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Microsoft's Strategy for Service Management

Microsoft utilizes a multifaceted approach to IT Service Management. This strategy includes advancements in the following areas:

  • Adoption of a model-based management strategy (a component of the Dynamic Systems Initiative, discussed in the next section, "Microsoft's Dynamic Systems Initiative") to implement synthetic transaction technology. Configuration Manager 2007 delivers Service Modeling Language–based models in its Desired Configuration Management (DCM) feature, allowing administrators to define intended configurations.
  • Using an Infrastructure Optimization (IO) Model as a framework for aligning IT with business needs and as a standard for expressing an organization's maturity in service management. The "Optimizing Your Infrastructure" section of this chapter discusses the IO Model further. The IO Model describes your IT infrastructure in terms of cost, security risk, and operational agility.
  • Supporting a standard Web Services specification for system management. WS-Management is a specification of a SOAP-based protocol, based on Web Services, used to manage servers, devices, and applications (SOAP stands for Simple Object Access Protocol). The intent is to provide a universal language that all types of devices can use to share data about themselves, which in turn makes them more easily managed. Support for WS-Management is included with Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008, and will ultimately be leveraged by multiple System Center components (beginning with Operations Manager 2007).
  • Integrating infrastructure and management into OS and server products, by exposing services and interfaces that management applications can utilize.
  • Building complete management solutions on this infrastructure, either through making them available in the operating system or by using management products such as Configuration Manager, Operations Manager, and other components of the System Center family.
  • Continuing to drive down the complexity of Windows management by providing core management infrastructure and capabilities in the Windows platform itself, thus allowing business and management application developers to improve their infrastructures and capabilities. Microsoft believes that improving the manageability of solutions built on Windows Server System will be a key driver in shaping the future of Windows management.

Microsoft's Dynamic Systems Initiative

A large percentage of IT departments' budgets and resources typically focuses on mundane maintenance tasks such as applying software patches or monitoring the health of a network, without leaving the staff with the time or energy to focus on more exhilarating (and more productive) strategic initiatives.

The Dynamic Systems Initiative, or DSI, is a Microsoft and industry strategy intended to enhance the Windows platform, delivering a coordinated set of solutions that simplifies and automates how businesses design, deploy, and operate their distributed systems. Using DSI helps IT and developers create operationally aware platforms. By designing systems that are more manageable and automating operations, organizations can reduce costs and proactively address their priorities.

DSI is about building software that enables knowledge of an IT system to be created, modified, transferred, and operated on throughout the life cycle of that system. It is a commitment from Microsoft and its partners to help IT teams capture and use knowledge to design systems that are more manageable and to automate operations, which in turn reduce costs and give organizations additional time to focus proactively on what is most important. By innovating across applications, development tools, the platform, and management solutions, DSI will result in

  • Increased productivity and reduced costs across all aspects of IT;
  • Increased responsiveness to changing business needs;
  • Reduced time and effort required to develop, deploy, and manage applications.

Microsoft is positioning DSI as the connector of the entire system and service life cycles.

Microsoft Product Integration

DSI focuses on automating datacenter operational jobs and reducing associated labor through self-managing systems. Here are several examples where Microsoft products and tools integrate with DSI:

  • Configuration Manager employs model-based configuration baseline templates in its Desired Configuration Management feature to automate identification of undesired shifts in system configurations.
  • Visual Studio is a model-based development tool that leverages SML, enabling operations managers and application architects to collaborate early in the development phase and ensure applications are modeled with operational requirements in mind.
  • Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) enables greater and more efficient administrative control through modeling technology that enables downstream systems to construct accurate models representing their current state, available updates, and installed software.

DSI focuses on automating datacenter operations and reducing total cost of ownership (TCO) through self-managing systems. Can logic be implemented in management software so that the management software can identify system or application issues in real time and then dynamically take actions to mitigate the problem? Consider the scenario where, without operator intervention, a management system moves a virtual machine running a line-of-business application because the existing host is experiencing an extended spike in resource utilization. This is actually a reality today, delivered in the quick migration feature of Virtual Machine Manager 2008; DSI aims to extend this type of self-healing and self-management to other areas of operations.

