You can think of open source as a utopian "town" called Opensville, somewhere near the community of Proprietary. People like to visit Opensville, yet no one wants to live there. Why? Because no one pays to keep the city running.
So how do you get the best of both communities — the cost-saving value of open solutions combined with the solid advantages of centralised, proprietary software to manage the IT infrastructure? You can deploy an integrated system of proprietary solutions that manage the infrastructure based on best practices from the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) and leverage open source technology where appropriate.
See: Computerworld's open source special feature
Traditional software and open source technology operate in two different worlds. Open source has a decentralised model of development that encompasses differing agendas, approaches and priorities. Traditional software provides a more closed, centralised model. Yet they can come together to benefit your organisation.
For IT, open source is a way to improve service and reduce costs without the expense. The lower acquisition costs, fast development cycle, continuing enhancements and quick fixes to problems make open source attractive. In fact, a leading industry analyst predicts that within a few years about 80 percent of all commercial software will include elements of open source technology.
As open source converges with best-practices frameworks such as ITIL and Business Service Management (BSM) solutions, IT professionals need an effective service management strategy to bring together the components. Although there are already open source service management tools, these solutions are not as mature as other open source software. The ecosystem consists primarily of users, rather than developers. While tens of thousands of open source projects have been launched in the service management arena, 60 percent are considered inactive and 70 percent are authored, managed and supported by only one person.
Viable open source monitoring, discovery and software provisioning solutions exist, but they have significant shortcomings. They do not address key areas of ITIL service management, such as service level and incident management. And none of them addresses all the areas that together provide the ability to achieve end-to-end service management.
Open source limitations
IT environments are typically heterogeneous, combining open source and proprietary platforms, servers and applications. Currently, open source solutions do not cover mainframes and other important infrastructure components, so they do not fully support these mixed environments. IT organisations cannot adopt a totally open source approach to service management until open solutions offer strong heterogeneous platform support — which will not likely happen in the foreseeable future.
Limited ITIL support is another concern. Only a few open source service management solutions support ITIL, and even fewer integrate with a configuration management database (CMDB), a fundamental component of the configuration management system (CMS) recommended in ITIL V3. The CMDB maintains important information that helps IT understand how the components of the IT environment relate to each other and to the services IT provides to the business.
Additionally, most open source solutions for service management are point solutions and are siloed. They lack process integration across IT disciplines, violating a fundamental tenet of ITIL. Without the integration of change, release and configuration management processes, IT organisations cannot ensure that changes are properly approved and implemented.
Another limitation is the inability to map underlying IT infrastructure components to the business services and business processes they support. IT needs this information to determine the business impact of events in the IT infrastructure.
A holistic approach
As you pursue open source solutions for service management, consider the impact on ITIL and your business initiatives. If your organisation is committed to open source, you will need solutions that enable the IT staff to manage the entire infrastructure as a unified whole so you can meet business priorities.
By taking a holistic approach, you can deploy an integrated system of BSM solutions that manages the entire IT infrastructure, is based on ITIL process guidelines and leverages open source solutions for service management where appropriate. This approach ensures that service management processes are integrated within and across IT disciplines, enabling service management from a business perspective. The solutions should address all areas of service management.
An effective system of these solutions also provides integration across all applications and is built on a CMDB that permits data sharing across all applications.
In choosing a solution, consider the vendor's commitment to open source. Important indicators include participation in the open source development community (the extent to which the vendor's solutions interface with open source) and the availability of convenient and permissive open source licensing.
At a time when IT is seeking to both improve service and cut costs, open source, ITIL and a BSM approach all bring something to the table. Open source solutions for service management, however, have not matured to the level of proprietary solutions. By putting in place a single, holistic approach that encompasses both traditional and open source components, you can make the most out of your visit to Opensville.