Chapter 1. OTRS::ITSM - The OTRS for IT service management

Table of Contents

New OTRS::ITSM 2.0 features
New OTRS::ITSM 1.3 features
New OTRS::ITSM 1.2 features
New OTRS::ITSM 1.1 features
OTRS::ITSM 1.0 features
Hardware and software requirements
Mailing lists

IT is expected to deliver consistently high service quality in an increasingly complex field. In this context, effective and efficient incident and problem management are indispensable. However, IT service management remains a task almost impossible if there is no consistent and up-to-date database with information about the state and configuration of the IT infrastructure.

The IT Infrastructure Library®, short ITIL®, is a series of books published by the United Kingdom's Office of Government Commerce (OGC), which generically combine best practice approaches to designing, providing, operating and managing IT services. ITIL does not center the technology but the services provided by the IT and comprises information on processes, roles, responsibilities, potential problem fields/resolutions and definitions of terms.

ITIL has established itself as de facto standard over the past years and its circulation in IT organizations contributed considerably to the development of a collective awareness and consistent terminology for IT service management. However, ITIL only describes "who should do what" and what should be considered along the way. In order to cover as wide a user group as possible, it does not or only rudimentarily address the issue of how to do things. Therefore, no implementable information is given for particular industries, companies or manufacturers.

In December 2005, the ITIL based ISO/IEC 20000 industry standard for IT service management was published. IT organizations can apply for ISO/IEC 20000 certification and prove their conformity.

The continuing boom caused demand for IT service management tools, which could represent the ITIL-based processes. So far, only proprietary solutions existed. Because of their considerable complexity, most of these tools are only affordable for large companies and effective in large IT departments.

The development of OTRS::ITSM was initiated as a logical consequence of the great success of the Open Ticket Request System OTRS in order to combine the globally accepted, public ITIL recommendations with the benefits of open-source software.

OTRS::ITSM 1.0 was the first real-world ITIL compliant IT service management solution on open-source basis, built on the solid fundament of over 55,000 known OTRS installations and the related active community (information dating from April 2007). OTRS::ITSM is under permanent development and new ITIL topics are added continously.

Core objective of the development of OTRS::ITSM is a strong praxis orientation. This aim can be accomplished by the close development collaboration with Enterprise Consulting GmbH from Bad Homburg, which is very experienced in the practical application of ITIL. Additionally to providing ITSM consulting services and solutions, Enterprise operates complete ITIL compliant IT organizations for renowned customers.

The service-desk and ticket system solution OTRS forms the basis for the operation of the ITIL compliant IT service management solution OTRS::ITSM, its incident management, problem management, service level management and configuration management modules and the integrated CMDB.

OTRS::ITSM and OTRS are freely available (no license fees apply) and are subject to GNU General Public License (GPL).


OTRS::ITSM 2.0 is based on the Open Ticket Request System OTRS 2.4. All functionalities known from OTRS continue to be available and the functionalities representing ITIL processes can be installed as packages.

New OTRS::ITSM 2.0 features

OTRS::ITSM 2.0 offers:

  • Change Management

    The new OTRS::ITSM package "ITSMChangeManagement" implements the ITIL discipline Change Management.

New OTRS::ITSM 1.3 features

OTRS::ITSM 1.3 is based on the Open Ticket Request System OTRS 2.4

It offers the same features as OTRS::ITSM 1.2, but runs on the OTRS 2.4 framework.

New OTRS::ITSM 1.2 features

OTRS::ITSM 1.2 is based on the Open Ticket Request System OTRS 2.3

OTRS::ITSM 1.2 offers:

  • Modularization

    From now on the additional ITSM packages covering single ITIL disciplines like incident management / problem management, configuration management, service level management, can be installed independently from each other. To you as a user that means that you neither have to install the packages in a certain installation order nor that you have to install them all to use OTRS::ITSM.

  • Reduced reloads

    ITSM functionalities (e. g. priority calculation based on a tickets impact) have been reimplemented in AJAX technology to reduce necessary reloads. That leads to an increased speed using OTRS::ITSM.

  • Joint Link-Object mechanism

    OTRS::ITSM 1.1 and lower releases were designed based on an own extended Object-Link mechanism. As a consequence, the Object-Link functionality of OTRS couldn't be used in OTRS::ITSM. A joint Object-Link mechanism has now been implemented, which covers all the features from both former Link object mechanisms.

  • Improved speed

    The improvement to faster access the Configuration Items (CI) database has been achieved by switching database access technology to SQL bind parameters.

  • Locations

    Locations are no longer a separate menu item. They are now integrated into the Configuration Items, which will bring a sustainable gain in flexibility.

  • SLA-Service multi-assignments

    It is now possible to assign an SLA to multiple Services.

  • SLA Overwiew

    In the service menu, there is now a new SLA overwiew mask.

