Business service mapping

What is business service mapping?

Business service mapping connects assets that meet the needs of a segment of the business that has its own plans, metrics, income and costs. Each business unit owns, implements and manages assets to create value for customers in the form of goods and services.

Changing technologies pose an issue for enterprises today—businesses must continuously be in the process of maintaining business agility to remain competitive. Agility allows the business to plan effectively, make important decisions and prioritize their backlogs. Business service mapping starts with visibility into IT assets across hybrid infrastructure and requires insight into how those assets interact with the wider organization.

For business service mapping, understanding IT assets means knowing how they’re dependent on one another. In many cases, visibility means seeing how business services are dependent on assets to function properly.

What is a service?

According to the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), “a service is a means of delivering value to customers by facilitating outcomes customers want to achieve without the ownership of specific costs and risks.” The term can be synonymous with core services, IT services or service packages. In this case, “customer” also refers to the organization itself.

Assets that comprise a service

IT elements, such as applications, servers, databases, virtual machines (VMs) and network connections support organizational services like customer relationship management (CRM) or email.

Services are the essential lifeblood of the organization. If your services are operating inefficiently—an app or a server is causing disruption to your payroll, for example—the effect across the business will be commensurate with the number of pieces of the organization the services touch. You don’t want faulty infrastructure mapping to cause infrastructure malfunctions. That could be disastrous.

What’s the difference business service mapping and application dependency mapping?

Business agility is paramount—and visibility into your IT assets and insight into how those assets interact with the wider organization is the foundation to achieving it. In some cases, that understanding means knowing how assets are dependent on one another. But other times, visibility refers to seeing how services within your business are dependent on several applications or assets functioning properly.

Conversations about gaining visibility into application dependencies (those relationships between IT elements) often will refer to dependency mapping when they really mean service mapping. But what’s the difference?

Those using the term service mapping tend to understand what they want. They’re referring to a collection of hardware and software infrastructure that delivers a business outcome. Think of this as the “S” in ITSM. "Business service” refers to an “application of applications,” or collection of apps to create a service.

It’s important to note that applications make up business services, but business services can also be applications. For example, an “app stack” refers to multiple applications that are put together to deliver a service. Those who use the term dependency mapping may be aware that it’s a prerequisite to doing service mapping—and not the same thing.

Application dependency mapping involves understanding which applications rely on which other applications to function. It’s similar to a daisy-chain effect where, for example, server one is dependent on server two, which is dependent upon server three, or application one is dependent on application two and software component three.

Challenges of business service mapping

Accurately mapping the business services of an organization comes with many challenges, but chief among them is the sheer scale and complexity involved in the process:

Lack of clarity in IT estate

Service mapping requires you to know your IT landscape in total. Services and processes within a business are often interconnected, so changes to one service can have ripple effects on others. Identifying and managing these interdependencies accurately is vital to prevent disruptions. Additionally, organizations typically use a variety of software and tools to manage their services and processes. Integrating these diverse technologies into a coherent service map can be complicated.

In many cases, organizations do not have knowledge of all their entry points. They often don’t have every server and application logged in fine detail, and legacy systems or lack of standardization can add to poor documentation, which makes mapping very difficult to execute. One reason why businesses get through, on average, only 20 percent of their service mapping is because those are the services they’re able to actively identify—and they remain unaware of the other 80 percent of their environment.

Scale and complexity

Business service mapping includes all the applications and application stacks that build each service. This can include collections of servers, load balancers and other resources that are providing these services (e.g., enterprise resource planning, HR systems, etc.). In some cases, organizations will have several servers working together that are interconnected between different services. Each service is a unit that the organization puts a budget toward, retires, upgrades or may want to migrate to the cloud. The business must think holistically and not at the individual asset level when making business decisions.

To build this manually would often require far more investment and effort than would be returned. Organizations will typically automate the creation of a service map of the IT environment by building a database of dependencies through continuous polling of each server at regular intervals. Polling asks each server:

  • What are you talking to?
  • Who are you talking to?
  • What application is talking?
  • Is it an SQL server?
  • Is it an Apache?

The challenge comes with a database scaling to potentially billions of connections depending on the size of the organization’s infrastructure. When looking at individual workloads [e.g., the string(s) of applications and other servers each one is speaking to], this creates a dependency map. If a user wants to stop there, then that’s their dependency mapping. This kind of map is what many providers deliver for infrastructure planning, especially in the cloud migration space.

Tools, resources and communications

Business service mapping involves collaboration among a variety of stakeholders across different teams and departments. Without a detailed scope, project and process plan, miscommunications or misunderstandings can lead to inaccurate mapping, affecting the overall understanding of the business. To offset this, organizations may rely on tools for this process; choosing the right tools for mapping and visualization is important, as inadequate tools can hinder the accuracy and effectiveness of the mapping process.

Benefits of business service mapping

  • Increased business agility
    • Gaining visibility into the organization
    • Prioritizing incident, security and vulnerability management
    • Determining value of services and return on investment
    • Better facilitation on IT service management (ITSM)
    • Improving configuration management databases (CMBD)
  • Streamlined cloud migration
    • Details view of hybrid environment to move assets, workloads and services
    • Responsive business model

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