Thursday, November 20, 2014

No Service Stands Alone

I recently had the pleasure of attending a "lessons learned" meeting with two dozen colleagues. We've just recovered from a service interruption at work, and our CIO arranged for us to spend some quality time discussing what worked well and what didn't. The discussion was very productive, thanks in part to some ground rules that prevented us from defending our actions. As far as two hour meetings go, this one wasn't too bad.

Credit: Danby @ BDN
I'll save you the sordid details of the service interruption. Suffice to say that members from many technical disciplines were present; this service in question required infrastructure from across the IT spectrum. The group observed that, because the service was distributed, restoring service required collaboration between teams. In Washington, D.C., we call that "reaching across the aisle."

At this point in the discussion, the CIO interrupted us to make a simple, seemingly obvious, statement.

No service stands alone.

It was one of those moments that shocked us into silence. Among her many skills, our CIO can command a silence like no one else. The silence lasted 5 seconds, but you'd think it was a year. Yeah, she's that good.

But her point is worth considering. In any enterprise, no service worth providing lives entirely in the orthogonal confines of an organizational chart. Services span teams and technologies, and live and die by the success of each individual component.

That's why technology professionals must change their perspective and see the services that they support. Your storage engineer can't be blind to the Exchange workloads hosted on the SAN. Your vSphere administrator can't be blissfully unaware of the impact of slow performance on hosted applications. And everyone who shares partial responsibility for a mission-critical service must be accountable for its availability.

Service Monitoring

A deceptively easy way to change your perspective is to leverage monitoring tools that are "service aware." That is, in addition to monitoring individual devices like switches and servers, these tools can group devices into a "service." In EM7 vernacular, this is called an IT Service. SolarWinds is going to tackle this notion with their AppStack solution. In fact, I'd bet that most modern monitoring solutions have a similar capability. It's a logical evolution, after all.

So stop pretending that the infrastructure you support exists for any other reason than to enable services. And start putting the health and performance of the service first.