ITIL is a set of best practices for managing IT operations, developed by the British government’s Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (now part of the Office of Government Commerce) in the late 1980s.
In early February, Novell announced a management blueprint that maps processes defined in ITIL to technologies developed by Novell and its business partners. According to Novell, the blueprint is built on open standards and is the next step in a plan to offer the industry’s most comprehensive set of management tools across platforms.

The move is a boost for an industry standard that is already on the rise, said Stephen Elliott, research manager for enterprise systems management software at International Data Corp. in Framingham, Mass. “I think it’s another indication that this trend of process standardization is really happening,” Elliott said.

Already widespread in Europe, Elliott said, ITIL adoption has been “a growing wave over the past three to five years in North America.”

Bill Irvine, executive consultant at Pink Elephant Inc. of Burlington, Ont., which specializes in IT infrastructure management and ITIL, says more and more organizations see the benefits of a common framework like ITIL. “More organizations in business are expecting their IT organizations to provide services to them like an external service provider would,” he said. ITIL helps IT departments identify services and package those capabilities, he said.

Ross Chevalier, chief technology officer at Novell Canada Inc. in Toronto, said his company’s plan has two parts. Novell is developing management tools that fit with the ITIL framework, he said, and mapping tools that customers already have to the ITIL framework.

That should help customers bring their operations into line with ITIL without replacing the technology in which they’ve already invested, Chevalier said. “Rip and replace to achieve some new goal may not be the best option,” he said.

The ITIL framework has no concept of software being ITIL compliant, and no mechanisms for testing compliance. However, Chevalier said, Novell is setting out to develop a management offering “architected in such a way that it fits well into an ITIL architecture.”

ITIL has already been influencing the design of Novell’s ZENworks management architecture for some time, said Chevalier. The message from Novell’s senior leadership has been that “while you can’t be ITIL compliant, it must fit the ITIL model.”

Novell is also proposing extensions to the existing ITIL specifications, Chevalier said. For instance, the company is promoting the concept of federated databases to extend the Configuration Management Database in the current ITIL framework.

Novell is a contributor to ITIL and is having some input into the current work on producing Version 3 of the ITIL documentation, which is due to be finalized in April.

Elliott said both vendors and IT shops should be jumping on the ITIL bandwagon. “Process standardization can really drive lower cost of operation and help everybody to do their job more effectively,” he said.

Irvine said vendors like Novell that make the relationships between ITIL and their products clear will help their customers do that while their own marketing efforts also benefit.

Novell is not the only vendor to tie its offerings to ITIL, Irvine noted. Microsoft Corp.’s Microsoft Operations Framework (MOF) is also linked to the framework. Vendors are realizing that ITIL is a de facto standard and seeking to relate their products to it, he said.

“I think if a vendor is ignoring ITIL they’re really not listening to customers,” Elliott said.

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