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Often maligned (but more often misunderstood), the ITIL framework can help transform your storage environment into an efficient storage service organization.

By Thomas Woods

If your a data storage management professional, odds are that at some point you'll be asked to help align your IT organization with the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) service management framework. But before your eyes glaze over and you think it's just another one of those theoretical approaches to managing IT, think again: ITIL can make your job, and your life, a lot easier.

ITIL is a set of British best practices that provide guidance on how to implement IT service management (ITSM), a framework specifically designed to confront and reduce IT organizational complexity. As a storage professional, you could benefit greatly from an ITIL implementation if you think you're currently spending too much time on any -- or all -- of the following tasks:

  • Working on non-storage issues
  • Reworking storage implementations because of design flaws
  • Phone support
  • Maintaining non-storage-specific tracking tools (home-grown change, incident or request tools)
  • Creating one-off reports with little notice
  • Tracking assets
  • Coordinating work with other teams

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  • Working on projects that don't fully meet end-user requirements or maximize return on investment
  • Responding to storage outages
  • Not sharpening your storage skills

Storage management doesn't happen in a vacuum. Storage teams have a long list of other corporate groups they have to work with directly or indirectly: end users, help desks, call centers, first- and second-line operations support, as well as monitoring, server, security, asset, auditing, configuration, architecture, engineering planning and finance teams. If all that interfacing isn't enough, the storage team also has to provide meaningful reports to all levels of management to ensure operational objectives are being met. From a storage management perspective, the goal of ITSM isn't to direct storage administrators on how to do their jobs, but to focus more on:

  • Aligning storage teams to work better with other teams to achieve organizational goals
  • Leveraging and automating common processes and tools when possible

From an ITIL perspective, storage management is classified as a "technical management function," and as such, ITIL directs storage management teams to:

  • Maintain storage technical skills, and support documentation and maintenance schedules
  • Write procedures and train front-line service desk, call center and operational support teams
  • Own relationships with data storage vendors
  • Design and maintain storage systems
  • Act as an escalation point for incident and problem management involving storage subsystems
  • Be fully engaged in all five defined phases of the ITIL service lifecycle

This was first published in August 2010

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