The Denver Water service-oriented architecture (SOA) implementation is occurring in the context of many different older applications, databases, interfaces, and machines that make up a loosely governed collection of “services.” The combination of these older and SOA services has contributed to the complexity of the Denver Water infrastructure, introducing risks that are expensive to mitigate. To address this challenge, Denver Water engaged The Confluence Group to help build a new service portfolio management tool called ServiceFolio. Based on an array of Microsoft technologies, Denver Water will use ServiceFolio to inventory current and planned services, and then to manage changes to the enterprise architecture.
Denver Water serves 1.3 million customers in the Denver area, and has annual revenues of $240 million. The utility employs more than 1100 employees. Over many decades, the company introduced different technologies to support mission critical business operations. While this mix of hardware and software has enabled the utility to reliably serve its customers, the complexity of the system also meant that an interruption of one part of the system could have a cascading effect on other parts of the system.
||The development and implementation of ServiceFolio is not simply a 'nice-to-have.' It’s actually a key component to effectively manage our ever-increasing complex information technology environment.
CIO, Denver Water
According to Eric Decker, Enterprise Architect for Denver Water, “There have been cases when we simply didn’t know what we had in place in certain areas, and therefore struggled to assess what systems had an impact on what operations. We are talking about a large and complex list of services.” He notes that there have been situations when an applications group has upgraded systems, but neglected to inform all other system users about key changes that later caused disruptions.
“If you don’t systematically manage what is connected to what, what level of service is expected, and what level of downtime is acceptable, then you are relying on a lot of institutional memory and knowledge from key members of your work force to keep key systems properly linked,” says Decker.
While some veterans could diagnose and solve many of these situations with only minor headaches, that convenience quickly dissipated as key employees aged out of the work force. “We are losing a lot of important personnel because they are retiring. They have a lot of knowledge in their heads. However, much of it is not written down,” says Decker.
As a result, the risk of potential disruptions during routine tasks was growing. Solution
As a long-time user of Microsoft software, Denver Water turned to the Redmond, Washington–based company to help solve its system tracking and monitoring issue.
|Figure 1. Diagram of the service relationships |
managed by the application
In March/April 2010, working with The Confluence Group, a diversified information technology consulting company based in Denver, the utility deployed a sophisticated service portfolio management tool—called ServiceFolio—that is based on a set of Microsoft technologies.
ServiceFolio is not just a simple service registry application, but an end-to-end solution that will help Denver Water drive better governance in the delivery of services and optimize business processes. The services can be defined as:
With ServiceFolio, Denver Water deployed a comprehensive solution that not only shows how hardware, applications, interfaces, databases, and business processes interconnect, but also provides tools for managing production outages and service-level agreements (SLAs).
ServiceFolio uses a combination of Microsoft technologies, including:
Microsoft Silverlight 4 browser plug-in, a development platform for creating rich media and business applications, which also features a “visualizer” that provides graphic displays of system dependencies and a real-time monitoring dashboard.
|Figure 2. Calendar view of services to help determine |
how/which services need maintenance and which
resources need to be allocated
Denver Water and The Confluence Group also use ServiceFolio to ensure proper governance and quality control as different groups within the utility add new information to the enterprise service directory.
“You can have all the services in the world, but you must have governance to realize their potential. Architecture without governance is of little use,” Decker explains. “We’ve put certain milestones in place so that people can’t move ahead with certain tasks in a project, unless they have populated ServiceFolio to keep it current and accurate.”
“Dependency analysis is at the heart of this,” says Phil Ragsdale, President and Chief Architect at The Confluence Group.
“In terms of the user community, we are focusing initially on the administrators—the people who are responsible for initiating day-to-day changes to the existing system. Our subsequent users will be IT project managers and architects who manage the system improvements over a longer timeframe. Finally, we will have a view for the business sponsors of our services and allow them to manage and monitor their SLAs.”Benefits
With its solution, Denver Water is seeing improved risk mitigation, better project and development planning, and improved management.
Improved Risk Mitigation
The main benefit of the solution today is risk mitigation. “This tool lets people immediately see any source of failure and the impact on other systems and processes,” says Decker.
For any given project, ServiceFolio shows where each element of technology is within the system and shows its relationship to associated technology elements, and points of contact for each system. A visual component displays all service nodes on a graph with a dependency tree showing all the interrelationships among the different services.
The operations resource administrator can trace any system issue up and down the dependency tree, and across the different nodes, and see it displayed graphically. ServiceFolio also features a calendaring function that displays an operational view of key events that could affect service dependencies—including service-level agreement reviews, planned upgrades, outages, license expirations, and so on.
Better Development Planning
"We found it especially useful to not have to worry about web services plumbing when using the WCF RIA Services. It was great to define our model and validation logic in one place and see it replicated automatically to our Silverlight client application. Of all the features of WCF RIA Services, this one aspect was the most valuable as it reduced development time, saved on testing, and gave us the confidence that what was defined on the server was also on the client. This translated into a shorter iterative [every two weeks] and a more predictable development cycle,” says Decker.
Looking ahead, Decker reports that Denver Water intends to tie ServiceFolio to the utility’s enterprise notification network in order to display on a dashboard the operational state of each managed service. The display will light up with a graph showing the progress of the issue (for example, “down,” “under repair,” or “resolved”).
“ServiceFolio will, in short, become a critical management tool that will allow us to keep track of key elements in our infrastructure. It will improve our ability to manage key operations and service tasks and ensures that we offer the City of Denver and the surrounding area high-quality, uninterrupted levels of service,” Decker concludes.
“The development and implementation of ServiceFolio is not simply a 'nice-to-have.' It’s actually a key component to effectively manage our ever-increasing complex information technology environment,” says Chris Dermody, CIO, Denver Water.
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