the IT Services Matrix

Reality Check – The (IT Services) Matrix

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“The Matrix is everywhere; it is all around us, even now in this very room…”

Many of you will recognize the above as the beginning of a scene from The Matrix, in which Morpheus asks Neo if he wants to know what “it” is. In the article to follow, I am offering you this choice too, except I will tell you a bit about the IT Services Matrix – social misinformation that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.

Simple examples are easily found. In ITSM for example, many discussions about ITIL qualify, such as that Change Management is designed to be bureaucratic (it isn’t – unless your organization designs it that way!), or that Problem Management cannot start until an Incident is resolved (it can, should when warranted, and frankly – particularly in simplistic incidents – often gets done during resolution because, if you actually figured out what caused it while you were fixing it, you did (at least rudimentary) problem management – even if you didn’t think you were).

So, this is your last chance; after this there is no turning back. You stop here, the story ends; you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You continue to read, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes….well, okay, not to the bottom – this is a blog, not a movie, so I can only begin to open your eyes by outlining a few of the more recent ‘blindfolds’.

Remember – all I’m offering is the truth, nothing more…

Illusion 17 – “The Cloud”

Somewhere beyond rainbows, but not quite in a galaxy far, far away, lies the place far too many conceive of as “the cloud”, a nebulous happy place that floats wherever it needs to so that people can listen to music or share pictures or accomplish whatever makes them giddy. Beliefs here fall into everything from “my stuff is ALWAYS available” to the cloud involving actual – as in cumulus, cirrus, etc. – clouds (no, I am not kidding).

The truth? Well, once upon a time, everything you did on your personal computer was contained in your computer. The programs (apps, for the younger crowd) you used, the documents, pictures, etc. you saved – all there on your hard drive (sized in megabytes, then). Using the “cloud” is nothing more than you doing all that by accessing someone else’s computer. Honest – that’s it!

Of course, there is much more detail, but every “cloud” – and there are many, not just one – is in fact a physical place (we called them data centers once) that is filled with servers and storage media and network infrastructure and perfectly normal physical components, and someone lets you access it to use your apps and store your music and pictures and even run your business (which we used to call outsourcing) – you just connect through the internet to do it.

Most people, when they speak of ‘the cloud’, actually mean “cloud computing” – typically, actually using applications and the like – and “cloud storage”, which as you might expect is saving something on storage media that isn’t yours.

Not terribly mysterious, right? Despite all those depictions you’ve seen, it isn’t a “cloud” at all – it’s just someone else’s computer stuff.

Amusing note: those that think “the cloud” is in fact affected by actual clouds have not been completely incorrect. There are a number of high profile news stories you can look up about cloud computing services being unavailable because of bad weather leading to power failure issues. The modern “cloud” world is supposed to protect us from resiliency failures, but hey, we really aren’t much better at predicting weather behavior (or prepping for its consequences) than we were a hundred years ago….

Fantasy 26 – “No Ops”

A few years back (actually getting on a bit, but hard to notice when people are still trying to figure things out), an enterprising group of folks repackaged stuff we were doing in the 80’s and called it “DevOps”. New terms and all, but really one more spin on the “let’s all get along” concept. Don’t get me wrong – I like it, and I hope you have been following the likes of Gene Kim in understanding the intent behind it, and not those engaged in twisting that intent to fit their own twisted concepts.

One example of that would be the obnoxious term “No Ops” – promoting the idea that IT Operations is not needed, because developers and automation can do everything right alone. Colonel Potter (M*A*S*H) had a phrase for that: “Horse hockey”.

I’ll not cover all the reasons developers are no substitute for Ops, regardless of how much automation you have – that has been done. What I will cover is this: No matter how much anyone out there tries to convince you otherwise, operations activities – like provisioning physical equipment, operating system installs and updates, monitoring, network and storage setup, infrastructure maintenance, etc. – still have to be done. Which means having skilled people in place to perform those activities is in fact a necessity – even though they may not work for you.

