As I mentioned in last week’s post, I recently received a message on LinkedIn from a regular blog reader who asked several questions related to ITIL and how it fits with a data center operations group.
Having worked in various data center operations groups over the years I know very well the tendency for these environments to focus on technical skills at the cost of having clear and repeatable procedures. While we all must focus on the technology to some extent, it is usually a mistake to overdo this. Technology often becomes obsolete and is replaced whereas a good process is likely to survive different iterations of technology. The performance of data center operations groups is often directly related to how well they document and adhere to numerous processes that must be followed.
The second question regards service level management. He wants to know how a data center operations group is involved in and affected by service level management.
Service level management is the ITIL process that ensures that agreements are defined, negotiated, and documented to set targets for the delivery of services. Common outputs of service level management include service level agreements, operational level agreements, and service review meetings. I like to think that service level management is there to set boundaries that both customers and departments within the IT organization must adhere to.
A data center operations group depends heavily on service level management to set effective targets for service delivery that can be measured and are actually achievable. These boundaries are documented in service level agreements and are underpinned by commitments documented in operational level agreements and underpinning contracts. The boundaries set in a service level agreement might affect a data center operations group by driving some specific level of monitoring to ensure that variations to agreed service levels are detected and reported. Furthermore, how quickly a data center operations group responds to outages, as well as how quickly they escalate to a higher level of support will often be defined in a service level agreement.
Another aspect of service level management that might involve a data center operations group is a service review meeting. A service review meeting is a regularly scheduled meeting between the service provider and its customer to review service performance and achievements. A data center operations group might play a direct role in these meetings, or it might play a supporting role by producing information to describe outages that happened during the review period.
Service level management is a key process that exists to ensure that targets are defined for service delivery and that those targets are well-understood, agreed upon, communicated, measured, and improved over time. A data center operations group will experience pure chaos in the absence of clear expectations for all aspects of service delivery, and these expectations are normally specified by a service level management process.