Configuration Management Database

1.1 Overview

Unlike an ordinary repository, a configuration management database is a more valuable aspect, playing a crucial role in various management disciplines. It is used by organizations to store information about the hardware and software assets, referred to as configuration items combined.

Though seems simple, such a database has multi-faceted applications and is highly useful in breaking down configuration items into logical layers. Configuration Management Database facilitates an understanding of the critical assets and their inter-relationships. Downstream targets of assets, dependencies of assets, upstream sources- all these can be easily monitored with the configuration management database.

This article delves into the details of configuration management databases and how it impacts the bottom line of businesses.

Table of Contents

  1. Configuration Management Database- An Introduction
  2. Characteristics of CMDB
  3. Working of CMDB
  4. Benefits of CMDB
  5. Challenges of CMDB & Solutions
  6. Choosing What to Manage in CMDB

1.2 What is CMDB?

CMDB- a key component of Information Technology Infrastructure Library’s framework, stores information on the configuration of assets within the organization like software, hardware, systems, and other facilities. It might also store personal information.

It is up to the organization to outline what things need to be monitored and what should be the way to do so. Database, in configuration management mode, also incorporates the inter-dependencies and the relationships between various things, changes in them, and categorizes them for different attributes.

Creating a configured database helps businesses with the required information to make better business decisions and run ITSM processes more efficiently.

Items tracked this way, in CMDB, are termed as ‘Configuration Items’. These items are required to be perfectly managed for delivering seamless IT services.

Centralization of all configuration information leads to a better understanding of the critical CIs along with their relationships. Impact analysis, root-cause analysis, incident management, change management, and legal compliances- all are easily worked on. This practice improves the system administrator’s power of resolving issues, responding to incidents, fabricating future strategies, and overall decision making.

1.3 CMBD vs. IT Asset Management

Configuration management databases must not be confused with the management of IT assets. Both these methodologies may deal with few same components of an organization but focus on a different aspect of the components.

IT asset management deals with the general physical aspects like- from where the system component was purchased? Who was the dealer and what was the price? What are the make, model, depreciation? Is covered under warranty or not?, etc.

In contrast, configuration management databases concern more on the functional aspects of the components, how they integrate and affect other assets, etc.

Configuration Management Database

2. Characteristics of CMDB

The core operational characteristics of a configuration management database are:

2.1 Metrics and Analytics Dashboard

A centralized dashboard eases the process of monitoring the health of all CIs, their inter-dependencies, correlations, and the impacts of any change within the system. A topological bird eye view of the system makes it very easy to spot the flaws and fix the loopholes fast.

2.2 Populating Data of CIs

Entering data manually, or through the API-driven integration, or through the discovery tools, the CI data is populated into the database. Automated scans of all IP addresses within the organization network can also be done with the discovery tools and collect the information regarding all the hardware and software. This way inventory of all physical and virtual devices can be easily maintained.

2.3 Data Sets and Compliance

Normalization and reconciliation of CIs along with their data sets is the support that one receives in CMDB. Compliance features offer detailed records and visibility for the auditors into the current state of CI and the history of configuration change.

2.4 IT Service Planning

It is one of the most important aspect of CMDB as the administrators get a graphical representation and hierarchal view of the CIs along with their interdependencies.

2.5 Access Control

This feature allows administrators to grant a different level of access to various users at different positions in the organization. Control is granted in terms of needs and in case of incidents the changes can be sourced to their roots.

3. Working of CMDB

In general, a configuration management database stores the following three main kinds of information:

  • a) Configuration Items- The organizational assets
  • b) Interdependencies- Between CIs and other entities
  • c) Configuration Data- Other information of CI

In an organization, there are numerous configuration items like software applications, physical hardware, staff information, vendor details, and many others. The inter-dependencies among various items include the relationships with various incidents, deployments, changes, other issues, etc.

