What is the Role of Service Level Management for a Data Center Operations Group?

As I mentioned in last week’s post, I recently received a message on LinkedIn from a regular blog reader who asked several questions related to ITIL and how it fits with a data center operations group.

Having worked in various data center operations groups over the years I know very well the tendency for these environments to focus on technical skills at the cost of having clear and repeatable procedures. While we all must focus on the technology to some extent, it is usually a mistake to overdo this. Technology often becomes obsolete and is replaced whereas a good process is likely to survive different iterations of technology. The performance of data center operations groups is often directly related to how well they document and adhere to numerous processes that must be followed.

The second question regards service level management. He wants to know how a data center operations group is involved in and affected by service level management.

Service level management is the ITIL process that ensures that agreements are defined, negotiated, and documented to set targets for the delivery of services. Common outputs of service level management include service level agreements, operational level agreements, and service review meetings. I like to think that service level management is there to set boundaries that both customers and departments within the IT organization must adhere to.

A data center operations group depends heavily on service level management to set effective targets for service delivery that can be measured and are actually achievable. These boundaries are documented in service level agreements and are underpinned by commitments documented in operational level agreements and underpinning contracts. The boundaries set in a service level agreement might affect a data center operations group by driving some specific level of monitoring to ensure that variations to agreed service levels are detected and reported. Furthermore, how quickly a data center operations group responds to outages, as well as how quickly they escalate to a higher level of support will often be defined in a service level agreement.

Another aspect of service level management that might involve a data center operations group is a service review meeting. A service review meeting is a regularly scheduled meeting between the service provider and its customer to review service performance and achievements. A data center operations group might play a direct role in these meetings, or it might play a supporting role by producing information to describe outages that happened during the review period.

Service level management is a key process that exists to ensure that targets are defined for service delivery and that those targets are well-understood, agreed upon, communicated, measured, and improved over time. A data center operations group will experience pure chaos in the absence of clear expectations for all aspects of service delivery, and these expectations are normally specified by a service level management process.

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Do I Have to Read the ITIL Books to be an ITIL Expert?

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2 comments

  1. selcuk karaca Reply

    Hi,

    thank you for this post.

    Datacenter citizens live far away from service design part of ITIL. so we can only support SLM by providing
    OLA (provided directly by us)
    making underpinning contracts with vendors
    help in monitoring service levels
    participate in SL reviews (if needed)

    so I think apart from those, we should not have any responsibility in SLM ..

    Am I correct ?

    1. Elizabeth Rainwater Reply

      From Michael:

      It looks like you’re hitting on some of the key aspects of how SLM relates to a data center operations group. However, I’d encourage you to think of the following:

      • The role of SLM in terms of setting thresholds that ultimately drive the monitoring of systems, applications, services, etc.. In the data center environment.
      • The potential for the data center operations group to be involved in supporting service review meetings.
      • Any commitments made in SLA that drive things such as how quickly escalation occurs.
      • There are many other aspects to consider as well, but at the moment these are a few that pop into my head.