IT operations, or ITOps, refers to the processes and services administered by an organization's IT staff to its internal or external clients.
Every organization that uses computers has a way of meeting the IT needs of their employees or clients, whether or not they call it ITOps. In a typical enterprise environment, however, ITOps is a distinct group within the IT department.
The IT operations team plays a critical role in accomplishing business goals. Among other things, they help to maintain a stable and reliable IT ecosystem and ensures that IT empowers the organization’s employees and management to achieve the business’s desired outcomes.
As businesses increasingly migrate from the data center to the cloud, how that role is carried out is changing. In this article, we’ll define what ITOps teams do, how they differ from other teams like DevOps, and how IT operations are evolving.
IT operations roles and responsibilities
IT operations provides high-level technological guidance and performs routine daily tasks to maintain the organization’s IT infrastructure. IT operations is important because it has end-to-end responsibility for the services provided by the IT organization, systems and infrastructure that support an organization’s business processes. It is tasked with maintaining the operational stability of the organization while at the same time supporting new initiatives to push business to the next level.
ITOps may be tailored to suit each organization’s needs and resources, rendering a uniform “to-do list” of tasks impractical. As a function, however, ITOps can be broken down into three key areas of responsibility. Which and how many of these tasks any individual team is responsible for will vary from one organization to another. Those tasks may include:
- Configuring and managing all networking functions for internal and external IT communications
- Configuring and managing telecommunication lines
- Managing firewall ports to allow the network to communicate with outside servers
- Providing authorized users secure remote access to the organization’s network
- Monitoring network health and performance, detecting anomalies, and preventing or quickly resolving issues, which may include building and managing a network operations center (NOC), a central, physical location from which ITOps teams can continuously monitor a network
Server and device management
- Configuring, maintaining and managing servers for infrastructure and applications
- Managing network and individual storage to ensure they meet application requirements
- Setting up and authorizing email and file servers
- Provisioning and managing company-approved PCs
- Provisioning and managing cell phones and other mobile devices
- Managing licensing and desktop, laptop and mobile device software
Computer operations and help desk
- Managing data center locations and equipment
- Operating the help/service desk
- Creating, authorizing and managing all user profiles on organizational systems
- Providing network configuration auditing information to regulatory agencies, business partners and other outside entities
- Deploying network fixes and upgrades
- Ensuring high availability of the network and maintaining disaster recovery plans
- Alerting users when a major incident impacts network services
- Instituting regular backups to facilitate data recovery when needed
- Managing and working with vendors and outside contractors
- Procuring and paying for hardware, software and applications
- Project management
How is IT operations is evolving?
Just like anything else in the tech world, ITOps isn’t monolithic or static in any sense of the word. As technology evolves, new operations approaches arise — combining traditional ITOps with other teams, tools and systems.
To start, let’s clarify where ITOps fits in.
ITOps’ broad and sometimes nebulous description can make it seem that it covers anything IT-related. It’s true that ITOps activities can vary considerably from organization to organization, but in all cases, they fall under the responsibility of delivering and maintaining the technology needed to run a business.
In practice, that can include tasks such as maintaining networks, managing data centers, ensuring security and regulatory compliance, managing the help desk, licensing and managing software and other tasks that empower workers and support daily business operations.
Notably, IT operations does not include program and application development and related tasks.
DevOps is an approach to IT service delivery that combines people, practices, and tools to break down silos between development and operations teams. But DevOps also refers to a distinct IT role responsible for developing, implementing and maintaining custom applications for internal or external use.
As its name indicates, DevOps brings together the roles of development and IT operations. At its core, DevOps stems from the idea that teams should own their production support. Following a set of DevOps practices, DevOps teams accelerate the development of applications and services with a more responsive approach to the management of the IT infrastructure, so they can deploy and update IT products at the speed of the modern marketplace.
DevOps revolves around two key ideas: innovating and optimizing apps while shortening the software development life cycle and speeding up time to market.
Constant iteration and evolving technology has left a mark on both DevOps and ITOps — and perhaps nothing has been as influential as artificial intelligence. AIOps is the practice of applying AI analytics and machine learning to automate and improve IT operations.
AIOps platforms are designed for today’s networks with an ability to capture large data sets across the environment while maintaining data quality for comprehensive analysis. They can also suggest solutions, automate responses and alter algorithms to improve how they handle future issues.
In practice, AIOps is a three-step process — observe, engage, act — performed in a continuous cycle:
- Observe: First the AIOps platform processes real-time data from a variety of sources, including traditional IT monitoring and log events, among others. The AI algorithms use anomalies in the data to automatically detect significant issues, which the platform then analyzes, clustering similar issues.
- Engage: The AIOps platform alerts the relevant IT teams to the anomalies. Because they’re grouped together by type, there are fewer notifications.
- Act: AIOps platforms can automate workflow routing with or without human intervention, learning from the IT team’s responses to become more accurate with time. Ultimately, it may learn to resolve issues before the business becomes aware of them and before they impact end users.
The future of ITOps
In a rapidly evolving tech landscape, IT operations (ITOps) play a pivotal role in maintaining stable IT ecosystems, enabling business success. As technology advances, ITOps merges with DevOps and embraces AIOps, leveraging AI and automation to enhance efficiency. This evolution underscores the dynamic nature of ITOps, vital for businesses to adapt and thrive.
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