In support of DSI, Microsoft has invested heavily in three major areas:

  • Systems designed for systems management—Microsoft is delivering development and authoring tools—such as Visual Studio—that enable businesses to capture the knowledge of everyone from business users and project managers to the architects, developers, testers, and operations staff using models. By capturing and embedding this knowledge into the infrastructure, organizations can reduce support complexity and cost.
  • An operationally aware platform—The core Windows operating system and its related technologies are critical when solving everyday operational and service challenges. This requires designing the operating system services for manageability. Additionally, the operating system and server products must provide rich instrumentation and hardware resource virtualization support.
  • Virtualized applications and server infrastructure—Virtualization of servers and applications improves the agility of the organization by simplifying the effort involved in modifying, adding, or removing the resources a service utilizes in performing work.

The Importance of DSI

There are three architectural elements behind the DSI initiative:

  • That developers have tools (such as Visual Studio) to design applications in a way that makes them easier for administrators to manage after those applications are in production
  • That Microsoft products can be secured and updated in a uniform way
  • That Microsoft server applications are optimized for management, to take advantage of Operations Manager 2007

DSI represents a departure from the traditional approach to systems management. DSI focuses on designing for operations from the application development stage, rather than a more customary operations perspective that concentrates on automating task-based processes. This strategy highlights the fact that Microsoft's Dynamic Systems Initiative is about building software that enables knowledge of an IT system to be created, modified, transferred, and used throughout the life cycle of a system. DSI's core principles of knowledge, models, and the life cycle are key in addressing the challenges of complexity and manageability faced by IT organizations. By capturing knowledge and incorporating health models, DSI can facilitate easier troubleshooting and maintenance, and thus lower TCO.

The Role of Service Modeling Language in IT Operations

A key underlying component of DSI is the XML-based specification called the Service Modeling Language (SML). SML is a standard developed by several leading information technology companies that defines a consistent way for infrastructure and application architects to define how applications, infrastructure, and services are modeled in a consistent way.

SML facilitates modeling systems from a development, deployment, and support perspective with modular, reusable building blocks that eliminate the need to reinvent the wheel when describing and defining a new service. The end result is systems that are easier to develop, implement, manage, and maintain, resulting in reduced TCO to the organization. SML is a core technology that will continue to play a prominent role in future products developed to support the ongoing objectives of DSI.

IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) and Microsoft Operations Framework (MOF)

ITIL is widely accepted as an international standard of best practices for operations management, and Microsoft has used ITIL v3 as the basis for Microsoft Operations Framework (MOF) v4, the current version of its own operations framework. Warning: Fasten your seatbelt, because this is where the fun really begins!

What Is ITIL?

As part of Microsoft's management approach, the company relied on an international standards-setting body as its basis for developing an operational framework. The British Office of Government Commerce (OGC) provides best-practices advice and guidance on using Information Technology in service management and operations. The OGC also publishes the IT Infrastructure Library, known as ITIL.

ITIL provides a cohesive set of best practices for IT Service Management (ITSM). These best practices include a series of books giving direction and guidance on provisioning quality IT services and facilities needed to support Information Technology. The documents are maintained by the OGC and supported by publications, qualifications, and an international users group.

Started in the 1980s, ITIL is under constant development by a consortium of industry IT leaders. The ITIL covers a number of areas and is primarily focused on ITSM; its IT Infrastructure Library is considered to be the most consistent and comprehensive documentation of best practices for IT Service Management worldwide.

ITSM is a business-driven, customer-centric approach to managing Information Technology. It specifically addresses the strategic business value generated by IT and the need to deliver high-quality IT services to one's business organization. ITSM itself has two main components:

  • Service support
  • Service delivery

Philosophically speaking, ITSM focuses on the customer's perspective of IT's contribution to the business, which is analogous to the objectives of other frameworks in terms of their consideration of alignment of IT service support and delivery with business goals in mind.

