Treating Human or Service Health Issues - What's the Difference?
January 31, 2014

Tom Molfetto

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Those of us who spend our days (and – too often! – nights) engaged in business service dependency modeling and mapping work may find an article discussing an analogy of human physiology and biological composition to business services management amusing. So, here it goes…

All of us have either personally experienced, or know people who have themselves experienced, health issues. And when these issues arise, we tend to turn to medically trained personnel to help resolve the issues. Doctors will oftentimes leverage a number of diagnostic tools or screening devices based on the manifested symptoms in an effort to isolate the root cause of the health issue. These diagnostics are rooted in an advanced knowledge of how the human body functions: individual components that compromise specific systems that – in turn – power one or more bodily functions.

For example, consider the cardiovascular system, which consists of the heart, pulmonary and systemic circulation loops, and blood vessels, and the approximately five liters of blood that the blood vessels transport. This system – responsible for transporting oxygen, nutrients, hormones and cellular waste products through the body – is considered mission-critical for supporting human life.

Drilling down more granularly, there are several types of blood vessels: arteries and arterioles, capillaries, and veins and venules. Blood itself also consists of several individual components, such as white blood cells, platelets and plasma. There are also several sub-systems, processes and functions which are self-contained and yet are components in the overall cardiovascular ecosystem, including: coronary circulation and hepatic portal circulation.

All of these elements combine into a single system that is responsible for the sustenance, regulation and protection of each individual human. But – more importantly for the purposes of this article – the cardiovascular system can also be likened to a business service.

A business service provided to customers or employees depends upon the interdependent operability of IT components that can include, for example, applications, servers, network devices and storage gear.

So – as per our analogy – a business service can be thought of as a system that performs specific, and sometimes critical, tasks within a business landscape. Just as the cardiovascular system powers human functionality, a business service oftentimes powers critical business functionality. And just as the cardiovascular system is comprised of a number of individual components (e.g., heart, blood vessels, etc.) that each have their own sub-components (e.g., arteries, capillaries, veins, etc.), so too can business services be comprised of individual components that each have their own sub-components.

Okay, so you get it. So what’s the big deal and why invest the energy to write this article? Right. Well just like there are medically trained personnel whose job it is to fix physiological issues, and who are assisted by various diagnostic tools in doing so, there are technically trained personnel like yourselves whose job it is to fix IT issues, and who are assisted by various diagnostic tools.

One fundamental difference is that – by and large – human physiology is static across all individuals; there are few variations in normal anatomy. Systems are largely the same from one person to the next, which means that the diagnostic tools can, in most cases, be standardized and are accurate with a high degree of reliability.

This is quite different from business services and their constituent IT components. Taking a sample of five different banks, each offering online banking as a business service, will likely reveal five different hardware and software configurations that power their customer portals.

So without uniformity in IT architecture and facing creative diversity in the underlying frameworks that power mission-critical business services, how can technically trained professionals diagnose and propose remedies for issues that impact those business services? Without commonalities in symptoms from landscape to landscape, even the most knowledgeable and diligent IT professionals will struggle with providing timely and rapid responses to IT problems that can result in outages and lost revenue as the result of business services that are unavailable or deficient as a consequence of issues with an underlying component.

Medical personnel have textbooks, online resources and anecdotal support inasmuch as human systems lack considerable variance. IT personnel lack this same foundation, and therefore oftentimes resort of trial and error in their efforts to debug issues.

So what does this all mean anyway? As professionals we should empower ourselves and other IT professionals in just the same way as centuries of biological and physiological study have benefited medical professionals. We want tools that will create an accurate and up-to-date run-time service map. That means you specify the business service, and you can map it out. Entirely. Completely. Comprehensively—with the ability to update it over time. And in the event that any component that powers a business service shifts or changes. Furthermore, wouldn’t it be great to know that if a business service is suffering, you can tell exactly which underlying component is at fault?

So, imagine walking into a doctor’s office with a headache, and the doc – within minutes – is able to pinpoint the cause back to muscle tension in your left tricep. A quick massage, some “Icy Hot”, and you’re on your way … headache free.

IT Professionals should expect to have IT headaches solved precisely and simply the same way.

Tom Molfetto is Marketing Director for Neebula.

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