Article

Service Mapping in Action

butterfly

Utility provider Thames Water takes back control of their IT operations with ServiceNow and a view of its IT services interactions

At Knowledge19, ServiceNow’s conference in Las Vegas, Thames Water shared their customer’s experience of implementing ServiceNow’s ITOM.

At the heart of the issue was the sprawl in IT service providers who had been handed the keys to the castle: suppliers who each reported on their patch of turf. There was no clear picture of how it all worked together. As such, any disruption to the system had knock-on consequences, impacting employees and customers, and requiring engineering time to track down the underlying issue before it could be fixed.

Thames Water's plan was to aggregate all the information about their platforms, the services they supported, and the interactions between them to improve performance, reduce outages, manage costs, and improve employee and customer experiences.

The implemented system consists of ServiceNow ITOM portal that provides centralised ITOM functionality, with all configuration items (CIs) managed within a configuration management database (CMDB) which, is itself kept up to date through ServiceNow’s Discovery (for platforms and applications) and Service Mapping (for service interactions and dependencies) tools.

The alternative, the utility company explained, was to keep half a dozen Azure engineers on site, at great expense, to track it all manually.

As a result, a ServiceNow platform that provides the company with a clear and simple view of how systems interact, a portal that shows – in real time – when services have failed, and the knock-on consequences (or, traced the other direction, the underlying cause). This allows his teams to jump on the root cause of a problem as it occurs. To fix issues before they seriously impact business operations.

Under the hood of Service Mapping

But what is Service Mapping?

Service Mapping is often referred to as traffic-based discovery. It is inextricably linked with the device-and-application mapping process that is Discovery. By following traffic flows between the CIs identified by Discovery, Service Mapping builds a picture of the connections that link them together instead of treating each device and application as an independent, stand-alone object. It uses pattern recognition and machine learning algorithms to understand dependencies based on sequences of operations.

This combination of Discovery and Service Mapping ensures the CMDB has a complete and accurate view of all applications, servers, databases and services. This view is then represented through service-level relationships in an end-to-end topology, a critical perspective often missing from traditional infrastructure discovery tools.

As with Discovery and other CMDB-related processes, Service Mapping is not a one-time affair. Its value derives form continuous monitoring of the underlying platforms and processes. It registers the deployment of new platforms and services, updating its map. It identifies issues and traces the consequences of a failure on dependent systems to assess impact. It also identifies devices that are no longer part of business operations.

A CMDB supported by Discovery and Service Mapping will have a continuous clean bill of health, thereby providing IT managers with a service-aware view of an organisation’s entire infrastructure and system architecture, which is, in turn, manageable through the Now portal. It’s a real-time system-health monitoring tool that allows faults to be identified as they occur, underlying causes to be isolated, and services to be restored in record time.

Additionally, a ServiceNow's ITOM instance provides the ability to compare the service topology over time, to query changes made and their impact. Or to preview the consequences of a proposed change.

What’s next? Check out the video on top tips for populating your CMDB