IT leaders now think about IT as a well-defined set of services that need to be delivered to the business, rather than as an amalgamation of various technology components that need to be properly cared for. IT organizations still driven primarily by technology components can easily wind up spending money and allocating staff resources where the business won’t necessarily get the most value. IT organizations driven by business services are better able to align investments with business impact—which means they generate higher Return On Investment (ROI) over the long term.
This services-centric perspective is epitomized in Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), which has become a de facto standard in IT management. ITIL v3, in particular, provides various mechanisms for helping IT decision-makers ensure that the full lifecycle costs of every service—from design and development to support and retirement—are appropriately considered in light of their actual business value.
IT leaders also have begun to think about IT as a consumer of energy. As data centers have grown, so has the use of power for computing and cooling. Rising power consumption has become a concern because of climate change and rising energy prices. IT organizations also are being required to implement “green” computing measures to comply with broader corporate initiatives to reduce carbon footprints and build eco-friendly brands.
Here, too, ITIL can be relevant. Most ITIL practitioners already understand how to factor infrastructure and staff resources into the ITIL equation. For IT organizations seeking to be “greener,” it’s a fairly straightforward matter to simply add energy use as a third resource in this equation. Energy is simply one more thing that can be assigned a cost and a utilization threshold. In this regard, it’s just like network bandwidth or the number of Level 1 help desk operators working the second shift. So, IT organizations can tackle their energy consumption challenges as part of their existing ITIL implementations rather than as some additional management burden.
Core ITIL Processes
ITIL identifies three processes that are essential to proper IT planning: demand management, availability management, and capacity management. The link between these three disciplines and effective service delivery is generally well-accepted by IT professionals. To effectively deliver services, IT has to understand demand, implement measures to ensure availability, and keep capacity just a few steps ahead of consumption. Good green computing, however, really requires the same thing. Fortunately, in the mainframe world, these easily come together.
Demand management tries to manage demand at its source. A service desk located on the West Coast, for example, may open its phone lines at 5 a.m. Pacific Standard Time (PST) to avoid the rush of calls that would occur because East Coast customers would already have been at work for three hours. If these calls weren’t distributed over the earlier hours, the service desk would have had to implement more capacity to handle the peak load that would have been waiting for it at 8 a.m. PST. In other words, by managing the demand for service desk services, the capacity required to deliver acceptable service is reduced.
Another example is time-based demand pricing. Business users that create workloads that run during peak business hours pay higher chargeback rates. Those that can shift their workloads to off-peak hours pay lower rates. For revenue-critical workloads that can gain value from completion during peak hours, such as account posting and credit card authorization, peak-hour processing costs can be financially justified. For processing-intensive, analytic queries in support of marketing or product development activities, which may not be as time-sensitive, it will typically make more sense to run the job at night (or in offpeak windows) and save the money.
Availability management ensures that all the IT resources required to support a given business service are up and running—or that they can be restored to service as quickly as necessary to meet the service levels the business requires— and that this is done in a cost-sensitive manner. ITIL provides mechanisms for understanding how the health of any given technology component impacts the service or services it supports. It also provides guidance for mapping service problems to Service Level Agreements (SLAs). This helps IT organizations appropriately prioritize their response to service and component failures. This prevents organizations from “swatting a fly with a sledgehammer” or, conversely, underestimating the impact of an outage on the business.
Capacity management focuses on meeting that demand. Capacity managers determine demand now and in the future, and then plan to meet that demand in such a way as to ensure acceptable service levels in terms of performance and availability while keeping costs within appropriate bounds. Essentially, this cost-consciousness comes down to making sure IT can succeed in these objectives with the resources currently available for as long as possible. Capacity managers also tune systems, optimize code, and distribute workloads to get the greatest mileage out of existing capacity.