CMDB – The Ageing Silver Bullet

The CMDB is not the silver bullet to solve all your ITSM problems

ITSM and a program office’s stewardship of its adoption within an organization, is a key element in the Information Technology Department’s goal of becoming a service oriented organization.

Configuration Management (CfM) and the Configuration Management database (CMDB) are foundational building blocks in that adoption that will enable the identification and tracking of how infrastructure components align with applications and ultimately their business services once defined.

Vendors and consulting firms alike are stamping their products & services with ‘ITIL’, ‘CMDB’ and ‘Configuration Management’ to help push sales but we must ask ourselves what all of this really means.

What is Configuration Management?

Configuration Management is the process of planning for, identifying, controlling and verifying Configuration Items (CIs) within a service, recording & reporting their status and, in support of Change Management, assessing the potential IT impact of changing those items.

A CI is a component in the IT infrastructure, which is:

  • “under Configuration Management control” and therefore
  • subject to formal Change control.

What is a CMDB?

Only one thing differentiates a CMDB from a traditional database and that is the Configuration Management process that governs what its contents are and how they must be managed.

Configuration Management ensures data quality & accuracy of CIs by using process controls points throughout IT anywhere CIs are modified and requires that all modifications be documented through the Change Management process. For example, if a memory allocation setting on a server were classified as a CI, any change to that setting from then on would require a formal change request so that its impact to the environment could be assessed. Data from the environment would then be audited, verified and reconciled against the documented change for quality control and non-compliance reporting purposes.

A parade of ‘new’ solutions

Every year brings us new ‘Silver Bullet’ solutions. In 2005, we were offered Configuration Management as that solution. “CMDB” became the de facto standard response for anyone trying to resolve IT problems. The question is, do people understand what it is or have they just read the latest edition of ‘Silver Bullet Monthly’?

We must all stay focused on the trade offs between work effort to maintain CI data versus the value gained from a CI being under Configuration Management control. Understanding what a CMDB is and, more importantly what it isn’t, is essential if we want to realize our vision of becoming a competitive differentiator.

Nothing changes

What you just read above was a blog/newsletter article I wrote in 2005. The only changes I made were to the title, the elimination of minor organizational details and the rewording of a few lines so that it properly referenced the correct grammatical tense.

The reason I posted it is because 11 years later, it is still relevant, on point but unfortunately many organization & their leaders still view it as a Silver Bullet. Some companies still speak to the effort as CMDB rather than Configuration Management or Service Asset & Configuration Management, and many still think of it as the Silver Bullet. The only way it has ever materialized into any sort of bullet is when its failure marked the end the initiatives’ life.I still firmly believe in the value of Configuration Management, and its supporting repository (CMDB/CMS). So please start looking at it as the service management governance umbrella that it is and the tremendous value that you can reap from it if you invest properly in putting it in place.

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Carlos Casanova

Carlos Casanova

Carlos Casanova is an internationally known speaker, IT architect, leadership advisor, and co-author of The CMDB Imperative. He has over two decades of hands-on experience guiding CIOs and Sr. Leadership to achieve effective IT operations and improve ROI from infrastructure investments. His expansive experience enables him to quickly assess their true needs and achieve better business outcomes. He takes the complexity out of today's cluttered IT and business environments to simplify their goals in order to accelerate achievement and success.