Friday, February 10, 2012

Evaluating our ITSM Toolset Maturity

This post at The IT Skeptic is somewhat dated (in changing at the speed of light terms) but I feel it is spot on. As I posted previously we are working towards an implementation of ITSM/ITIL Lite. That is, we are basing our tools and processes on the ITIL framework – capturing enough to provide value – and hoping to avoid the pieces that do not. We are a relatively small group within a Healthcare organization managing ~900 desktops, ~175 servers, ~100 network devices, a full VoIP deployment, numerous network connected clinical devices, and hosting an EHR platform servicing Western Montana.

Here is where we are currently positioned in regard to his (amended) eight points:

1. Incident and Service Request

We utilize the BMC SDE (Service Desk Express) for this function. The application is locally hosted. We capture Incidents and Service Requests via phone at our Service Desk and via the web using the Self Service component. Out of the box reporting leaves something to be desired but we are happy with our current ‘build’.

WORK TO BE DONE: Customize reporting for greater Service visibility. Out of the box reports focus on Incidents/Categories not on Services.

2. Change Management

BMC offers a Change Management component for BMC SDE. We utilize this component and a weekly WebEx meeting to provide for Change Management documentation. We would like to leverage this component to automatically generate scheduled downtime reports. Again, out of the box reports leave something to be desired.

WORK TO BE DONE: Develop CM reports to provide greater visibility into scheduled downtime events. Develop management level reporting.

3. Asset List

Here we have room for improvement. As previously mentioned we are working to develop an Asset list to capture key components. We are not necessarily going all the way down to the Desktop level. Our intention is to utilize BMC SDE to capture this Asset information. Should we decide to move this to the Desktop level we will require a toolset change or some custom interfacing to avoid manual data entry. See below. Currently we have captured all of our Assets via a spreadsheet but the Asset list component of BMC needs to be built and populated.

WORK TO COMPLETE: Building and rolling out our Asset list functionality.

4. Central Event Monitoring / Alert Consolidation

Zenoss is our tool of choice for centralized monitoring and alerting. With this tool we are able to consolidate and prioritize email, SNMP, syslog, and WMI events in one central location. Aggregated events are then displayed on the console and emailed to appropriate team members. We also gain Change visibility for all network devices through packaged integration with the RANCID tool. This is nice as a means of detecting unauthorized changes. In the future we would like to incorporate similar Change visibility in regard to our server systems through integration with a tool like Tripwire or vCenter Configuration Manager. In the short term we intend to interface this system with BMC to automatically generate Incidents when Events are received. (We consolidate Incident/Event into one with the Category being an ‘Event’.)

WORK TO COMPLETE: Interface between Zenoss and BMC for automatic generation of Incidents. This will likely be an email based interface. Extension of Zenoss beyond core infrastructure and into Applications and CIS Systems Interfacing.

5. Monitoring End-User Service Experience

We have nothing in place here outside of user perception. This looks to be a good area to apply some focus. How are other folks accomplishing this?

WORK TO COMPLETE: Evaluate value. Research possibilities.

6. Service Availability Tracking and Reporting


Ditto. We have some conceptual ideas but nothing in the works. We feel we can capture some of this with BMC as Problems with the Category of ‘Outage’ or ‘Degradation’ and report appropriately.

WORK TO COMPLETE: Continue conceptual discussions.

7. Anti-Virus

We run a comprehensive suite of McAfee products. We could improve on our reporting component.

WORK TO COMPLETE: Evaluation of reporting requirements. Potentially engage vendor to ensure we are getting the most out of this tool.

8. Software Distribution and Patch Management

LanDesk is currently utilized for this component. We gain a lot from this tool but we have more to learn and additional progress to make. The lack of native LanDesk / BMC interfacing/integration is a challenge. We would love to associate Assets with Incidents/Service Requests/Problems/Changes in BMC but some custom work will have to happen to accomplish this. Option A – Have this integration developed. Option B – Make a plan to ultimately source these tools from a single vendor. Right now we have not placed a high priority on this integration component.

WORK TO COMPLETE: Evaluation of interfacing options. Potentially engage vendor to ensure we are getting the most out of this tool.

So – if we are all to agree that these requirements in regard to ITSM tools are relatively accurate we are in a fairly good spot. We have some work to do but our current toolset seems up to the task. In the future as our processes continue to evolve we may find ourselves looking to a single vendor to provide a comprehensive integrated solution. You learn as you go – IT decisions are never forever and relationships between toolset vendors are always evolving. Feedback and thoughts are always appreciated.

UPDATE:  Speaking of speed of light.  Shortly after posting this I realized I completely missed the BMC/Numara acquisition announcement.  Things will get interesting indeed.

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