CMDB adoption: What some numbers tell us and why

* Poll of CMDB adoption

As most of you know, EMA has been actively working to research and develop best practices around the planning and deployment of the IT Infrastructure Library's Configuration Management Database. ITIL's CMDB has taken off in part because it represents a trusted foundation to enable best practices to support IT service management - across disciplines.   In ITIL's words, the CMDB should "hold the relationships between all system components including incidents, problems, known errors, changes and releases.  It also contains information about employees, locations, suppliers and business units. Automated processes to load and update the Configuration Management Database should be developed where possible so as to reduce errors and reduce costs. Discovery tools, inventory and audit tools, enterprise systems and network management tools can be interfaced with the CMDB. These tools can be used initially to populate the CMDB, and subsequently to compare the actual 'live' configuration with the records stored in the CMDB." 

As most of you know, EMA has been actively working to research and develop best practices around the planning and deployment of the IT Infrastructure Library's Configuration Management Database. ITIL's CMDB has taken off in part because it represents a trusted foundation to enable best practices to support IT service management - across disciplines. 

In ITIL's words, the CMDB should "hold the relationships between all system components including incidents, problems, known errors, changes and releases.  It also contains information about employees, locations, suppliers and business units. Automated processes to load and update the Configuration Management Database should be developed where possible so as to reduce errors and reduce costs. Discovery tools, inventory and audit tools, enterprise systems and network management tools can be interfaced with the CMDB. These tools can be used initially to populate the CMDB, and subsequently to compare the actual 'live' configuration with the records stored in the CMDB." 

Architecturally, most vendors rightly view this as an evolutionary requirement that will demand some federation of data, similar to a CMDB system. From an architectural perspective, the value of ITIL's CMDB becomes hauntingly similar to requirements that some vendors within the industry are seeking to evolve towards - a design point in which data gathered by any management application is accessible to any other management application, based on policy, across brands  - a Nirvana-like state of data integration and reconciliation.

In EMA's recent Webinar, I recommend a big vision - with organizational, process and technology assessments - combined with opportunistic "baby steps" for moving forward with CMDB deployments. Such steps targeting pain points and readiness would likely show strong ROI in the near term.

During the Webinar we polled the audience of about 100 participants to see where they were in CMDB deployments. While this was hardly a scientific study (EMA will be doing more quantitative research here in the coming year) and one in which the audience was somewhat self-selecting (i.e. they had proactively listened into the Webinar) - I felt the results were still a little surprising and worth sharing.

In the first question, we asked where people were in CMDB adoption. Fourteen percent claimed they already had some form of CMDB deployed. In this poll, 41% said they already have formulated plans for CMDB deployment within the next 12 months. That equates to 55% of our audience saying that they had "some form of CMDB deployment" within the next year - a frankly surprisingly high number, even given the context for the poll. Thirty-seven percent had no time frame yet but were looking for education. And 8% simply said they had no plans for a CMDB. 

This level of activity can be better understood in the next two polls, in which we effectively asked the same question twice, using slightly different terms - around CMDB target priorities. Here we established a clear weighting. "Change and Configuration Management" (the first poll), or "Release, Change and Configuration Management," (the second poll) - was clearly dominant, with 45% and 43% respectively. "Service Assurance" came in next with 33% in the first poll.

In the second poll, we asked about "Problem and Incident Management" (using ITIL's terms) and got 34%, and "Service Level Management" got 8%. In this second poll, if you added these three categories together (which some might do in defining "Service Assurance") you got a number that virtually tied with Configuration and Change for first place. "Asset and Inventory" came in a clear third with 20% on the first poll. When just "Asset Management" was asked on the second poll, it fell to 13%. And apparently, we had captured the three leading first-phase CMDB drivers since "Other" in both polls was only 2%.

What these rankings show is a fairly decisive set of priorities among IT adopters that for the most part makes sense. ITIL places the "CMDB" within "Configuration Management" as an enabling resource. So some ITIL initiatives will steer IT there as a natural first-phase objective. Moreover, change and configuration management is rightly seen as a central concern in IT today, impacting everything from service health to IT governance and compliance.  "Service Assurance" may be less obvious - as it demands strong operational support with a dynamic currency of information that may seem ahead of the market. But there are good, flexible approaches to enabling a CMDB system supportive of Service Assurance today - and it is still probably IT's most visible pain point. Asset and Inventory management are probably the most logical first-phase CMDB objectives, but in themselves may not yet resonate as much with top of list IT goals. 

There are certainly other worthwhile first-phase objectives - and we'd like to hear from you. Do take our Web poll if you have a moment, and also, feel free to listen in to the Webinar if you missed it.

And you can still continue this poll on our Web site .

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.
Related:
Take IDG’s 2020 IT Salary Survey: You’ll provide important data and have a chance to win $500.