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Integrate DevOps and ITIL Intelligently

by Grischa Ekart on Apr 26, 2013 |

Alan Sharp-Paul, co-founder of ScriptRock, recently highlighted the need to intelligently integrate DevOps and ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library) within enterprises.

ITIL is a set of planning, documentation, process and contract best practices that appear to reside on the opposite side of the spectrum of the agile DevOps. Alan argues that ITIL adoption had its benefits and is a "necessary evil" in the corporate world. However, in his opinion it is ridiculous

... attempting to force DevOps methodologies into a large Enterprise in the same way that ITIL processes were forced in over the last 5 - 10 years. Putting in ITIL where before it was the Wild West is one thing, applying DevOps principles where the order and structure of ITIL reigns is an entirely different, and far more risky, proposition.

Patrick Debois the independent IT consultant who coined the term DevOps and co-author of the upcoming DevOps Cookbook confirmed that integrating DevOps and ITIL is big topic. He went on:

ITIL has its place for its processes. ITIL as origin also grew like DevOps as a practitioner’s thing. (...) The problem with it are not the ideas, but the implementations. It can be useful. The one point is that it has been focused on controlling change. Many took this is as to avoid change.

Patrick's views are supported by IBM's David Norfolk who argues that ITIL has a valuable logical model that should just be separated from its outdated best practices. This will prevent DevOps from "reinventing the wheel" when focusing on business service delivery. Patrick retorted that DevOps should not change ITIL:

I would say ITIL needs to reinvent itself. How can it cope with frequent changes, with sharing of information. Many people in security are embracing DevOps, I hope ITIL to do the same. After all in ITIL v3 there was a lot of interaction with continuous improvement.

Robert Stroud, VP and Governance Evangelist at CA agrees with Alan. He does not see ITIL completely "go away", but the way ITIL processes are used changes. He sees "the use of automation and automated controls" as critical. Patrick added that increasing reproducibility by automating, auto approving changes and seeing infrastructure as code frees up valuable resources: "Change advisory boards can focus again on what matters instead of the manual and adhoc procedures."

This discussion thread continues the quest for DevOps implementation in enterprises that is gaining focus recently. For example, InfoQ ran an expert panel on the enterprise readiness for DevOps. Traditional ITIL champions such as BMC are attempting to unify both approaches on the conceptual and tooling level by searching for synergies. Moreover, at every DevOps Days conference, such as the upcoming DevOps Days in Mountain View 2013 practitioners are asked: "How does DevOps co-exist with ITIL and Cobit?"

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