It’s now been a year since ServiceNow launched its DevOps integration initiative. Since then, thanks to the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, the way organizations manage IT has utterly changed. With more employees now regularly working from home, more organizations have shifted toward relying on IT service management (ITSM) platforms that, like ServiceNow, run in the cloud.
At the same time, the overall IT environment has become more complex as a greater number of applications based on microservices that span everything from containers to serverless computing frameworks are deployed in production environments. Most of those distributed applications are being built and deployed by DevOps teams who are finding it necessary to collaborate more with IT operations teams who still rely on ticket-based workflows to manage jobs and tasks.
As organizations invest more in digital business transformation initiatives fueled by these applications, the pressure has intensified to bridge the cultural divide that has long existed between traditional IT operations teams and application development teams that have embraced best DevOps practices.
At the core of that divide is a desire on the part of DevOps teams to automate IT process management. Tasks that once required IT personnel to implement manually increasingly now are being automated by developers employing tools and platforms that expose both APIs and command-line interfaces (CLIs). Not every IT task can be fully automated just yet, but with the rise of machine learning algorithms and other forms of artificial intelligence (AI), a great leap forward is clearly being made.
In fact, the rise of AI coupled with a need to more aggressively reduce costs are motivating organizations to investigate how they can better unify the management of IT, said Judith Hurwitz, principal analyst for Hurwitz and Associates, an IT consulting firm.
“It’s a major change,” said Hurwitz. “There’s a lot more focus on the issue of managing errors.”
ServiceNow is investing in AI to address that issue, including partnering with providers of DevOps platforms to gain access to the data required to train AI models. That effort will simultaneously improve the developer’s experience at a time when organizations need to accelerate the rate at which applications are being developed, deployed and updated, said RJ Jainendra, vice president and general manager for IT business management and DevOps at ServiceNow.
“The change management process is becoming automated,” he said.
ServiceNow, which has more than 1,000 customers and contract values in excess of $1 million, is not the only provider of an ITSM with similar ambitions. Not only are providers of rival ITSM platforms moving down the same path, but new entrants have also emerged in the form of vendors that are extending DevOps platforms into the realm of ITSM. Atlassian, for example, has launched an ITSM initiative aimed specifically at DevOps teams looking to eschew a ticket-based approach to IT in favor of workflows that are managed directly by DevOps teams.
As the responsibility for managing IT end-to-end continues to shift left toward DevOps teams, many won’t embrace ticket-based workflows. Eventually, DevOps platforms and legacy approaches to managing IT using tickets will converge. ITSM platforms are still the systems of record for recording IT events, so integration between DevOps and ITSM platforms is required.
In the meantime, replacing IT processes that employ ticket-based workflows which adhere to frameworks such as ITIL will not be easy, said Mitchell Ashley, CEO and managing analyst at Accelerated Strategies Group.
“Ticket-based workflows are incredibly sticky,” he said. “It’s not a question of undoing them as much as it is unraveling them.”
In fact, Ashely said a ticket-based approach to managing IT may be too deeply ingrained in the psyche of IT teams to be replaced.
“Ticket-based systems are a lot like email,” said Ashley. “They will be with us forever.”
As long as ticket-based approaches to managing IT workflows remain in place, however, the potential for culture clash across teams that have divergent approaches to managing IT will remain high.