IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) Definition and Solutions

IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) topics covering definition, objectives, systems and solutions.

ITIL is a framework of best practices for delivering IT services. What's the big deal about it, and why is it considered so important in corporate computing? We explain the basics before you hunker down with the books.

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What is ITIL?

The IT Infrastructure Library, or ITIL, is just that: a library of volumes describing a framework of best practices for delivering IT services.

Developed by the British government's Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA) during the 1980s, it at first consisted of more than 30 books, developed and released over time, that codified best practices in information technology accumulated from many sources (including vendors' best practices internally, consultancy) around the world. IBM, for example, says that its four-volume series on systems-management concepts, A Management System for Information Systems, known as the Yellow Books, provided vital input into the original ITIL books.

When CCTA, along with several other agencies, was rolled into the Office of Government Commerce (OGC), the OGC adopted the project as part of its mission to work with the U.K. public sector as a catalyst to achieve efficiency, value for money in commercial activities, and improved success in the delivery of programs and projects.

The goal wasn't to create a proprietary product that could be commercialized; rather, it was to gather best practices that could assist with what the government recognized was an increasing dependence within the government on IT combined with a painful lack of standard procedures that were increasing costs and allowing errors to perpetuate. It quickly became apparent that distributing these best practices would profit both public and private-sector organizations.

The books weren't authored by CCTA personnel, nor are they now, although the Crown holds copyright, and owns the names ITIL and Information Technology Infrastructure Library. Instead, experts in each discipline produce the text, which is then rigorously reviewed, first by the ITIL Advisory Group, then by reviewers recruited from the ITIL community in a formal quality-assurance process before publication.

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Over the years, the ITIL's credibility and utility became recognized, until now its practices have contributed to and are aligned with the ISO/IEC 20000 Service Management standard, the first international standard for IT service management; it is based on British standard BS15000.

What's in the ITIL?

The original 30 books were condensed in 2000 (when what's known as ITIL v2 was launched) into a more manageable seven, each wrapped around a facet of IT management. The seven books are:

  • Service Support
  • Service Delivery
  • Planning to Implement Service Management
  • ICT Infrastructure Management
  • Applications Management
  • Security Management
  • The Business Perspective

Within some categories is a series of related sub-topics.

Service Support: The identification and recording of IT configuration items, and processes around handling changes, problems and incidents are described. Sub-topics include:

  • Service Desk: How to establish and run a service desk as the central point of contact for users.
  • Incident Management: After something has gone wrong, how to restore normal operations as quickly as possible.
  • Problem Management: First, you diagnose root causes of incidents reported by the service desk; then, you arrange changes in the IT infrastructure to prevent their recurrence.
  • Change Management: Discusses processes and procedures to ensure prompt, efficient and controlled handling of changes.
  • Release Management: Planning of new releases so both IT and non-IT requirements are considered.
  • Configuration Management: How to identify, control, and maintain records of the configurations of items and services.

Service Delivery: ITIL covers aspects of the actual delivery of the services. Sub-topics include:

  • Availability Management: How do you maintain the availability of services to allow a business to function effectively?
  • Capacity Management: Best practices in predicting future needs.
  • IT Service Continuity Management: After a disaster or other business interruption, how to manage service continuity to agreed-upon levels.
  • Service Level Management: Establishing, monitoring, and reporting IT achievements and establishing ways to eliminate poor service.
  • Financial Management for IT Services: Budgeting, accounting and charging for IT services.

Single topic volumes:

  • ICT Infrastructure Management: Management of infrastructure, from equipment to services.
  • Application Management: The software development lifecycle is covered, emphasizing clear requirements, definitions and implementations to meet business users' needs.
  • Planning to Implement Service Management: Where do you start when planning to implement ITIL? This book offers guidance.
  • Security Management: The means by which you can keep your infrastructure secure.
  • The Business Perspective: This volume aims to help business managers understand the issues in service provision. It covers business relationship management, partnerships and outsourcing, continuous improvement, and the exploitation of information, communication and technology (ICT) for business advantage. It consists of three books:
    • In Times of Radical Change
    • Surviving IT Infrastructure Transition
    • Understanding and Improving

At the end of 2005, the OGC announced plans for a refresh of the ITIL volumes. In its statement, it said, "Our overwhelming driver for this refresh is to keep the guidance up-to-date such that ITIL continues to be 'fit for purpose' as the most widely accepted approach to IT service management in the world."

Authoring of the books in ITIL v3 was completed in late 2006, and the review of the content is under way. The new ITIL, with associated certifications, is expected to be released sometime in 2007. It is again being condensed, moving from seven core volumes to five.

OGC also announced that it will pursue the development of Web-based resources for current and aspiring ITIL users.

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