ServiceNow and the SDDC Stack
ServiceNow has become something of a de facto ticketing and IT service management (ITSM) system in large enterprise environments. Many organizations are looking to achieve their self-service ITSM goals by making ServiceNow the single interface for as many functions as possible.
The reasons for this vary per organization, but the end-state goal can usually be broken down into one of the following outcomes:
- Single Pane of Glass – Funnel all users and interactions through the ServiceNow portal to create a single service catalog and resource management portal.
- Enterprise Service and Ticketing System – Funnel the initial request for service through ServiceNow, track provisioned objects in ServiceNow, but allow users to utilize other portals for management functions
- Ticketing & Approval integration – Allow requests to originate from external systems and portals, but require tracking and approvals in ServiceNow
Single Pane of Glass
The elusive “Single Pane of Glass” unicorn is something a great number of organizations are after but very few ever achieve. The moniker also tends to mean something slightly different depending on the context and the organization.
In this case, we are considering it to mean that the ServiceNow catalog would act as the single entry point for new requests and tickets, a tracking point for status, a management point for performing actions on existing resources, and some kind of monitoring point for performance and issues.
This method carries a lot of development and integration overhead as an organization seeks to funnel as much interaction as possible through the ServiceNow system, where it might otherwise be able to save a large amount of development time by utilizing pre-existing capabilities on external systems that have already been procured.
Enterprise Service and Ticketing System
The most common integration paradigm is the Enterprise Service and Ticketing System. Under this model, the ServiceNow catalog is the entry point for new requests and tracking of delivery of those requests, including governance (approvals) of the requests. Once the service is delivered, such as a cloud instance or a vSphere machine, it’s common to allow a third-party system to manage the resource as they often provide out of the box capabilities that ServiceNow does not (e.g. Virtual Machine Console).
Ticketing & Approval Integration
Some organizations just want to track requests and approvals in a central location, which in this case is the ServiceNow ticketing system. Under this model, they may allow requests to generate from third-party systems, but require tracking and approval in ServiceNow. Thus, a request made in vRealize Automation, for example, would result in an API call to ServiceNow to open a ticket on the user’s behalf. The request would queue waiting on approvals to complete in ServiceNow, and depending on the outcome, continue with provisioning.
Under this model, the organization maintains visibility into and control over resources and service requests but leverages out of the box capabilities in third-party products that often can perform the functions more quickly and more efficiently.
For each of these desired outcomes, there are integration options with the SDDC stack.
Performance Monitoring with vRealize Operations Manager
Performance monitoring in the SSDC stack is done with vRealize Operations Manager (vROPS). vROPS is capable of collecting metrics from the virtual environment as well as cloud environments, applications, and more (with content packs) in order to be the single collection point for enterprise performance metrics.
For integration with ServiceNow, it’s possible to define alerts, or use the out of the box alerts, to raise incidents in ServiceNow that can be monitored and assigned for action. This way, an organization does not have to solely rely on e-mail alerting to systems administrators when preventive or reactive maintenance needs to be performed on the infrastructure. This has the added benefit of removing administrators from the impossible task of self-reporting. If vROPS automatically reports incidents into an ITSM system like ServiceNow, those incidents, response times, and resolutions can be tracked by individuals not directly connected to the troubleshooting and system maintenance roles, holding administrators accountable for actions, and maintaining a level of oversight that might otherwise not be possible.
See the following demonstration for an idea of how vROPS integration with ServiceNow can work.
Log Auditing and Alerting with vRealize Log Insight
Log Insight provides a log collection, aggregation, analysis, and reporting point for enterprise logs. These logs can then be filtered and forwarded to another log collection point if desired, and alerts can be created based on log query information. Similar to the vROPS to ServiceNow integration described in the last section, Log Insight alerts can be created to raise incidents in ServiceNow. These can be related to security audit information or performance/error conditions or both. Custom queries can be created for all scenarios requiring alerting, and an alerting schedule can be created to generate the alerts/incidents in ServiceNow.
Like the integration with vROPS, this has the added benefit of removing the systems administrators from the job of reporting on security relevant events and performance issues and moves the oversight to the centralized ITSM system.
vRealize Automation Integration with ServiceNow
There are multiple ways to integrate vRA with ServiceNow. Using the ITSM plug-in, catalog items can be imported from vRA into ServiceNow, making them requestable from ServiceNow. This is beneficial because it allows an organization to separate infrastructure automation and orchestration away from the ITSM team and leave it with the infrastructure specialists. Familiar expertise and toolsets allow quick time to value through vRA, but making ServiceNow the entry point for requests can provide the added metric tracking, oversight, and governance to the process that a lot of organizations are looking for.
vRA can also act as the Service Catalog and initial request portal for infrastructure provisioning services. If ticket tracking and approvals are necessary from ServiceNow, these hooks can be baked into the vRA request process to leverage an external connection to the ServiceNow API and hold provisioning requests pending ticket creation and approval workflow completion. Upon completion, the request can be released and provisioning can continue as normal. This allows the native request experience from vRA, along with added value day-2 actions, but integrates into the overall ITSM strategy of the organization providing control and oversight into infrastructure provisioning activities.
The following demonstrations outline some ways to integrate vRealize Automation with ServiceNow:
Delivering IaaS with ServiceNow, vRealize Automation, Log Insight, and Splunk
Provisioning & Managing Amazon EC2 Instances From ServiceNow with vRealize Automation
Provisioning Virtual Desktops and Desktop Applications From ServiceNow Using vRealize Automation
As with so many things in IT, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the Single Pane of Glass problem. The term means so many things to so many different people, and the approach should be goal focused more than anything. The prime directive should be to reduce complexity where possible and not to spend too much time on integration of components without a clear idea of how to measure the success and see a return on the invested time.
If your organization owns vRA, it should use all of the features possible to gain quick time to value and leverage the development and R&D funds placed into the product by the vendor. This goes for any competitive product as well. You should only direct your resources to custom develop similar solutions if you do not already own a product that can do it, if you have the expertise on-staff necessary to complete the work, and if the time invested into the project can produce a benefit on par with the magnitude of expenditure. If not, it’s best to leverage integrations wherever possible.