  • Refresh-Mechanism

    Added a refresh mechanism to refresh the service overview and the config item overview screens automatically.

New OTRS::ITSM 1.1 features

OTRS::ITSM 1.1 offers:

  • Authorization concept

    Each object like Service/SLA, Location, CI, Linkobject now creates an own group, so the agents rights can be assigned more granulary.

  • Allocation of services to customers

    Services can be assigned to authorized customers. Further more, services may be assigned as general 'default services' which are valid to use for each customer.

  • Service/CI view

    A view on services and CIs including information on each objects current state allows to analyze an incident and calculate the incidents impact on affected services and customers. As an enhancement of the service view, now SLAs and linked CIs are displayed too. For each CI the current incident state is shown. Also, the incident state will be propagated for dependent SLAs and CIs. If a service is selected, the service details will be shown, now with the additional 'current incident state', which is calculated from the incident states of dependent services and CIs.

    CIs are now enhanced with a 'current incident state', which includes two state types:

    • Operational

    • Incident

    For each state type any number of states can be registered. The state of a CI affects the service state, which will be dynamically calculated, and can have one of the following three values:

    • Operational (green)

    • Warning (yellow)

    • Incident (red)

    The propagation of the incident state will be carried out if CIs are linked with the link type 'depend on'. Here the following rules apply:

    • If a CI is dependent from another CI, which is in the state 'Incident', the dependent CI gets the state 'Warning'.

    • If a service is dependent from CIs, and one of these CIs has a state 'Incident', the service will also get the state 'Incident'.

    • If a service is dependent from CIs, and one of these CIs has the state 'Warning', the service will also get the state 'Warning'.

    • If a service has sub-services, and one of these services has the state 'Incident', the parent service will get the state 'Warning'.

    • If a service has sub-services, and one of these services has the state 'Warning', the parent service will get the state 'Warning'.

    The states of the respective services, sub-services and CIs will be shown in the view.

  • CI search and linking from agent interface

    A service agent may search, select and assign any of a customers configuration items (CIs) or existing tickets while recording a new incident ticket.

  • CMDB Import/Export (CSV and API)

    This feature offers the possibility to import or update data from CSV files into the CMBD of OTRS::ITSM, and to export data from the CMDB to CSV files. Each line of the CSV file describes one CI, with the data of the CI in the columns.

    The import and export is controlled with ImEx definitions. These definitions map the columns of the CSV file to the fields in the CMDB. You can create an ImEx definition via the admin interface in OTRS. For each available field in the CMDB, the corresponding column in the CSV file needs to be defined. This is done in a form, which represents the current CI definition. Also, a filter can be applied, to limit the number of the exported CIs. Any number of ImEx definitions can be stored in the system, and each definition can be used for import and for export.

    To start an import (exports work the same way), two possibilities exist: interactive with the web interface, or automatically with a script. Using the interactive way, the desired ImEx definition is selected, and then the CSV file is uploaded to the system. During the interactive export, the CSV file will be offered for download respectively.

    The automatic import is carried out via a script, which needs the name of the ImEx definition and the name of the CSV file as arguments. During the script based export, the CIs that were given the script as arguments, will be saved in a CSV file. Before the execution of the import or export, the selected ImEx definition will be compared with the current CI definition. If inconsistencies were found, the process will be cancelled. Also, during import, restrictions in the CI definition (e.g. mandatory fields) will be checked. If applicable, the data record is rejected, but the import process continues. An import protocol can be found in the syslog. Via the API the CSV based import/export can be replaced or enhanced by other formats/transports, like direct database access or XML. The implementation of the CSV interface can be used as a reference.

  • A huge variety of additional reports have been created, e.g.:

    Basic reports for tickets and configuration items (CIs):

    • Total of all ever created tickets per ticket-type and priority (state, queue, service).

    • Monthly overview of all ever created tickets of a previous month per ticket-type (priority, state, queue, service).

    • Total of created tickets in a defined period per ticket-type and priority (state, queue, service).

    • Total of all open tickets per ticket-type and priority (queue, service).

    • Total of all configuration items (CIs) created per class (per state).

    • Total of all configuration items (CIs) created in a previous month per class (per state).

    • Total of all configuration items (CIs) created in a defined period per class (per state).

    Much more reports have been added providing specific data regarding first time solution rate and average resolution time:

    • First time solution rate of all ever created tickets per ticket-type and priority (queue, service).

    • First time solution rate in a previous month per ticket-type (priority, queue, service).

    • First time solution rate in a defined period per ticket-type and priority (queue, service).

    • Average resolution time of all ever created tickets per ticket-type and priority (queue, service).

    • Average resolution time in a previous month per ticket-type and priority (queue, service).

    • Average resolution time in a defined period per ticket-type and priority (queue, service).

  • Added print function for CIs, Services, SLAs, Locations.

