By Doug Garoux, Software Defined Data Center Architect, Logicalis US

If you aren’t paying attention to The Open Group’s IT4IT Reference Architecture, it’s time to start—especially if you’re considering a move to a software-defined data center (SDDC) model.

IT4IT is a bit like a survival guide for designing the business of IT and helping you manage complexity among an always-expanding number of environments. By providing a blueprint for IT operations, the initiative hopes to help organizations reduce costs, simplify operations and enable traceability across every IT process.

The Open Group collaborated with enterprise IT consumers and vendors—such as HPE and Logicalis—to create IT4IT. What they’ve done is take Michael Porter’s value chain concept as well as lean manufacturing value stream concepts and applied them to IT—creating a standardized operating model that focuses on delivering business value.

So if you’re looking to design, procure and implement functionality needed to run your department in accordance with business objectives, IT4IT is for you.

For IT departments struggling to make the jump from cost center to value generator, it’s a godsend.

We think it’s a necessary step for the industry. For too long IT departments—in all types of organizations—have essentially had to invent new workflows, architectures, processes and structures for almost every new initiative.

As a result, our industry is chaotic. No two organizations do things the same way, and since everything is built on a different foundation, interoperability and openness are exceedingly scarce. It frustrates business leaders, end users and most of all, IT professionals. This is opposite of more mature industries such as retail, HR or finance—which all have clearly-defined processes and organizational structures. It’s not a coincidence that these industries have an easier time controlling costs, either.

IT4IT’s operating model recognizes IT as a production-based business, and focuses on enabling four key end-to-end IT value streams: 

IT Value Chain

  • Strategy to Portfolio: Build a strategy to drive business performance and innovation via your portfolio of IT services—both cloud and on-prem

 

    • Requirement to Deploy: Determine what the business needs (usually in collaboration with line of business leaders) and figure out the best way to deploy it
  • Request to Fulfill: Catalog, fulfill and manage your services—so when a user requests something, you can deliver it quickly and cost-effectively
  • Detect to Correct: Anticipate and resolve issues

 

These value streams are used in conjunction with a few other operational models, including:

  • One for end-to-end traceability of a service
  • An informational model to define each data object involved in the value chain
  • A functional model, which defines each building block that creates or consumes data objects—in other words, each individual part of a IT service.

IT4IT also defines the support activities necessary to make these value streams work—such as financing, sourcing, reporting and more.

And it doesn’t stop there. Additionally, IT4IT provides methodologies for many critical IT functions, such as ways to identify expensive redundancies in your application portfolio, and ways to identify low-maturity functions that are dragging everything else down. Another key idea is interoperability: standard data formats across every area of your business, so information can flow freely, as well as standardized APIs across enterprise toolsets.

Like we said, everything you need to run IT as a business, for the sake of your business.  But what IT approach should you take to make the most of IT4IT?

What IT4IT Means to SDDC

SDDC is an approach to IT that extends virtualization across all data center resources to enhance flexibility, efficiency and agility—and a perfect complement to IT4IT. 

Why? For starters, SDDC provides a lot of innovation firepower. You can do a lot with it—virtually whatever your business needs. Provision services at a click of a button, or let your users do it via self-service portals. Integrate with public cloud and move data freely back and forth. Automate and orchestrate freely—you get the idea. The possibilities are endless.

But what good are endless possibilities if you can’t leverage them effectively, or even decide on the best one intelligently? IT4IT’s framework is a necessary ingredient for ensuring your SDDC initiative and business objectives align. SDDC enables freer flow of data across your lines of business; IT4IT ensures that all these lines of business are speaking the same language, and that their tools can integrate with whatever they need to get the job done.

We like to think that SDDC and IT4IT are a two-fold path to IT transformation. IT4IT provides the structure and operational model. SDDC provides the technological freedom to make the most of your finely-tuned business machine.

What are the risks of adopting SDDC without a framework such as IT4IT in place? More of the headaches and confusion around how to really deliver business value that you’re likely already experiencing.

If you haven’t noticed, we’re big fans of what The Open Group is doing with IT4IT—all the way up to our company president. We’re also industry leaders at the forefront of SDDC.

We’d love to talk to you soon about how IT4IT can benefit your organization, what to do to get started, and how SDDC can help you really get the most out of this initiative.