CMDB in the real world

* How real-world is CMDB adoption?

Many of you are probably more than aware that the IT Infrastructure Library's Configuration Management Database is a topic that I like to write about it. And probably a good number of you will remember that one of my reasons - aside from the fact that CMDB is getting a lot of industry attention - is that CMDB combines ITIL's best practice concerns with an implied need to revisit, architecturally, just how management solutions are integrated to work together. Integrating management investments is an old and, let's face it, ugly problem. Can all the talk about CMDB really change all that?

Well, EMA is embarking on some research to determine what's really true in the trenches today. We're getting quantitative evidence to supplement our building coffers of qualitative evidence and putting everything together in a report entitled "CMDB adoption in the real world - Just how real is it?"

How real do you think it is? Right now - if I had to guess at the results - what would I say?

First, let's back up a little for those many readers who may be wondering at this point - "What on earth is he talking about?" ITIL is a best-practices organization that's resetting the dials on how IT works together - highlighting requirements for collaboration across silos (network, systems, apps, etc.) in order to support more integrated processes. ITIL's premise is that IT organizations need to function like service providers, businesses within the business they support, and align with business and customer needs, accounting for value and paying attention to requirements. This may sound like motherhood and apple pie, but taking it seriously is still pretty novel stuff.

In order to deliver on this model, ITIL calls it "ITSM" - IT service management. ITIL posits the need for a consistent and current repository of information: the CMDB. The name is a little misleading because the complete CMDB should potentially house both topology and configuration information, as well as service mappings, inventory, and even touch on event conditions, asset contracts, software release specifics, etc. The term "Holy Grail" is probably even more applicable here than it is in a current Broadway offering, and of course, as with all Grail legends, there is a huge amount of confusion surrounding it.

EMA's report will examine those testy data integration and design issues that underline ITIL's grand vision. Everything from IT priorities in investing in a federated system vs. a single monolithic data store in near and long term, as well as a look at what issues are really bothering current and planned (and even imagined) deployments - from data reconciliation, to policy to politics. We'll even look at brand preferences for CMDB adoption, although here the data will be, although quantitative, more a departure point than a definitive statement.

EMA thinks this is important since we view CMDB as a bellwether heralding a change in how management investments will be made in the future. It is truly a chance to redefine not only how to integrate and consolidate management portfolios, but also an approach that links technology adoption and process improvements, putting a human face to architecture.

So what do I think the results will be? How real world is it? I expect to see a lot of interest and a lot of differences across IT organizations in priorities and approaches for CMDB adoption. But most of all, I expect to see huge amounts of confusion about just what a CMDB is, and how to go about deploying one. So my guess is that the CMDB is very real world as a phenomenon, but still hauntingly abstract in the minds of many potential implementers/buyers. I suppose those are pretty safe bets. But to get more granular on these points, we'll need to do the research. And it's in the granular details where, I believe, the secrets for winning adoption strategies and winning development and service strategies reside.

If you are interested in finding out more about the report - please click here.

And if you're interested in sharing your opinions with me on any of the above topics (or I suppose a few others), please write to me at mailto:drogseth@emausa.com.

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