Thursday, November 6, 2008

ITIL requires better log management and analytics to gain IT operational efficiency, accountability

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Read complete transcript of the discussion.

Implementing best practices from the the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) has become increasingly popular in IT departments. As managers improve IT operations with an eye to process efficiency, however, they need to gain operational accountability through visibility and analytics into how systems and networks are behaving.

Innovative use of systems log management and analytics -- in the context of entire IT infrastructures -- produces an audit and performance data trail that both helps implement and refine such models as ITIL. Compliance is also a building requirement that can be solved through verification tools such as systems monitoring and analytics in the context of ITIL best practices.

To learn more about how systems log tools and analysis are aiding organizations as they adopt ITIL, I recently spoke with Sean McClean, principal at consultancy KatalystNow, and Sudha Iyer, director of product management at LogLogic.

Here are some excerpts:
IT, as a business, a practice, or an industry is relatively new. The ITIL framework has been one that's always been focused on how we can create a common thread or a common language, so that all businesses can follow and do certain things consistently with regard to IT. ... We are looking to do even more with tying the IT structure into the business, the function of getting the business done, and how IT can better support that, so that IT becomes a part of the business.

Because the business of IT supporting a business is relatively new, we are still trying to grow and mature those frameworks of what we all agree upon is the best way to handle things. ... When people look at ITIL, organizations assume that it’s something you can simply purchase and plug into your organization. It doesn't quite work that way.

ITIL is generally a guidance -- best practices -- for service delivery, incident management, or what have you. Then, there are these sets of policies with these guidelines. What organizations can do is set up their data retention policy, firewall access policy, or any other policy.

But, how do they really know whether these policies are being actually enforced and/or violated, or what is the gap? How do they constantly improve upon their security posture? That's where it's important to collect activity in your enterprise on what's going on.

Our log-management platform ... allows organizations to collect information from a wide variety of sources, assimilate it, and analyze it. An auditor or an information security professional can look deep down into what's actually going on, on their storage capacity or planning for the future, on how many more firewalls are required, or what's the usage pattern in the organization of a particular server.

All these different metrics feed back into what ITIL is trying to help IT organizations do. Actually, the bottom line is how do you do more with less, and that's where log management fits in. ... Our log management solutions allows [enterprises] to create better control and visibility into what actually is going on in their network and their systems. From many angles, whether it's a security professional or an auditor, they’re all looking at whether you know what's going on.

You want to figure out how much of your current investment is being utilized. If there is a lot of unspent capacity, that's where understanding what's going on helps in assessing, “Okay, here is so much disk space that is unutilized." Or, "it's the end of the quarter, we need to bring in more virtualization of these servers to get our accounting to close on time."

[As] the industry matures, I think we will see ... people looking and talking more about, “How do I quantify maturity as an individual within ITIL? How much do you know with regard to ITIL? And, how do I quantify a business with regard to adhering to that framework?”

There has been a little bit of that and certainly we have ITIL certification processes in all of those, but I think we are going to see more drive to understand that and to formalize that in upcoming years.
Read complete transcript of the discussion.

Listen to the podcast. Download the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod. Learn more. Sponsor: LogLogic.

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