By Edward Carbutt, Executive Director at Marval Africa
The Configuration Management Database (CMDB) is well recognised as a cornerstone structure when it comes to the implementation of the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) framework and other IT Service Management (ITSM) frameworks. The CMDB is that all important single version of the truth that not only shows what assets an organisation has, but also defines relationships and interdependencies between assets. It is a map that adds direction to ITIL and service management improvement projects, and forms the foundation for IT management. However, despite the importance of the CMDB, many organisations shy away from it, for a number of reasons. Given the importance of IT in the business of today and the number of regulations around information, the CMDB is more important than ever, and is key in achieving IT governance, risk management and service delivery objectives.
The CMDB at the heart of ITIL or any ITSM project, as it is a repository of information that contains all of an organisation’s data on information systems, including configuration items (CIs). It helps organisations to understand the relationships between components in an IT system, to track their configuration, and manage this. However the CMDB is not just about IT, and can include information from other sources such as asset management, human resources, identity and access management and more. Using the CMDB, organisations can track changes to configurations as they happen, be they IT, HR or any other area, and gain insight into how various components are connected and what is impacted if changes are made. This in turn allows organisations to quickly discover the root cause of problems and take remedial action to correct these issues.
The CMDB is also vital in bridging that ever present gap between business and IT. The business spends large sums of money on infrastructure, which is then handed over to IT. However it is the business that needs to use this infrastructure to deliver services and products to the customers. This means that the people who manage the infrastructure need to have policies and procedures in place to ensure that IT can deliver what the business needs. The CMDB is essential in this process. These policies and procedures have become even more important than ever as a result of the need for IT governance.
Proving IT governance and compliance has become a crucial factor in attracting investors in a company, and also provides a certain assurance that infrastructure is properly managed and maintained to enable the delivery of service. This instils confidence in an organisation’s ability to manage its IT infrastructure, which makes it a more sound investment.
Without a CMDB, organisations will not have a clear picture of their information assets and infrastructure, and will therefore be unable to adequately manage and maintain it to prove IT governance. Without IT governance, risk management becomes increasingly difficult, and service improvement cannot be measured. Without a CMDB, in other words, organisations cannot get a clear picture of their business and the relationships between various areas. Modern organisations spend millions, even billions on their IT infrastructure, and as the Lehman Brothers proved, one mistake can bring the entire organisation crashing down.
The CMDB enables organisations to not only save money and improve return on IT investment, but gain better control over assets, ensure governance and compliance, improve efficiency and enable proactive response to issues as well. It provides evidential reporting capabilities that are essential for audit purposes, and ensures that all equipment and other assets are managed throughout their lifecycle.
Despite the benefits of the CMDB and the vital nature of this database to service improvement endeavours, many organisations remain reluctant to embark upon such an implementation. One of the major reasons for this is cost, since implementing a CMDB involves a substantial capital outlay in many instances. However this capital outlay is an investment that will pay off in the long term, since the CMDB enables more accurate measuring and monitoring of various areas of business, to ensure services are optimised and money is not being wasted.
The other challenges for businesses include the seeming complexity of implementing a CMDB, which can become overcomplicated and confusing, and the need to ensure the CMDB is maintained so that information is accurate and trusted. Specialised service providers can be of assistance here, as they will have the necessary experience to ensure that the process is completed to be of maximum benefit to the organisation.
Ultimately, in a business world where knowledge is power, the more you know about your organisation the better. The CMDB offers a centralised repository for information on business assets, IT infrastructure and more, highlighting the relationships between these aspects and ensuring that they can me managed to deliver the greatest benefit to the organisation as a whole.