Book: The Visible Ops Handbook

Terry Slattery
Principal Architect

Kevin Stone, a friend and associate who is now Manager of Enterprise Monitoring at, introduced me to a neat book, The Visible Ops Handbook.  It is a small book, ideal for on-the-job use, to aid in implementing ITIL (Infrastructure Technology Infrastructure Library).  ITIL is a process and methodology developed by the United Kingdom’s Office of Government Commerce to formalize the process of managing information technology.  The book’s introduction includes a list of common characteristics of high-performing IT organizations:

  • High service levels and availability
  • High throughput of effective change
  • Higher investment early in the IT lifecycle
  • Early and consistent process integration between IT operations and IT security
  • Posture of compliance
  • Collaborative working relationships between functions
  • Server to system administrator ratios greater than 100:1
  • Low amounts of unplanned work

What’s interesting to me about this list are the last two items.  The high server to adminstrator ratios means a more efficient team exists, which reduces the amount of communications required to run the infrastructure.  The low amounts of unplanned work translates into reduction of firefighting activities. Having designed and run operational networks, anything that can help reduce firefighting is definitely worth investigating.

The core of the book is only 66 pages, with an additional appendix of 28 pages, so it isn’t overwhelming.  The key message, if I may boil it down to one concept, is to implement processes and mechanisms that have demonstrated ability to reduce unplanned outages and work.   The authors provide specific recommendations with examples of how the recommendations translate into improvements in the operation of the infrastructure.

What I find missing from this book is a discussion about tying the IT infrastructure to the business requirements.  Given that different businesses have vastly different requirements, one might consider this to be an omission of necessity.  But I think that there should be some statement given about tying the infrastructure to the business requirements.  After all, it is the business operations that generates money for the company and if the network doesn’t support the business operations that generate money, there’s little purpose for the network.  One could also argue that such a discussion could or should be another book or perhaps an appendix in this book, just to keep focus on the respective topics.

Overall, I highly recommend this book for anyone running a major part of any organizaiton’s IT infrastructure.  Just keep in mind the link between the infrastructure and the business processes that it must support and you’ll be set.



Re-posted with Permission 

NetCraftsmen would like to acknowledge Infoblox for their permission to re-post this article which originally appeared in the Applied Infrastructure blog under


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Nick Kelly

Cybersecurity Engineer, Cisco

Nick has over 20 years of experience in Security Operations and Security Sales. He is an avid student of cybersecurity and regularly engages with the Infosec community at events like BSides, RVASec, Derbycon and more. The son of an FBI forensics director, Nick holds a B.S. in Criminal Justice and is one of Cisco’s Fire Jumper Elite members. When he’s not working, he writes cyberpunk and punches aliens on his Playstation.


Virgilio “BONG” dela Cruz Jr.

CCDP, CCNA V, CCNP, Cisco IPS Express Security for AM/EE
Field Solutions Architect, Tech Data

Virgilio “Bong” has sixteen years of professional experience in IT industry from academe, technical and customer support, pre-sales, post sales, project management, training and enablement. He has worked in Cisco Technical Assistance Center (TAC) as a member of the WAN and LAN Switching team. Bong now works for Tech Data as the Field Solutions Architect with a focus on Cisco Security and holds a few Cisco certifications including Fire Jumper Elite.


John Cavanaugh

CCIE #1066, CCDE #20070002, CCAr
Chief Technology Officer, Practice Lead Security Services, NetCraftsmen

John is our CTO and the practice lead for a talented team of consultants focused on designing and delivering scalable and secure infrastructure solutions to customers across multiple industry verticals and technologies. Previously he has held several positions including Executive Director/Chief Architect for Global Network Services at JPMorgan Chase. In that capacity, he led a team managing network architecture and services.  Prior to his role at JPMorgan Chase, John was a Distinguished Engineer at Cisco working across a number of verticals including Higher Education, Finance, Retail, Government, and Health Care.

He is an expert in working with groups to identify business needs, and align technology strategies to enable business strategies, building in agility and scalability to allow for future changes. John is experienced in the architecture and design of highly available, secure, network infrastructure and data centers, and has worked on projects worldwide. He has worked in both the business and regulatory environments for the design and deployment of complex IT infrastructures.