Although ITIL describes the what, when, and why of IT operations, it stops short of describing how a specific activity should be carried out. A driving force behind its development was the recognition that organizations are increasingly dependent on IT for satisfying their corporate objectives relating to both internal and external customers, which increases the requirement for high-quality IT services. Many large IT organizations realize that the road to a customer-centric service organization runs along an ITIL framework.

ITIL also specifies keeping measurements or metrics to assess performance over time. Measurements can include a variety of statistics, such as the number and severity of service outages, along with the amount of time it takes to restore service. These metrics can be used to quantify to management how well IT is performing. This information can be particularly useful for justifying resources during the next budget process!

What Is MOF?

ITIL is generally accepted as the "best practices" for the industry. Being technology-agnostic, it is a foundation that can be adopted and adapted to meet the specific needs of various IT organizations. Although Microsoft chose to adopt ITIL as a standard for its own IT operations for its descriptive guidance, Microsoft designed MOF to provide prescriptive guidance for effective design, implementation, and support of Microsoft technologies.

MOF is a set of publications providing both descriptive (what to do, when and why) and prescriptive (how to do) guidance on IT Service Management. The key focus in developing MOF was providing a framework specifically geared toward managing Microsoft technologies. Microsoft created the first version of the MOF in 1999. The latest iteration of MOF (version 4) is designed to further

  • Update MOF to include the full end-to-end IT service life cycle;
  • Let IT governance serve as the foundation of the life cycle;
  • Provide useful, easily consumable best practice–based guidance;
  • Simplify and consolidate service management functions (SMFs), emphasizing work-flows, decisions, outcomes, and roles.

MOF is designed to complement Microsoft's previously existing Microsoft Solutions Framework (MSF), which provides guidance for application development solutions. Together, the combined frameworks provide guidance throughout the IT life cycle, as shown in Figure 1.2.

Figure 1.2

Figure 1.2 The IT life cycle and Microsoft frameworks

At its core, the MOF is a collection of best practices, principles, and models. It provides direction to achieve reliability, availability, supportability, and manageability of mission-critical production systems, focusing on solutions and services using Microsoft products and technologies. MOF extends ITIL by including guidance and best practices derived from the experience of Microsoft's internal operations groups, partners, and customers worldwide. MOF aligns with and builds on the IT Service Management practices documented within ITIL, thus enhancing the supportability built on Microsoft's products and technologies.

MOF uses a process model that describes Microsoft's approach to IT operations and the service management life cycle. The model organizes the core ITIL processes of service support and service delivery, and it includes additional MOF processes in the four quadrants of the MOF process model, as illustrated in Figure 1.3.

Figure 1.3

Figure 1.3 The MOF process model

It is important to note that the activities pictured in the quadrants illustrated in Figure 1.3 are not necessarily sequential. These activities can occur simultaneously within an IT organization. Each quadrant has a specific focus and tasks, and within each quadrant are policies, procedures, standards, and best practices that support specific operations management–focused tasks.

Configuration Manager 2007 can be employed to support operations management tasks in different quadrants of the MOF Process Model. Let's look briefly at each of these quadrants and see how one can use ConfigMgr to support MOF:

  • Changing—This quadrant represents instances where new service solutions, technologies, systems, applications, hardware, and processes have been introduced.

    The software and OS deployment features of ConfigMgr can be used to automate many activities in the Changing quadrant.

  • Operating—This quadrant concentrates on performing day-to-day tasks efficiently and effectively.

    ConfigMgr includes many operational tasks that you can initiate from the Configuration Manager console, or that can be automated completely. These are available through various product components, such as update management and software deployment features. The Network Access Protection feature can be utilized to verify clients connecting to the network meet certain corporate criteria, such as antivirus software signatures, before being granted full access to resources.

