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Boats and bridges

Is infrastructure a service? The common view states that IT infrastructure exists so that we can offer the IT services. Components of infrastructure need to be linked to the services they provide. But what if the infrastructure is very stable and supports a great number of services, what is the point?

There is a wide river between you produce and the market. The solution is a boat. First you build your own boat for all your needs; the same boat carries cattle, grain and people. At this point best practices for boat building are important. Soon specialization hits; some people become boat builders and you can buy your new boat from them. Now you need best practices for operating your boat and considering the boat lifecycle, a new boat must be ordered before the old rots. One important thing is to have the right boat for the business. Cattle, grain and people need different transports to be efficient. The boat must be available when the business is ready and it must have sufficient capacity.

Then someone invents a bridge. The bridge needs completely different best practices. The bridge is not customer centric; the same bridge will carry cattle, grain and people. It will be built where it is feasible and the market will move if necessary. Bridge design is technology centric, inside-out. New technological solutions affect bridge building, not the bridge use. A tunnel can serve the same purpose as a bridge.

So, while both deliver the same value the bridge is infrastructure and it is different from a service. An incident on the bridge is not related to the organization which built and maintains the bridge.

In IT best practices before 1990 centered on building systems. In 2000 the emphasis was on running services. In 2012 the hot question is building general purpose infrastructure; the cloud.

Infrastructure provides a standard service but it does it automatically, with no effort from the infrastructure provider. Infrastructure has many customers and operating it is technology centric.  From the customer point of view, infrastructure can be much better solution than a service.

Stephen Mann tweeted while I was writing this: Read some #VMware announcements and Tweets from yesterday ... seems to be a push for more IT-centric and less customer-centric thinking IMO.

I think I read the same sources and thought BAM, they are doing exactly what I am trying to predict. Operating cloud infrastructure is different from operating IT services. Technology centric, inside-out infrastructure can be better than outside-in customer centric service.

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Reader Comments (3)

Aale -
What you are saying makes sense in the case of some cloud providers... A kind of of "serviceless infrastructure" (the bridge). The capacity is there, but it isn't anything until applications or virtual desktops or servers are added to it (cars and trucks carrying grain and people). The same, I suppose, can be said of internal IT if the I and the O are separated and if the Dev and Ops are also kept apart.

When I was in college I spent some time as a "sandhog" --a tunnel builder. One of the tunnels, for railroad and subway trains in New York City, is still left unfinished. It could be used as anything from wine storage to a race track, I suppose, since the services (trains) have never been added.

I'm not sure where this gets us, but it bears thinking about. Thanks for sharing you thoughts.

August 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRoy Atkinson

I think the idea works well in a cloud scenario, however I am not a believer in the 100% cloud technology and if the service is not 100% cloud based then Infrastructure needs to be seen as a service.

It would be great though! I hope the prediction comes true.

September 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterProblem Manager

You are of course right that this may never come true in many places. But I do think that the management of "pure infrastructure" will be different from current ITSM frameworks.

September 6, 2012 | Registered CommenterAale Roos

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by Chris Dancy