The ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) framework is designed to standardize the selection, planning, delivery and support of IT services to a business. The goal is to improve efficiency and achieve predictable service levels. The ITIL framework enables IT to be a business service partner, rather than just back-end support. ITIL guidelines and best practices align IT actions and expenses to business needs and change them as the business grows or shifts direction.
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ITIL traces its roots back to the 1980s as data centers began decentralizing and adopting more distributed or geographically diverse architectures. This flexibility led to unwanted differences in processes and deployments, creating inconsistent or suboptimal performance. The United Kingdom's government recognized the importance of perceiving IT as a service and then applying consistent practices across the entire IT service lifecycle, and initiated ITIL.
ITIL encompasses a framework of five core publications or ITIL books, which are periodically reviewed and updated as technologies change. Each book collects best practices for each major phase of the IT service lifecycle. ITIL Service Strategy explains business goals and customer requirements. ITIL Service Design shows how to move strategies into plans that help the business. ITIL Service Transition shows how to introduce services into the environment. ITIL Service Operation explains how to manage the IT services. ITIL Continual Service Improvement helps adopters evaluate and plan large and small improvements to IT services.
ITIL-based IT infrastructure management can be a complex specialty for any business, and is often the domain of the largest IT-centric businesses such as Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and IBM, along with other major enterprises in retail, finance, pharmaceuticals, entertainment and manufacturing. ITIL adoption and maintenance normally requires trained and certified experts to guide a company and its IT staff.
Ongoing development for ITIL has been vested in Axelos, a joint-venture company created by the U.K. Cabinet Office and Capita PLC. The latest version of ITIL was released in July 2011 and is often called ITIL 2011. It clarifies and expands upon many of the processes from the previous 2007 edition, often called version 3 or ITIL v3.
Axelos supports five levels of ITIL certification: Foundation, Intermediate Level Lifecycle and Capability tracks, Managing Across the Lifecycle, Expert Level and Master Qualification. ITIL certifications are granted by Axelos through accredited Examination Institutes located globally. Certification candidates accrue credits within this ITIL qualification system that unlock higher-level certification options such as ITIL Expert.