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Editor’s note: Jake Sorofman is vice president of marketing for rPath, an innovator in automating application deployment and maintenance across physical, virtual and cloud environments. Learn more aboutrPath, follow rPath on Twitter at @rpath and contact Jake at jsorofman@rpath.com.

By JAKE SOROFMAN, Special to LTW

RALEIGH, N.C. — Agile ITIL?

For many, that sounds utterly oxymoronic – like “jumbo shrimp” or “unbiased opinion.”

Agile: Lean, automated, adaptive.

ITIL: Lumbering, bureaucratic and rigid.

These are mutually contradictory, nonsensically combined concepts. More oil and water than peanut butter and chocolate. Right?

ITIL is about control, compliance and predictability. It’s about uptime and stability.

Agile? It’s about speed and change – the mortal enemies of uptime and stability.

So, what happens when Agile meets ITIL? Today, worlds collide.

Part of the issue is rooted in the divergent cultures and motivations of dev and ops:

Dev: freewheeling, ideological, collaborative, self-organizing, and organicOps: policy-driven, command-and-control, focused on uptime and compliance

When dev meets ops – when Agile meets ITIL – the velocity gains in application development are lost, caught in the purgatory of long, cumbersome release cycles.

Worse still is change. For IT, change portends nothing but punctuated pain and a passel of unintended consequences. Change is empowering for dev and dispiriting for IT.

According to Israel Gat, who, together with Michael Cote, blogs as The Agile Executive:

  1. The business needs to respond to change quicker than ever.
  2. Various traditional IT management methods tend to discourage change and slow it down.
  3.  Competent Agile dev/test teams are now able to respond much quicker to the changes required by the business. The time gained in dev/test, however, could be completely wasted if IT Service Management fails to become (more) agile.

And there’s the key: When IT puts on the brakes, velocity gains – responsiveness, agility – are nothing but false hopes and empty promises. Agile becomes fragile. Agility becomes atrophy.

Gat proposes what he calls Agile Business Service Management – extending agility to IT.

In fact, Gat participated in an rPath webinar last year on this very topic, back when it was, if not radical, certainly something ahead of mainstream thinking.

Today, it’s the catalyst behind one of the frothier topics on Twitter: #DevOps.

The reality is ITIL is poised to get lean – to become agile.

Lumbering, bureaucratic and rigid are out of step with today’s high-velocity and low-overhead needs. Compounding scale, accelerating change and the need for speed have conspired with lean mandates and elusive budgets to put traditional IT practices on notice.

In support of this are movements like DevOps and manifestos like Visible Ops, which draws out the best principles of ITIL and presents them as specific, pragmatic steps toward the goal of high performance IT. At the same time, there’s something of a renaissance underway in IT automation software. This has further stoked the fire, helping advance these movements beyond concept and ideology and making ITIL agility achievable.

So, is Agile ITIL an oxymoron? Perhaps. But that’s sure to change – it has to change. Soon, these words in combination will sound perfectly natural. But that’s just my unbiased opinion.

Jake Sorofman is chief marketing officer for rPath, an innovator in automating application deployment and maintenance across physical, virtual and cloud environments. Learn more , follow rPath on Twitter at @rpath or contact Jake at jsorofman@rpath.com.