OTRS::ITSM 1.0 features

OTRS::ITSM 1.0 offers:

  • ITIL compliant representation of "service support" processes

    • incident management

    • problem management

    • configuration management

  • an integrated, individually extensible configuration management database (CMDB)

  • ITIL compliant names for new functions

  • ITIL compliant role, responsibility and permission model

  • cross-process communication management: within the IT service organization, with customers/users/management and suppliers/providers

  • flexible stats functions for (trend) analyses; reporting, planning and controlling based on performance figures

  • flexible configuration, customization and upgrade to meet individual requirements

  • native ticket types are supported (integrated in OTRS): Various ticket types can be managed in the admin interface. Free-text fields are therefore no longer needed to specify ticket types. Installations using free-text fields for ticket type classification do not have to be migrated. The new feature is also shown in the ticket content and in the print view for agents and customers and can be adjusted in the agent interface.

Configuration management & integrated CMDB:

OTRS::ITSM is based on an integrated configuration management data base (CMDB), which serves as the fundament for the comprehensive control of the service management processes. It represents the configuration items (CI), their complex relationships and interdependencies with each other and with other components of the service chain.

  • Comprehensive recording and management of ITSM relevant configuration items (CIs) such as computers, hardware, software, networks, documents and services, SLAs and organizational structures.

  • Illustration of the IT service catalog and agreements in force (SLA, OLA, UC)

  • Recording, management and illustration of technical and service related relationships and interdependences among CMDB data, e.g. a service with all necessary, alternative or relevant CIs

  • Management of historic, current and future CI states, e.g. for problem diagnosis, server maintenance or planned changes

  • Analysis of the potential impact of service failures or configuration changes

  • Display of virtualized IT infrastructures, e.g. server / memory virtualization

  • Software license management, e.g. licenses available / in use (third party products required)

  • Chronological life cycle management for CIs, from acquisition to disposal

  • Reporting of all configuration changes performed on CMDB data

  • Interface to company directories (e.g. LDAP, eDirectory, Active Directory)

Incident management:

  • Services and SLAs (integrated in OTRS): The new attributes "service" and "service level agreements (SLA)" were integrated in OTRS 2.2 on its way to becoming an IT service management tool. When creating a ticket, the customer can select a service (e.g. e-mail service) and a corresponding SLA. SLA attributes are "response time", "update time" and "solution time". IT service can use these attributes for notifications or ticket escalation in order to meet existing SLAs. Service and SLA specific information in the header of new e-mails can be analyzed as usual with the PostMaster filter module.

  • Comprehensive support of IT service support organization processes with incident recording, classification, prioritization, direct help (1st level support), diagnosis, coordination (2nd/3rd level support, external partners etc.), service recovery, resolution, closure and documentation

  • Incidents and service requests can be recorded quickly and intuitively by service desk staff and users (web self-service)

  • Rule-based ticket generation and/or notification, e.g. in interaction with IT monitoring systems

  • Classification and prioritization options (priority, impact, urgency)

  • Complete CMDB coverage, e.g. services affected by the incident, configuration items concerned, FAQ database, link-up between tickets and CIs for analyses and reporting

  • (Automatic) recording of "articles" for tickets (activity record)

  • Constant monitoring and evaluation of the ticket processing progress

  • complete integration of OTRS role, group and queue mechanisms for incident ticket allocation, tracking, escalation and interpretation

  • Provision and storage of relevant time data, e.g. for service level management

  • practical ticket handling (merge, split), allows to merge similar incidents and/or split complicated ones

  • planning, proactive control and monitoring of service request activities (work packages, work plans, service lead times, due dates)

  • generation and tracking of problem tickets from incidents

Problem management:

  • comprehensive support of IT organization processes in problem identification, recording, classification, prioritization, problem origin diagnosis, resolution coordination, e.g. workaround or request for change, closure and documentation

  • provision of relevant information for subprocesses

    • problem control (trouble-shooting),

    • error control (error processing),

    • proactive problem management (e.g. ticket trend analyses) and

    • management information (on incidents, problems and known errors)

  • current/historic incidents, knowledge base (FAQs) and CMDB are constantly available

  • complete integration of OTRS role, group and queue mechanisms to allocate, track, escalate and evaluate incident tickets

  • systematic automated notifications on the problem resolution progress for users (user groups) concerned or the management

  • incident management receives ready signal for resolved problems

Tickets are central information containers for IT service process management: They transport multiple possible underlying data such as:

  • persons, organizations

  • time stamp

  • priority, impact, severity

  • associations to IT service catalog and projects

  • activities, e.g. note about a call with time accounting

  • objects, e.g. CIs, including relations

  • (sub)tickets, e.g. a problem with the underlying incidents

  • notes and attachments, e.g. scanned service request forms

  • work packages, i.e. planned, allocated tasks

  • SLA information

  • thresholds and escalation data

  • ticket history (all changes)

  • accounting information (time accounting).