Cloud and SaaS - Who Cares?
May 05, 2011

Matthew Burrows

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I've held my tongue on this long enough - and blogs are often for opinions anyway (which you can ignore if you don't like).

Why oh why do people seem to have such a preoccupation with cloud and Software as a service (SaaS), and why are they asking whether ITSM and ITIL are capable of working in these environments?
Why wouldn't they be?  These are just other types of technology solution, platform or delivery mechanism used as part of some services.  We've coped for years with having different platforms, with some service components hosted internally, and others where we're dependent on an external service provider.  We’ve long preached that the principles of good Service Management are the same no matter what the technology is.  So why the seemingly endless debate on the implications of where the technology is?
Yes, these things can be very exciting for many people.  People have been talking about this type of solution for years.  I remember when we all talked about ASP (Application Service Provider) models, where a supplier hosted the application and let you have access to it – and that was over 10 years ago!  As with many new technologies and delivery models, it takes longer than you think for things to actually take hold in the market.  Utility-based managed service models were also being delivered over 10 years ago - I acted as Solutions Architect and Program Manager on several of these models back then, in fact I remember being told that we were the first to have a full utility model desktop service and Exchange-on-demand service.  I discussed various 'on-demand' services with many organisations, including Compaq/HP, IBM and Dell, around this time.

We were always able to manage these services, and in the spirit of good Service Management approaches we adopted and adapted to suit the characteristics of each service and the requirements of our customers.

So, I'm all in favour of cloud and SaaS - we moved several capabilities from in-house to being provided as a service.  The most important thing hasn’t changed: it’s still the ability to manage the service end-to-end.  In the past the majority of the service components will have been in-house, probably in your own data centre on your own hardware.  Now, you may find that the majority of the service components are external or have a massive reliance on external organisations.  Service Management can cope with this.  It may be that you just have to increase your maturity and capability in some of the other disciplines, i.e. making sure Supplier Management is linked to Service Level Management and Business Relationship Management in particular, and the other critical processes and capabilities of course.

More new technologies, services and operating models will come along - Service Management should be able to continually improve and adapt to meet these challenges.  Let's stop wasting time debating whether it can work, and just get it done.

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