What those promoting the idea of ‘no ops’ are doing espouses the same suspension of reality that always seems to crop up when a group engaged in one activity do not actually know what others contribute to an overall chain of value provision – which is not great, but workable – and then compound ignorance by assuming other groups must not be needed – which is wrong on most any level. We also have to take into account the inevitable marketing spin – similar here to when robots were introduced into manufacturing and some claimed workers would no longer be needed, which of course did not, and is not going to, happen. Bottom line? No Ops is a fantasy, no different than Star Wars – and far less entertaining.

Of course, we do have written visions of ‘no ops’ – Samuel Butler penned some in 1863 (Darwin Among the Machines), and Harlan Ellison in 1968 (I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream), followed by The Terminator, and more recently from folks like Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk. None of these is my idea of fun, so I vote we stop talking about ‘no ops’ – like, today.

Misconception n – “Going serverless”

Our newest contender for ‘blinded by the light’ is the concept of “serverless”. Nirvana-seeking developers are touting this as if it means that “The World is code and Code is the world”, because applying this allows an organization to dispense with any connection to (or consideration about) everything applications run on – a seriously extended version of “no ops”.

But like ‘no ops’, ‘serverless’ is not what its moniker implies. Even more at the “still trying to figure itself out” stage than DevOps is, the concept of ‘serverless’ is basically the evolution of Backend as a Service (BaaS). Without getting in too deep, the ‘word’ only applies to the idea that a group of developers gets to do nothing but code and upload – leaving all thoughts of what happens next to someone else (i.e., a provider like amazon, google, etc.)

It is the ‘someone else’ that the blissfully-ignorant-by-choice crowd selectively ignore. A blurb I read from IBM* about the concept was both simple and amusing:

“Serverless computing refers to a model where the existence of servers is simply hidden from developers. I.e. that even though servers still exist developers are relieved from the need to care about their operation. They are relieved from the need to worry about low-level infrastructural and operational details such as scalability, high-availability, infrastructure-security, and so forth.”

The second sentence is the amusing part, in which things like scalability and high-availability are described as “low level details”, which might be true for developers that find adding Ops to Dev makes DevOps a four letter word, but most others would consider these somewhat more important.

The first sentence is the simple part; the servers (and all the other infrastructure, provisioning, administration, etc.) still has to be there – it’s just somebody else’s thing to do. That too though is a gross oversimplification, since the fact is all of these things and more still need to be considered (and to some extent maybe even still done) by developers.

There is one bottom line, gold-plated, absolute, take-it-to-the-bank fact those who want to ignore infrastructure and ops need to accept right now: Without hardware to run on (and someone to run it), ‘code’ is nothing but gibberish. Klingon and Na’vi have far more practical use than computer code without hardware to run it on.


Obviously, these three items do not even scratch the surface of all of the concepts, terms, frameworks, methods, etc. that have been twisted and mangled through social misinformation (I welcome your favorite examples). It was bad enough in the old days of water cooler rumors; today, anyone with access to the internet can misinform and malign in just a few clicks. We each have to remember this whenever we come across “information” (virtually any kind, not just ITSM related) anymore, and take a few moments to verify the great/wonderful/horrible/infuriating/fascinating thing we “just saw on the internet”, before we blast out our own take on it using Facebook and Twitter.

I hope you found a beginning here, a path that will help you navigate through the social media morass that can be every bit the illusion The Matrix was. Remember: “No one can be told what The Matrix is – you have to see it for yourself”. By reading this, you chose the red pill, and I hope you found it enlightening.

So remember, the Earth isn’t flat and it revolves around the sun, we really did land on the moon, and ITIL is not a standard. The truth is out there; just make sure you verify it when you think you see it…



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Michael Keeling

Michael has been providing consulting and guidance in IT Operations, ITSM and SIAM to enterprise level organizations in many industries for more than 20 years, and has extensive background in data center and service desk operations, technical writing, mentoring, cause analysis and workflow improvement. He is known for bringing the view of a detective to these efforts, perspective he credits to education in crime scene investigation and over 10 years designing processes and performing risk management in the private security sector prior to his career in IT. A confirmed realist that believes no project can be truly successful unless all involved parties are grounded in reality, Michael is always prepared to paint ‘the elephant in the room’ bright yellow when appropriate….

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