Service in Business, Computing, and the Cloud

I am a longtime enthusiast of the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL). I was first introduced to ITIL in the mid-nineties by a support architect from the Netherlands. Their practices seemed overly complex, but I was pleased to see that the ITIL approach to service desk management was similar to the methodology built into the Network Management Forum trouble ticketing standard that I had worked on a few years before.

Business Services

ITIL places a heavy emphasis on managing IT as a system of services. Service is an important concept in both business and computing architecture.  In business, a service comes into being when a buyer purchases an action, often contrasted with a transaction in which the buyer purchases goods, i.e. things. Hence the phrase “goods and services.”  An important part of the notion of “service” in business is that services always have a buyer and a seller. There are always two participants in the transaction. I can wash my clothes myself, or I can purchase laundry service from a laundry. When I wash them myself, it is just me grabbing a box of detergent. When I subscribe to a laundry service, it is me and the laundry.

In an IT department, I can acquire help desk software, hire support analysts and managers, and run my own help desk, or I can subscribe to a help desk service. This is exactly like choosing to subscribe to a laundry service.   In both cases, I have decided to have something done for me instead of doing it myself. This is a business decision, not a technical decision, although deciding between  building a help desk or subscribing to a service involves a choice between technologies.

Software Services

I can do the same thing in software. Suppose I want to perform arithmetic calculations in a program. I could write a function to do it. Or I might find a library with a function to link into my program. In both cases, my program would be doing the calculation on my machine. Alternatively I could use a different software architecture and call the Google calculator web service. If I chose the service, my program would become a consumer of a Google cloud service and the calculation would be done in one of Google’s warehouse scale computers. I could choose to call Google’s REST API or SOAP API, but no matter which I chose, my program would still be a consumer of Google’s service.

Cloud Services

Cloud computing is based on a great divide between consumers and providers, both in a business and a programmatic sense. A great divide between customers and vendors can lead to conflicts and severed relations, but the divide between consumers and providers  is division by choice for more efficient  allocation of resources and may well result in improved relations.

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