CMDB: All About Configuration Management in Your IT Environment

BY IT GLUE | February 02, 2022

The need for information to be streamlined is extremely high — now more than ever. This can be attributed to the increasing complexity of IT infrastructures in this new digital age. Having a proper library framework in your IT infrastructure provides better visibility into organizational assets and helps make timely decisions. A configuration management database, or CMDB, is a critical component of the IT infrastructure framework.

In this blog, we’ll explore the different aspects of CMDB and how it ensures effective knowledge management.

What is a CMDB?

Let’s start by defining what exactly a CMDB is. A CMDB is a database that has all the relevant information about an organization’s hardware and software assets. It allows businesses to identify, manage, control and configure their assets across an organization. By ensuring better visibility, a CMDB provides great insight into how these assets relate to each other in an IT infrastructure.

This is a centralized log of all critical business assets including products, software, systems, facilities and more. This information helps businesses with all their major decisions and run an efficient ITSM process.

Who uses a CMDB?

The assets used in a CMDB are known as configuration items or CIs. Each asset type has a respective owner, and these owners must be included during the CMDB population process. Owners of various CIs must verify the consistency, accuracy and completeness of the information generated by their assets.

Once the information is populated in a CMDB, it is used by various other stakeholders including IT leaders. IT leaders verify various components in the database and ensure their high performance. They also identify possibilities for improvement with the database and make adjustments when required.

What does a CMDB contain?

The information contained in a CMDB may vary depending on the size and requirements of a business organization. For the most part, a configuration management database is used to store the following:

  • Asset information on hardware, software and applications
  • Network asset discovery information
  • Reports on IT incidents
  • Hardware and software build data
  • Asset inventory data
  • Hardware configuration rules
  • Software and procedure release documents

What is the difference between CMDB and asset management?

CMDB can sometimes be confused with IT asset management (ITAM) and used interchangeably. While they deal with the same components of an organization, they differ in the aspects they deal with.

For instance, IT asset management focuses on the overall lifecycle of an asset and tends to be more static. Configuration management, on the other hand, focuses more on the change and configuration details of IT assets.

In a broader sense, the functional aspects of CMDB and ITAM may overlap sometimes. Let’s take a server for example. It is an IT asset, or rather, a physical device to be more specific. It has a financial value and its lifecycle from procurement to disposal is tracked in ITAM. A CMDB will focus on its configuration details like software installed, the server’s relation with other assets, etc.

In the big picture, an ITAM repository will synchronize with CMDB to ensure relevant information is properly maintained. However, both have different databases on their own.

What is the purpose of having a CMDB?

With configuration management, IT managers can get all the required information about their assets, including their configurations and their relationship with other assets. This makes it a critical part of the Information Technology Information Library (ITIL).

In other words, a CMDB acts like an index table that provides vital information about all the components of an IT environment. This helps you keep track of all your devices, data and software. Most importantly, a CMDB helps you understand your data in an organized way.

What are the benefits of a CMDB?

The primary objective of a CMDB is to organize information for the efficient management of IT processes. It addresses that by providing the following benefits.

  • Elimination of siloed data and outdated information
  • Reduction in downtime and costs
  • Reduction in errors
  • Faster resolution of IT incidents
  • Helps meet regulatory compliance standards
  • Improvement in ITSM practices including change management, problem management, etc.
  • Improved analysis to resolve CI issues

What is the risk of not having a CMDB?

Organizations without a CMDB are likely to have their data scattered across various assets in their IT infrastructure. