IT as a Service (ITaaS): An Introduction


In my last post we looked at some practical ways IT could respond to the changing domain of application delivery and management that SaaS has introduced.  This time we turn our attention to the emerging discipline of ITaaS. Although the term ITaaS has been in circulation for a number of years, a concrete and consistent definition still eludes the industry.  A quick online search will reveal as many definitions as there are search results and a tell-tale absence of a Wikipedia entry…

Despite the nebulosity of the term, there’s no doubt that ITaaS continues to gain momentum in the industry – more and more vendors are talking about the capabilities of their products in terms of how they support ITaaS and the major systems integrators are starting ITaaS practices. It’s time to get curious about what it is and what it means – because it’s coming soon to an IT department near you…

An attempt at defining ITaaS: IT as a Service

Here goes…

“A service oriented approach to the consumption, organization and delivery of information technology such that all details of the service are abstracted from the business consumer except the service’s: function, capacity, cost and agreed level of performance.”

OK, so that’s just my attempt to formally collate and document what the various descriptions of ITaaS have in common and capture their shared ultimate goal.  Notably almost all parties involved all have shied away from a definition so far – so this could be a first! Hopefully the key idea is clear – this means true service oriented provision of IT services to the business.

ITaaS draws upon some incredible recent advances in infrastructure technology – where whole blocks of computing ,software and storage capacity are provisioned and de-provisioned with a single click, often by someone who knows nothing of the underlying complexities involved.

ITaaS also unifies this incredibly dynamic infrastructure capability with the latest thinking (and supporting applications) in service level management, costing and chargeback. The business in essence buys capacity in the capabilities it needs at an agreed level of service – which it can then access with almost total ubiquity on devices of its choosing.  By the way, ordering and configuring these services is intended to be as complex as operating the interface.

In conclusion: The 3 key Tenets of ITaaS

So hopefully we now have a pretty good working definition of ITaaS – or at least enough to know what the characteristics and the end game of this concept are. Let’s conclude by reminding ourselves of the three most significant tenets of ITaaS:

1. Massive Abstraction

As referenced in the definition above, in ITaaS – everything about the design, delivery and management of an IT service is abstracted away from the business. The use of business language, in place of technical terminology, will be one of the fundamental characteristics of this paradigm. Moreover, thanks to the latest advances in dynamic infrastructure technology, most of the underpinning technology is itself an abstraction!

2. Self-Service

In ITaaS self-service is a critical concept – controlling complex systems provisioning will boil down to a couple of key questions: What do you want? And how much do you need ?. This is clearly a question a business function can answer and provided they understand (and accept) what this will cost – and can operate a self-service portal – they will be able to consume whole chunks of IT capability on demand.

3. Service Levels and Charge back

IT’s role shifts to being one of ‘Service Broker’ with ITaaS – thanks to abstraction and self-service, IT will focus on defining the agreed service levels surrounding the availability and performance and allowing the business to dynamically select the level of coverage needed. In keeping with the abstraction theme, IT will present an all inclusive charge to the consuming business unit for the capacity used without the need to refer to what that bill comprises…or so the theory goes.

Next time we’ll uncover more about what it will mean to work in IT as ITaaS gains momentum: we’ll expand more on the idea of becoming a ‘Service Broker’. We’ll also consider what the challenges for IT will be and what some of the proposed benefits of ITaaS are.

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These postings are my own and do not necessarily represent BMC's position, strategies, or opinion.

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Chris Rixon

Chris Rixon

Chris has worked in IT Operations Management technology since 1990, in roles spanning: IT helpdesk, software engineering, consulting, architecture, sales engineering and marketing. Chris joined the Remedy Corporation in 2000 and came to BMC during the acquisition in late 2002.