ITIL version 4 was announced back in February with significant fanfare. IT Operations practitioners are now studying the new ITIL concepts with urgency, unlike their reaction to earlier updates. ITIL 4 is likely to have measurable impact on the day-to-day life of IT Ops professionals in the near term future.
Given the excitement and anticipated significance of this update, many Moogsoft customers and prospects are inquiring about the impact of ITIL 4 on AIOps — as both a discipline and a technology.
Are ITIL 4 and AIOps incompatible? Are they mutually reinforcing? Do they have nothing at all to do with one another? Based upon Moogsoft’s preliminary study and analysis, we offer the following perspective.
Indeed, ITIL 4 and AIOps are fundamentally compatible. In fact, one could go further and argue that the deployment of AIOps technology is a prerequisite for realizing the objectives of ITIL 4. Where it falls short, however, is in not explicitly addressing the modifications in IT Operations practice required to optimize collaboration with AI-based systems.
In Moogsoft’s opinion, future versions of ITIL should acknowledge and expound upon the best practices for man-machine cooperation. Indeed further changes in task structure and skill hierarchy will be required to ensure that human and AI-driven digital agents work harmoniously side-by-side. For now, let’s work with what ITIL 4 does recommend.
From the perspective of AIOps, let’s examine the four most important differences between ITIL 4 and its predecessors. At the task level, pretty much everything remains the same. What is new is the way that tasks are organized.
ITIL 4 Collects Tasks into “Practices”, Rather than Processes
ITIL defines its “practice” concept as a flexible association of loosely coordinated tasks. This shatters the presupposition that, in order to be effective, tasks must be executed in a rigid order, directed from a centralized point. As the ITIL descriptions have evolved over time, they have gradually moved away from the rigidity that characterized earlier versions. Nonetheless, the concept of “processes” continued to hold sway, and colored interpretations of the document’s language. With the shift to “practice” terminology and the latest description revisions, that (mis)interpretation is no longer possible.
ITIL 4 Defines Services in Terms of the Value Delivered to Service Consumers
While the concept of “services” is still operative in ITIL 4, it ultimately defines services in terms of value streams. Specific value definitions are generated in cooperation with the service consumers who benefit. The service concept itself was in fact an earlier ITIL innovation, designed to encourage IT practitioners to focus on the interfaces through which they deliver functionality to business consumers. The relatively low importance given to the notion of “service value” in earlier ITIL versions meant that practitioners by and large concerned themselves with what was being delivered, rather than why. With this shift, ITIL 4 is cultivating an appreciation of the role that service consumers play in making IT services actually worthwhile.
ITIL 4 Recommends Breaking Down Silos & Boundaries
In previous versions, ITIL had always paid lip service to the need to breakdown technological silos. In point of fact, process boundaries were guarded with severity. This focus on segregation among processes, coupled with a generally infrastructure-centric perspective on IT Operations, ended up reinforcing the existence of silos. In a dramatic reversal, ITIL V4 acknowledges that, in order to manage modern IT systems in the delivery of value through services, silos must go. It stresses that the IT Operations practitioner must observe, analyze, and be able to modify systems end-to-end — without regard to technological silos or process boundaries across the entire organization.
ITIL 4 Joins ITOM Best Practices to Business Outcomes
Perhaps the most important difference in ITIL 4 is its recognition that the best practices of IT Operations Management do not occur in a vacuum. Rather, ITOM success is increasingly intertwined with the success of the business. Effective ITIL practices positively impact business outcomes. Earlier versions of ITIL tended to present IT Operations (and IT in general) to business decision makers as a “black box”. The business was allowed to interact with IT only through a well-defined set of service interfaces. While the service concept remains, a service is now a place for technology / business collaboration, not a barrier between the two.
Where AIOps Fits in the World Shaped by ITIL 4
If our analysis of the four key differentiators is correct, then AIOps plays just about everywhere.
AIOps is defined as the sequential deployment of five types of algorithms: data set selection, pattern discovery, inference, communications, and automated remediation (see figure below). As a collection of technologies and practices, it helps achieve the goals of supporting continuous service delivery while optimizing business agility.
AIOps uses data selection and pattern discovery to integrate and rationalize monitoring across the infrastructure and application stack. Remediation is intelligently automated to integrate and rationalize the response to incidents and surfaced problems. Inference and communications algorithms link these two domains of IT Operations related activity.
It’s important to note that underlying all four differentiators of ITIL 4 is the idea that IT systems in their support of business can be observed, analyzed, and manipulated end to end. A holistic perspective – established through a combination of tools and practices – as an absolute prerequisite.
How AIOps Reinforces Four Differentiators of ITIL 4
The first differentiator’s dissolution of processes into practices presupposes that coordination among tasks can be maintained only if all members of the IT Operations team are united by a common goal. If the infrastructure and application stack cannot be seen in its unity as it supports digital, it will be impossible for IT operations to even see a common goal, let alone orient its various activities in that direction.
What this means for AIOps: It is precisely the data selection, pattern discovery, and inferencing dimensions of AIOps that can organize data from multiple sources across the different layers of the IT stack.
The second differentiator maintains that any service’s value stream is generated by the entirety of the service and the stacks supporting that service. Value is not delivered by components, processes, or domains separately and then summed up. Instead it is the result of all of these elements working in concert with one another.
What this means for AIOps: It is the communications and automated remediation dimensions of AIOps that are able to mechanise the coordination among the different components.
The third differentiator’s guidance to eliminate silos demands that IT Operations practitioners treat things holistically.
What this means for AIOps: All five dimensions of AIOps, when taken together, straddle and choreograph the interactions among the different types of IT Operations practitioners.
The fourth and final differentiator asserts that cooperation between IT and the business is achievable. The interaction between them requires that technology stacks and all the various IT domains be considered as a part of a single organism or machine. Discrete interaction between the business and network monitoring on one hand, and the business with configuration management database support on the other, makes no sense whatsoever.
What this means for AIOps: Across all its dimensions, AIOps turns the IT stack, and by extension IT Operations Management, into a single, interconnected system of technologies and practices. This allows the system to interact coherently with the business processes it is intended to support.
In summary, Having all five distinct types of AIOps algorithms acting in concert is the only way to deliver a holistic view of modern IT systems. Their modular, distributed, dynamic, and ephemeral nature makes it impossible for human operators to monitor their performance alone. Intelligent automation via AIOps software and machines helps to select the data, discover the patterns, make the inferences, communicate the results, and take the required actions. Critical IT incidents are detected, investigated, and resolved quickly.
AIOps has become a necessity for delivering this vision, and therefore, a necessary prerequisite for any IT organization taking on ITIL 4.
About the author Will Cappelli
Will studied math and philosophy at university, has been involved in the IT industry for over 30 years, and for most of his professional life has focused on both AI and IT operations management technology and practises. As an analyst at Gartner he is widely credited for having been the first to define the AIOps market and has recently joined Moogsoft as CTO, EMEA and VP of Product Strategy. In his spare time, he dabbles in ancient languages.