  • Supporting—This quadrant represents the resolution of incidents, problems, and inquiries, preferably in a timely manner.

    Using the Desired Configuration Management feature of ConfigMgr in conjunction with software deployment, widespread shifts in system configurations can be identified and reversed with a minimum of effort.

  • Optimizing—This quadrant focuses on minimizing costs while optimizing performance, capacity, and availability in the delivery of IT services.

    ConfigMgr reporting delivers in a number of functional areas of IT operations. For example, out of the box reports provide instant insight into hardware readiness for operating system deployment to help minimize the hands-on aspects of hardware assessment in upgrade planning. In conjunction with the software metering and asset intelligence features of Configuration Manager, reports can provide insight into unused software licenses that can be reclaimed for use elsewhere.

Service Level Agreements and Operating Level Agreements (OLAs) are tools many organizations use in defining accepted levels of operation and ability. Configuration Manager includes the ability to schedule software and update deployment, as well as to define maintenance windows in support of SLAs and OLAs.

Additional information regarding the MOF Process Model is available at http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=50015.

MOF Does Not Replace ITIL

Microsoft believes that ITIL is the leading body of knowledge of best practices; for that reason, it uses ITIL as the foundation for MOF. Rather than replacing ITIL, MOF complements it and is similar to ITIL in several ways:

  • MOF (with MSF) spans the entire IT life cycle.
  • Both MOF and ITIL are based on best practices for IT management, drawing on the expertise of practitioners worldwide.
  • The MOF body of knowledge is applicable across the business community—from small businesses to large enterprises. MOF also is not limited only to those using the Microsoft platform in a homogenous environment.
  • As is the case with ITIL, MOF has expanded to be more than just a documentation set. In fact, MOF is now intertwined with another System Center component, Operations Manager 2007!

Additionally, Microsoft and its partners provide a variety of resources to support MOF principles and guidance, including self-assessments, IT management tools that incorporate MOF terminology and features, training programs and certification, and consulting services.

Service Management Mastery: ISO 20000

You can think of ITIL and ITSM as providing a framework for IT to rethink the ways in which it contributes to and aligns with the business. ISO 20000, which is the first international standard for IT Service Management, institutionalizes these processes. ISO 20000 helps companies to align IT services and business strategy, to create a formal framework for continual service improvement, and provides benchmarks for comparison to best practices.

Published in December 2005, ISO 20000 was developed to reflect the best-practice guidance contained within ITIL. The standard also supports other IT Service Management frameworks and approaches, including MOF, Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMi) and Six Sigma. ISO 20000 consists of two major areas:

  • Part 1 promotes adopting an integrated process approach to deliver managed services effectively that meets business and customer requirements.
  • Part 2 is a "code of practice" describing the best practices for service management within the scope of ISO 20000-1.

These two areas—what to do and how to do it—have similarities to the approach taken by the other standards, including MOF.

ISO 20000 goes beyond ITIL, MOF, Six Sigma, and other frameworks in providing organizational or corporate certification for organizations that effectively adopt and implement the ISO 20000 code of practice.

Optimizing Your Infrastructure

According to Microsoft, analysts estimate that over 70% of the typical IT budget is spent on infrastructure—managing servers, operating systems, storage, and networking. Add to that the challenge of refreshing and managing desktop and mobile devices, and there's not much left over for anything else. Microsoft describes an Infrastructure Optimization Model that categorizes the state of one's IT infrastructure, describing the impacts on cost, security risks, and the ability to respond to changes. Using the model shown in Figure 1.4, you can identify where your organization is, and where you want to be:

  • Basic—Reactionary, with much time spent fighting fires
  • Standardized—Gaining control
  • Rationalized—Enabling the business
  • Dynamic—Being a strategic asset
Figure 1.4

Figure 1.4 The Infrastructure Optimization Model

Although most organizations are somewhere between the basic and standardized levels in this model, typically one would prefer to be a strategic asset rather than fighting fires. Once you know where you are in the model, you can use best practices from ITIL and guidance from MOF to develop a plan to progress to a higher level. The IO Model describes the technologies and steps organizations can take to move forward, whereas the MOF explains the people and processes required to improve that infrastructure. Similar to ITSM, the IO Model is a combination of people, processes, and technology.

