffectively.

IBM believes that three characteristics of integrated service management are necessary for the 3 I's to become ubiquitous, while at the same time reducing the risk and complexity of infrastructure management. Those characteristics are visibility, control and automation. Visibility denotes seeing services as they are being delivered. Control refers to the ability to manage service risk and compliance. Automation significantly changes the economics of service delivery. Integrated service management, as defined by IBM, requires all three characteristics if customers' Smarter Planet efforts are to succeed.Business Value
IBM spelled out three areas where integrated service management can provide businesses notable value, in industry, design and delivery, and for the datacenter. For industries this means industry-unique architectures and capabilities for integrated management of the technology infrastructure, including IT. This may be general, such as energy optimization and energy management, but is more likely to be a vertical industry or market focused, as in offerings designed for the specific needs of government, healthcare, and retail organizations.

Everything associated with the design, delivery and management of software engineered into intelligent devices and services. That gets into areas and markets typically not deeply associated with IT, such as power and water utilities. However, a number of IBM products and services, including Rational, Tivoli, and WebSphere integrations should provide the company entry in these areas. Moreover, IBM views cloud computing as elemental to the design and delivery of these services.

For the datacenter, IBM views data centers as providing the brains for the Smarter Planet so its efforts here are about delivering expertise and capabilities for improving the efficiency, for which the hoped for result is "cost containment" instead of "cost reduction" of IT operations and the effectiveness of IT-delivered and managed business services. This also describes the intersection of Smarter Planet and next-generation data center processes, in which Tivoli has a wealth of products.

As an illustration, the Web has been moving through stages starting with content and on to commerce, then people-focused and "things"-focused. That does not mean that the first three areas of focus will be diminished in importance in any way--in fact, the opposite is true--but it means that things will take their place as part of what needs to be managed. Interconnectivity will continue to grow with the addition of things to the network, but that also requires instrumentation, so that things can collect data, and intelligence, so things can understand what the data means and act on it. And each of the three areas discussed above plays a key role.

While understanding the big picture is important, most Pulse2010 attendees needed to turn their attention to more focused tasks, such as to how particular products could be best used in their environment. Consequently, the majority of time allocated for the conference was devoted to a wide range technical tracks and breakout sessions. That was augmented by an "Ask the Experts" area where participants could ask questions not addressed in the technical sessions.One breakout session I attended can serve as an illustration. Although IBM experts managed most tracks, a number run by customers, including France Telecom, were very worthwhile. The subject in the France Telecom session focused on why the company adopted IBM's SVC (SAN Volume Controller) for SAN virtualization. Now, any enterprise has to be careful about adopting new software capabilities into its IT operations and obviously telecommunications companies are especially sensitive about this issue as they are especially sensitive about how IT performance, such as availability and responsiveness, affects service delivery.

The company pursued an internal selection process, running two production pilots: one was to test basic functions and features and the second was to test scalability. Both tests went well, with the result that IBM's SVC was selected for production-level qualification testing. Why? Because SVC provided the necessary continuity of service with no performance penalty, along with cost, energy and licensing capabilities, as well as staff productivity improvements.

Note that France Telecom is an EMC shop for block-based storage using NetApp for NAS storage and plans to stay that way. So, the company is using IBM SVC to virtualize a competitor's storage hardware! That required a switch to IBM's replication tools, as SVC could not provide its full functionality and still run with EMC's replication tools, but France Telecom was willing to make that tradeoff. This not only demonstrates that SVC works as promised in heterogeneous (i.e., non-IBM) environments, but also qualifies as proof showing that enterprises continue to buy a mix of heterogeneous products and services that best reflect and fulfill their requirements. Note also that France Telecom needed greater reporting capabilities than those available from IBM. As a result, IBM France developed a new STAR (Storage Tiering Activity Reporter) solution to help France Telecom meet its monitoring requirements. This is another good example of how listening to customers can lead the development of new commercial functionality and opportunity.

My Take
IT conferences like Pulse2010 can help people better understand vendors' big picture strategic visions, but attendees can gain further edification by examining the wares on display and talking with experts in various disciplines. Overall, shows like Pulse2010 are valuable in extending the diffusion and transfer of knowledge. Still, as the world economy slowly struggles to recover, IT innovations will continue to be a strong driver of global economic growth. Large IT vendors help when they can turn their visions into reality by leveraging the capabilities of what their customers can do. On that journey, integrated service management, as defined by IBM at Pulse2010, can play a key role.

Integrated service management can lead to smarter services. That can lead to reduced costs whether that is in energy or related to something specific to an organization, such as reduction in therapy costs for a health care provider. Service-level related activities, such as availability and reliability, can be improved. Moreover, integrated service management may lead to new or expanded products and services that can add value by doing more of what was already being done or enabling something that was previously not able to be done at all or in a cost-feasible way. The combination of better cost management, better service levels, and a better prospect for overall added value is a winning one for integrated service management.

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