For a CMDB of any use, it needs to be correctly populated with important and accurate data. For enhancing the reliability of a CMDB, it is crucial to involve the administrators of configuration items during this data populating process. The administrators must review the data being populated and ensure its veracity. Though 100% correctness might not be ensured, the focus must be on maintaining the accuracy & completeness as high as possible.

After the data population, next comes the tasks of keeping the configuration management database updated. The infrastructure of an enterprise comprises thousands of components. Changes in their configuration, removal of older equipment, acquisition of a new one create lots of configuration changes, which all must be updated accordingly. Then only a CMDB will work as it is supposed to be.

4. Benefits of Configuration Management Database

Siloed data and outdated information hampers the decision-making process and these are the fundamental flaws fixed by CMDB. In general, organizations have scattered data sets across various systems and channels and it gets really hard to have an understanding of which data is prevalent and relevant.

In the current context, there are three main use-cases where CMDB holds crucial importance.

4.1 Strategic Planning

CMDB is needed to plan the enterprise infrastructure and architecture, both at the higher levels and at detailed levels of the business. Portfolio management, asset management, and capacity management- All are easily executed with an updated CMDB in action!

4.2 Accounts and Bills

The finance division of IT requires a complete record of service codes for allocating the bills and other statements. So, CMDB with complete details of all inventories facilitates an easy, seamless, and accurate allocation of IT finances.

4.3 Operations and Practices

A majority of the core ITSM practices are greatly improved with CMDB implementation. Change management, incident management, and problem management are the areas getting greater strength.

5. Challenges of CMDB and solutions

Though CMDB boasts of a host of benefits, a Gartner Study has revealed that only 25% of the organizations have been able to reap the required level of benefits! The 75% failure rate has put a question on the credibility of technology.

But it has also been noticed that if a few points are pondered then reasons for failure can be easily eliminated.

Following are the categories of the reasons for failure:

5.1 Process and People

As with all the things in an organization, the work culture and commitment are of pivotal importance, the adaptation of new technology is no exception. 93% of top-level executives opine that the biggest roadblock in data-driven digital transformation is the employee mindset and business process.

CMDB is also a data-driven digital transformation and making employees embrace it while making changes in the processes can ease and speed up the transformation.

5.2 Applicability

Many times organizations are found to fit their data sets into one without weighing its importance and use case. This increases the number of tasks without any rewarding purpose.

CMDB is required to store relevant data, which can support the internal business processes. Ensuring clear and value-defined objectives along with practical ways to update data and interpret all changes is the key to get the best out of CMDB efforts.

5.3 Centralization

Colloquially, CMDB is termed as a centralized zone to monitor asset data; it does not mean that all data sets are required to solely live in the CMDB. This is a misconception to forward all data into the CMDB and has increased the workload for teams and many times hamper the accessibility.

Keeping different data sets under different divisions but integrating those data tools with CMDB to mirror the data is the key.

5.4 Correctness of Data

Developing and maintaining a correct CMDB is the biggest challenge for all businesses. The absence of automation rules, greater reliance on manual inputs, inconsistencies in the deployed tools are the responsible factors.

Event-driven discovery, augmenting the conventional discoveries is the sure-shot solution to all the challenges confronted in ensuring accuracy.

5.5 Tools

Choosing the most optimized tool is crucial in avoiding your name in the statistics of unhappy organizations with the CMDB. The tool to be selected must be able to account for the new types of assets and must be quickly adaptable to the sudden changes.

6. Choosing What to Manage In CMDB

The needs and CIs vary from organization to organization so there is no perfect answer to this question. CMDB must be developed based on specific use cases and goals. Only then organizations can get the services right.

The Configuration Items are classified into the following three main categories:

Technical CIs

This division incorporates technical services like applications, software, operating system, databases, virtual machine ports, and others.

Non-technical CIs

This category comprises user information, clientele, agreements, relevant documents, and others.

Cloud Services

Cloud services are also required to be considered in CMDB development. SaaS and IaaS are also represented as CI in case of needs.

All these are the major considerations during the development of CMDB.