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IT Management Activities and Their Context

This is the first in a series about IT management. You might think of this as system, network, application and cloud management, but definitions and practices are changing and expanding. Or, you might think of this as IT Service management. That’s certainly part of it as well. IT service management creates context so it is useful to include a framework like the ITIL because management categories like application management map to it. ITIL isn’t the only framework that gives context. Others include business process framework, control objectives for information and related technologies and FitSM. ITIL is the dominant framework, but it’s useful to look at others. FitSM, for example, is lightweight and free.

System, Network, Application and Cloud Management

If you’ve been in IT for many years, you might have direct experience with these management disciplines in the sequence–system, network, application and cloud management.

First there was little management (before the emergence of the notion of systems management) then systems management became important as systems that hosted applications were in the critical path of availability of the application. Next, network management developed coinciding with the emergence of SNA networks and later internet protocols with devices like routers, switches and firewalls and other networked devices. Later, in the mid-1990s, application management emerged as its own discipline because just handling the system and network wasn’t enough. Application management focused on other components that were important to applications like databases and middleware and how they operated in a specific way to support a specific application. Later, when cloud computing emerged, there was a new management discipline focused on cloud infrastructure, platform, application and business process services. New constructs result in new problems so cloud management handles these new technical challenges.

Static or Changing?

System, network, application and cloud management are changing to meet the needs of the communities they support. System management has been around since the early mainframes and earlier, but since mainframes are changing managing them evolves as well.

In the 1990s mainframe systems management underwent a massive change when automation software was used to take the role previously occupied by human operators. Instead of operators opening up problem records, software did it. Instead of operators starting, stopping and recovering subsystems and applications, software did it. These examples are limited to operations management, but you get the idea—automation changed everything in the operations management dimension of managing mainframe systems.

What About Frameworks Like ITIL?

ITIL is changing slowly. The 2011 version of ITIL is the current one that’s emerged from a library that was first published in 1989. The 2011 edition consists of five core publications focused on service strategy, service design, service transition, service operation and continual service improvement.

ITIL 2011 is an update to the ITIL framework that addresses significant additional guidance with the definition of formal processes, which were previously implied but not identified, as well as correction of errors and inconsistencies. The 26 processes listed in the ITIL 2011 edition, in addition to core publications, provide the main content for each process.

Next in the Series

In the next post, I explore systems management as a comprehensive discipline—what is it, how has it changed and what are the latest innovations to emerge. For this discussion, I plan to present systems management as a complete and vibrant network of activities.