More information about Infrastructure Optimization is available at http://www.microsoft.com/technet/infrastructure.

From Fighting Fires to Gaining Control

At the Basic level, your infrastructure is hard to control and expensive to manage. Processes are manual, IT policies and standards are either nonexistent or not enforced, and you don't have the tools and resources (or time and energy) to determine the overall health of your applications and IT services. Not only are your desktop and server management costs out of control, but you are in reactive mode when it comes to security threats. In addition, you tend to use manual rather than automated methods for applying software deployments and patches. To try to put a bit of humor into this, you could say that computer management has you all tied up, like the system administrator shown in Figure 1.5.

Figure 1.5

Figure 1.5 The Basic level can leave you feeling tied up in knots.

Does this sound familiar? If you can gain control of your environment, you may be more effective at work! Here are some steps to consider:

  • Develop standards, policies, and controls.
  • Alleviate security risks by developing a security approach throughout your IT organization.
  • Adopt best practices, such as those found in ITIL, and operational guidance found in MOF.
  • Build IT to become a strategic asset.

If you can achieve operational nirvana, this will go a long way toward your job satisfaction and IT becoming a constructive part of your business.

From Gaining Control to Enabling the Business

A Standardized infrastructure introduces control by using standards and policies to manage desktops and servers. These standards control how you introduce machines into your network. As an example, using Directory Services will manage resources, security policies, and access to resources. Shops in a Standardized state realize the value of basic standards and some policies, but still tend to be reactive. Although you now have a managed IT infrastructure and are inventorying your hardware and software assets and starting to manage licenses, your patches, software deployments, and desktop services are not yet automated. Security-wise, the perimeter is now under control, although internal security may still be a bit loose.

To move from a Standardized state to the Rationalized level, you will need to gain more control over your infrastructure and implement proactive policies and procedures. You might also begin to look at implementing service management. At this stage, IT can also move more toward becoming a business asset and ally, rather than a burden.

From Enabling the Business to Becoming a Strategic Asset

At the Rationalized level, you have achieved firm control of desktop and service management costs. Processes and policies are in place and beginning to play a large role in supporting and expanding the business. Security is now proactive, and you are responding to threats and challenges in a rapid and controlled manner.

Using technologies such as lite-touch and zero-touch operating system deployment helps you to minimize costs, deployment time, and technical challenges for system rollouts. Because your inventory is now under control, you have minimized the number of images to manage, and desktop management is now largely automated. You also are purchasing only the software licenses and new computers the business requires, giving you a handle on costs. Security is now proactive with policies and control in place for desktops, servers, firewalls, and extranets.

Mission Accomplished: IT as a Strategic Asset

At the Dynamic level, your infrastructure is helping run the business efficiently and stay ahead of competitors. Your costs are now fully controlled. You have also achieved integration between users and data, desktops and servers, and the different departments and functions throughout your organization.

Your Information Technology processes are automated and often incorporated into the technology itself, allowing IT to be aligned and managed according to business needs. New technology investments are able to yield specific, rapid, and measurable business benefits. Measurement is good—it helps you justify the next round of investments!

Using self-provisioning software and quarantine-like systems to ensure patch management and compliance with security policies allows you to automate your processes, which in turn improves reliability, lowers costs, and increases your service levels.

According to IDC research, very few organizations achieve the Dynamic level of the Infrastructure Optimization Model—due to the lack of availability of a single toolset from a single vendor to meet all requirements. Through execution on its vision in DSI, Microsoft aims to change this. To read more on this study, visit http://download.microsoft.com/download/a/4/4/a4474b0c-57d8-41a2-afe6-32037fa93ea6/IDC_windesktop_IO_whitepaper.pdf.

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