Are ITIL and DevOps contradictory per se or can they be combined?
The classic black and white debate
“They’re nothing but pirates! They must think that laws don’t apply to them. They fail to comply with any law beyond their own principles, that is if they have any in the first place. If they have a smidgen of decency, they look for loopholes to bypass the law, but usually they just shamelessly ignore it“, said the man in the black gown and white curly wig.
Upon which a surprisingly smartly dressed, mystical-looking young man replied:
“Are we simply to take those wrinkled, bureaucratic pen pushers at their word? Believe that their rules are there for our own good? Marching to their tune invariably leads to slavery and an even more fragmented society.”
Let’s imagine that the wig wearers are hard-core ITIL devotees, and the polished young gentleman a revolutionary DevOps aficionado. Instead of criticising one another or denying each other’s right to exist, the key to their mutual future lies in joining forces! But can ITIL and DevOps work together? Are these principles compatible?
What happens to IT Service Management when the zombie apocalypse strikes?
Let’s take a step back and begin with the ITIL framework. The IT Service Management framework is outlined in the IT Infrastructure Library. Without citing the entire foundation course here, it provides a number of IT “best practices” that create added value for the business.
Of course, we mustn’t forget that the raison d’être for IT is completely at the mercy of the business for which it provides services. Should the zombie apocalypse strike tomorrow and the world as we know it end, millions of terabytes of AT&T data or the dizzying number of Amazon’s compute node CPU cycles will become scrap. In the event of a robot apocalypse, other theories obviously apply. However, let’s concentrate on the first scenario.
ITIL structures IT service lifecycle best practices in 5 phases: Service Strategy, Service Design, Service Transition, Service Operation and Continual Service Improvement. These phases answer three key questions: Why are we providing our service? How
It’s important to understand that ITIL is not a regulation to be precisely adhered to at all times. It originated as a set of positive recommendations. That is precisely the reason why ITIL and Devops can work well together.
DevOps: The New Kid On The Block!
DevOps is hip. DevOps is cool. DevOps is sexy. This “buzzword” is however frequently spouted without understanding its true meaning. Strangely enough, that’s precisely the strength of the DevOps philosophy. Each company can determine how to define DevOps within their own individual business.
Note the use of the word “philosophy”. DevOps has no “manifesto (Agile)”, “PMBOK (PMI)” or “library (ITIL)”. It’s a mind-set based on principles for eliminating “compartmentalised” thinking (silos) and promoting increased cooperation within the business. And where does this problem typically occur? That’s right; Development versus Operations. Two worlds that have been in conflict since time immemorial. Or is that simply because they have a bad perception of one another?
Development accuses Operations of not being flexible and fast enough; Operations denounces Development for handing over less than optimal solutions.
By involving development in the “supportability” thought process, we can better automate day-to-day application support and simultaneously make operations more agile.
DevOps actively tackles this by:
- Developing & testing in “production-like” environments
- Deploying via a repeatable and reliable process
- Monitoring & validating Operations quality
- Strengthening feedback loops
This is how we endeavour to eliminate the “versus” from Development and Operations, and to arrive at DevOps.
A common goal
ITIL is a best practice framework for running IT. In contrast, DevOps is a way of getting things done. Nevertheless, ITIL and DevOps have one common goal: “Creating value for the business”.
The link between the two is best explained by starting from the ITIL framework:
ITIL Service Transition covers rollout into production. As it concerns “How to get things done?” it’s arguably the most natural overlap between ITIL and DevOps. Harnessing ITIL best practice processes as a structure and DevOps to optimise value to the business, enables a seamless fusion of the two. This can be accomplished by expediting, simplifying and/or automating processes and by guaranteeing that we offer qualitative and superior support for products that have been entered into production.
ITIL Service Operation is where the actual value for the business is created and is thus of vital importance.
A prominent sports brand publishes an online application to enable online buyers to personalise their ordered shoes with their own text. A good move in terms of customer retention, attracting new customers and boosting customer satisfaction. Regrettably, it transpires post roll-out that the application freezes halfway through shoe configuration on 50% of web browsers. The application’s function (Dev) is extremely powerful, yet if it adds no value to the business it’s essentially useless. Its value lies squarely in its successful use (Ops)! The situation in this example will cause significant frustration amongst customers and will demand additional helpdesk resources, ultimately damaging the business.
ITIL includes a Service Design Package, neatly documenting all aspects of an IT service. In fact, it discusses and records every phase. Combine this with DevOps and the “Shift Left” principle, and many problems are prevented. By engaging development earlier in the service design process, for example.
De FlowFactor perspective
At FlowFactor, we view the convergence of ITIL and DevOps as follows:
- ITIL: responsible for providing an overview of best practices.
- DevOps: helps us to align to the business environment and requirements.
Each and every business can put at least some of the DevOps philosophies into practice. The essence is a closer alignment of development and operations in order to improve IT support!