Wait, what’s a MOF?  Microsoft Operations Framework?  Why would I need that?

In the 1980’s there was a movement to create standards for managing IT within the British government.  The result was the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) was initially published as a series of books between 1989 and 1996.  It documented IT best practices without regard to platform, nationality, industry or size of organization.  The sponsoring organization, the Central Computer and Telecommunications Industry, (CCTA) enlisted experts from various telecom and computer companies to write and edit the guidance.  Microsoft was one of those companies.

It was the intent of the ITIL sponsors that ITIL be adapted and adopted by software companies, industries, etc,since it deliberately left out platform or industry specific guidance.  Since the guidance did not cover Microsoft specific best practices, Microsoft realized that it needed to provide that guidance.   Microsoft began developing generic best practices guidance based on its own internal best practices, the best practices of its consulting arm, of its customers,and combined that with ITIL guidance.  The result was the Microsoft Operations Framework.  Both ITIL and MOF had as an underlying principle that IT should serve the business, and should provide services that the business needs.

At that time, Microsoft had already published its own best practices software development guidance, called Microsoft Solutions Framework (MSF).  MSF had three key elements: it used a lifecycle approach, it embedded risk management into every phase, and it used a team model to assign responsibility, to hold members accountable, and to foster clear and open communication.  These three elements were key in the original development of MOF.

As the industry continued to evolve, ITIL continued to revise its guidance.  ITIL v2 was released in 2000/2001, in the form of eight books; the red and blue books were the most frequently referredto:Service Support and Service Delivery. 

MOF v3 was heavily dependent on ITIL v2.  It used the ITILmaterials,and presented them in alifecyle, four quadrant approach.  The main differences between ITIL and MOF at that time were the Management Reviews embedded in the lifecycle at the end of each quadrant, the addition of operations guidance for the Microsoft environment which ITIL had deliberately left out, and the Risk and Team models mentioned above.

In May 2007, the new version of ITIL was released: version 3.  As Microsoft had continued to participate in the evolution and rewriting of the ITIL guidance, it was aware of the changes, and it worked on revising MOF.  However, for MOF v4, it decided to diverge from the ITIL approach; the new and current MOF was published in 2008. It is still based on a lifecycle approach which has three phases –Plan, Deliver, and Operate, and a foundational layer – Manage.   Moreover, MSF has been integrated into MOF – the MSF phases (Envision, plan, build, stabilize, and deploy) are now the elements of the MOF Deliver phase.

The Manage layer has oversight into and control responsibilities throughout the phases.  This oversight is divided into three Service Management Functions: Governance, Riskand Compliance is the first, Change and Configuration is the second, and the third is   Risk management is now part of the broader Manage layer, as part of the Governance, Risk and Compliance Service management function (SMF).  The third is Team.  There are still management reviews – six of them.  They are Service Alignment, Portfolio, Project Plan Approved, Release Readiness, Operational Health, and Policy and Control.  For those of you familiar with the shortcomings of MOF v3, you can see that the Manage layer, and its focus on coordination and control through its SMF’s has added an element of strategic planning and oversight that was missing from earlier versions.  In addition, as with ITIL v3 which added a focus on the Service Portfolio, there are two new management reviews in the Plan phase – Service Alignment, which begins the process of getting IT on the same page as the business, and Portfolio, which documents the planned services, the offered services (the service catalog) and the retired services.  Many of the SMF’s, such as Change and Configuration, Financial Management, Problem Management and Operations, are largely as they were in MOF v3.  However, the presentation of MOF has changed radically.  Guidance is now shorter, and is question based.  To find out more about MOF go to the MOF home page at:http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc506049.aspx  and take a look at the Reliability Workbooks, or the new IT Pro Quick Start Guide.

I started by asking some questions: Why do you need MOF? If you are using ITIL, you may not need MOF.  However, if you are using Microsoft products, then the MOF question-based guidance poses key questions with regard to the various aspects of IT service management. MOF is the Microsoft variant of ITIL.  If you are not using ITIL or MOF, then you should evaluate ITIL and MOF and start examining how your own best practices resemble and differ from those that have been refined over the last decade. What do you think?

Thank you!

Saskia Schott, Systems Engineer, QuickStart Intelligence