Fermilab Gains Agility Managing IT In The Cloud - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


Fermilab Gains Agility Managing IT In The Cloud

Energy Department's Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory migrates its IT services management system to ServiceNow and earns ISO 20000 certification for operational excellence.

Top 10 Government IT Innovators Of 2013
Top 10 Government IT Innovators Of 2013
(click image for larger view)
Victoria White, CIO of the Energy Department's Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab), likes to call her organization's migration of its IT services management to the cloud "a journey."

For White, the journey began with the realization that the lab's legacy systems were hurting the ability of its 1,700 employees and a global network of between 3,000 and 4,000 scientists from reaching their goal of advancing research in particle physics and driving the development of transformative technologies for science and industry.

The journey reached a major milestone earlier this year, when Fermilab became the Energy Department's first national laboratory to earn ISO 20000 certification for excellence in IT service management processes.

White knew five years ago that the national lab needed to improve or automate its enterprise processes in a number of areas, including asset and configuration management, IT governance, performance analytics, incident management and its service desk. What was missing was the right combination of resources and solutions.

[ Why can't cloud procurement move faster? Read Feds Face Cloud Procurement Confusion, Delays. ]

"You need computing to do science, and you need underpinning computing to support all the people [doing research]," White told InformationWeekSo she started looking for ways to improve the way the lab delivers those services to people to enable science and do it cost effectively. "That journey was really about process improvement and service management," and about helping people learn "that you need tools to help you," White said.

White and her team saw the emergence of the cloud as potential solution and started migrating "a classic, old-fashioned service desk tool" to the cloud.

"It was like so many things in IT where the classic old systems are just not enabling you to move forward," she said. "They cost a lot to maintain, upgrades are very expensive, you need programmers and you have wait in line to get something coded to meet your needs. It was just not supporting our needs."

In 2011, they decided to switch to a software-as-a-service platform, selecting ServiceNow, whose cloud-based system lets customers automate and standardize IT management services and create a single system of record for enterprise IT services. Customers also can use ServiceNow's extensible platform to build applications for automating processes unique to their business requirements.

After a six-month proof-of-concept pilot, lab officials completed migration to the service in October 2011. "It was very enabling and remains very enabling to this day," White said. "Our experience has been that we've been able to move forward and be agile, and using it as a platform, build more processes and do more automation."

For Fermilab users, the most visible improvement in moving to the cloud is the centralization and standardization of the service desk. Now, when they report computer-related issues to the service, their tickets are seamlessly logged, tracked and fixed. "This is where you have to track IT," White said. "You have to understand what's happening."

The improvements led Fermilab to earn ISO 20000 certification for excellence in IT service management processes, the first national laboratory inside the Energy Department to do so. ISO 20000, an international standard for IT service management, is an approach that requires every stage of an IT service -- from planning to delivery to improvement -- to meet business requirements and customer expectations. Maintaining certification status involves annual audits and a plan to continually demonstrate improved services and processes.

The biggest benefit of migrating its IT services management to the cloud is agility, according to White. Given Fermilab's positive experience, she advised other government IT professionals to "get moving" on the journey to cloud-based services.

"You've got to keep moving forward in the modern world," she said. "Don't be afraid. Just get moving. Do small projects in small pieces. There's nothing more enabling than having someone else run the infrastructure, someone else upgrade the platform and having the whole platform built for configuration rather than coding. That in itself is the enabler of making you agile, making you able to move forward."

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Chuck Brooks
Chuck Brooks,
User Rank: Author
11/13/2013 | 10:36:54 PM
re: Fermilab Gains Agility Managing IT In The Cloud
The DOE National Labs, including Fermi are really the crowned jewels of transformative R & D and commericalization of technological products. IT is included in that capability. When you tap the best and the brightest, you get innovative solutions in every area including IT enterprise management.
User Rank: Author
11/5/2013 | 9:08:16 PM
re: Fermilab Gains Agility Managing IT In The Cloud
The importance of the ISO 20000 as a standard is as much about ensuring organizations can achieve evidence-based benchmarks to continuously improve their delivery of IT services as it is the delivery of the services themselves. Not that every agency should shoot for this standard, but striving for an evidence-based improvement record generally leads to better management and better customer satisfaction.
InformationWeek Is Getting an Upgrade!

Find out more about our plans to improve the look, functionality, and performance of the InformationWeek site in the coming months.

Becoming a Self-Taught Cybersecurity Pro
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  6/9/2021
Ancestry's DevOps Strategy to Control Its CI/CD Pipeline
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  6/4/2021
IT Leadership: 10 Ways to Unleash Enterprise Innovation
Lisa Morgan, Freelance Writer,  6/8/2021
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
2021 State of ITOps and SecOps Report
2021 State of ITOps and SecOps Report
This new report from InformationWeek explores what we've learned over the past year, critical trends around ITOps and SecOps, and where leaders are focusing their time and efforts to support a growing digital economy. Download it today!
Current Issue
Planning Your Digital Transformation Roadmap
Download this report to learn about the latest technologies and best practices or ensuring a successful transition from outdated business transformation tactics.
Flash Poll