Q&A: Inside Business Service Management

IT spending is under the microscope. How do you know you’re making the best investment decisions for network and server infrastructure? Business service management may be the answer IT and business users need.

IT spending is under the microscope. How do you know you’re making the best investment decisions for network and server infrastructure? How can both IT technical staff and business end users prioritize operations support in the most advantageous way? Business service management (BSM) may hold the answer.

To learn more, we spoke to Vikas Aggarwal, CEO of Zyrion, Inc. for his perspective on bridging the IT/business-user gap using BSM.

Enterprise Systems: What are some of the standard criteria IT should use for setting priorities on network operations support or IT infrastructure investment?

Vikas Aggarwal: Management decisions on where to focus investment or energy should be based on the business services impacted by a device or a piece of the infrastructure, rather than on the individual health of a given device or performance of one piece of IT infrastructure. IT has also evolved from the ownership perspective -- business unit managers are no longer content with IT being an independent “black box” component within the organization.

Today’s business managers are demanding increased accountability and want to ensure that IT infrastructure investments are being made in a manner that ensures the performance of business services and processes. The IT team has to ensure that the information gap is bridged and that the IT operations team informs management of the business services that are impacted when devices underperform.

Is that how the operations-support and investment decisions for network and server infrastructure are being prioritized today?

Today, the majority of operations-support and infrastructure investment decisions are being made on the basis of “localized” performance indicators, rather than understanding the impact to the overall business. Most IT organizations are focused on monitoring the performance and health of individual devices or pieces of the IT infrastructure in a siloed manner, and often make investment and resource allocation decisions based on measuring the individual component or device-level trends and metrics. As a result, when a given component within the complex IT infrastructure mesh performs poorly, it automatically becomes a candidate for further remediation or replacement, even if the impact on the supported business services and business processes is nominal.

Why has IT behaved in this way?

IT organizations have behaved this way because they have primarily relied on traditional network management systems that are focused on measuring and monitoring the technical metrics and trends of IT applications and infrastructure. Although these systems have enabled the IT operations team to identify problem areas from a technical point-of-view for a given piece of the infrastructure, significant gaps exist in determining the business impact of the given problems.

What will drive IT to change how it prioritizes operations-support and investment decisions for network and server infrastructure?

Because the business environment today demands that process owners take more control for the effective execution of their IT-enabled business processes, IT will increasingly be required to break free from the “silo” mentality and become more collaborative with process owners to ensure the smooth running of business services.

Unfortunately, most organizations do not operate in this way. They do not have the required systems management solution in place to bridge the gap that currently exists between the business owner’s understanding of problems with his or her processes and the IT team’s view of what is going at the technical level. Traditional network management systems and technology-centric monitoring approaches are incapable of determining the business impact of an issue in complicated infrastructure environments.

How can an IT organization use business service management solutions to bridge the IT/business gap?

Business service management systems can be deployed to connect the worlds of IT and business. BSM systems provide a correlated and business-oriented view of the IT infrastructure. They link the underlying IT infrastructure to the supported business services and processes. When a given component within the distributed and complex IT infrastructure mesh performs poorly, the BSM system helps the operations team see which dependent business or IT services have been impacted or will soon be impacted. If the business impact is nominal, the team can defer fixing or replacing the component in the short term. On the other hand, if the business impact is or will be severe, then this component immediately becomes a candidate for further remediation or replacement.

Can you give an example of how this works?

Certainly. A managed services provider in the U.S. has leveraged BSM capabilities to enable senior management to have business service views that span multiple departments, whereas technical staff members have views of the specific devices for which they are responsible. Most outage notifications in fault-tolerant configurations with localized alarms are dispatched to technical staff to handle without troubling senior managers. On the other hand, issues that impact mission-critical or cross-departmental aspects of the business are immediately escalated to senior staff so that resources can be allocated and decisions can be made quickly and efficiently to prevent subsequent problems.

How do you recommend IT monitor its progress on priorities? For example, how often should the entire priority list be re-evaluated?

Prioritizing decisions on network operations support and infrastructure investment is an ongoing process. Although this is clearly done within some budget and resource allocation guidelines, enterprises have to constantly prioritize the specific parts of the IT infrastructure that need to be addressed or improved to ensure continuous business operations. This means that IT organizations need to implement the management systems that provide the relevant and up-to-date information to enable efficient and effective decision making.

What products or services does Zyrion offer in the business service management market?

Zyrion’s Traverse is a breakthrough Business Service Management application that provides real-time visibility into the performance of IT services. Traverse's innovative Business Container and Service Level Management technology enable IT and business personnel to create unique virtual views of discrete business services, and make the alignment of infrastructure technology with business outcomes a reality. Traverse facilitates decentralized remote infrastructure management that is pro-active and preventive rather than reactive, giving all employee-levels the control and information they require based on their specific responsibilities and permissions.