IRP – Infrastructure Resource Planning: a series in the making…

While not earth shattering, I suspect that many people who are in the business of managing internet infrastructure have long sought to holistically manage this infrastructure and searched for a set of common best practices.  There is ITIL & ITSM which are really GREAT models to start from, yet seem a bit incomplete as per managing, specifically, interne infrastructure – built on the three pillars of Datacenters, Server (including storage), and Networks – as a “business”.  Then there is traditional ERP best practices, yet again, ERP is not exactly a perfect fit either as it is too broad – so why pound the square peg thru the round hole then?  Why not take the best of all of those three and call it Infrastructure Resource Planning (IRP)?

My own evolution has brought me to where I am in that very function – managing the business aspects of enterprise internet infrastructure – and as such, have begun to plan out the entire lifecycle of that infrastructure from procurement thru end of life/disposition and everything in between…including the very notion of shared services charge back models, which is why IRP is so analogous to ERP but not exactly the same thing.

ERP, as per wikipedia, is defined as the following:

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems integrate internal and external management information across an entire organization—embracing finance/accountingmanufacturing, sales and service,customer relationship management, etc. ERP systems automate this activity with an integrated software application. The purpose of ERP is to facilitate the flow of information between all business functions inside the boundaries of the organization and manage the connections to outside stakeholders.” – overall, this sounds a lot like evolving infrastructure management best practices inside enterprises, yet the twist is that while ERP is generalized to suit all businesses, IRP would emphasize the underlying interent infrastructure that a business runs upon today and manage it accordingly.

ITIL is a GREAT framework to follow for infrastructure mgmt that is predicated upon 30yrs of evolution and primarily focused on IT services, which are traditionally centered around the “desktop”.  “ITIL advocates that IT services must be aligned to the needs of the business and underpin the core business processes. It provides guidance to organizations on how to use IT as a tool to facilitate business change, transformation and growth.

The ITIL best practices are currently detailed within five core publications which provide a systematic and professional approach to the management of IT services, enabling organizations to deliver appropriate services and continually ensure they are meeting business goals and delivering benefits.”

However, ITIL doesn’t quite cover the infrastructure optimization of core datacenters, servers, and switches/routers specifically enough, as my own experience has yielded that a key component of IRP that differentiates itself from ITIL is that engineering research and development are requirements to optimize, holistically, the three pillars of internet infrastructure: Datacenters, Servers (including storage), and Networks.

Then, finally, there is ITSM.  ITSM is itself a process based framework much like ITIL, however, ITSM is not attributed to any one person or organization (ITIL is trademarked by the UK Cabinet office).  “ITSM is generally concerned with the “back office” or operational concerns of information technology management (sometimes known as operations architecture), and not with technology development.”  This notion of a management framework, again, is a GREAT start, however, the fact that it is not interested in tech development is where it falls short and IRP picks it up.

The idea of infrastructure R&D is the KEY differentiator of IRP form ITIL, ITSM, and ERP.  IRP is very much a large enterprise concept that does not disassociate itself from advancing the underlying technology; it embraces it as a way in which to drive ever more contribution to businesses’ bottom lines.

IRP is relevant today as businesses have scaled and evolved such that we are near a point where applications can be separated from direct relationships with internet infrastructure.  From the moment virtualization commenced, we have been trying to allow apps to live anywhere, anytime on a cohesively managed infrastructure.  When that infrastructure can be managed as a system onto itself is when IRP becomes relevant.

IRP is not a radical movement nor is it an earth shattering concept. It is a concept however, that is begging to be recognized as we further advance the separation of apps being directly tied to the underlying infrastructure. Then we can plan, manage, and tune that infrastructure as a system which is why technology advancement is a key component of IRP and where ITIL & ITSM fall just a bit short.  Thus, IRP as a concept is timely and needed to truly get a hold of your internet infrastructure from supply chain to management and monitoring to refresh cycles to research and development all thru the lens of optimizing the underlying business value proposition.

PS – stay tuned as there is an emerging metric which will be able to tie IRP all together – it will be made public in the next month.

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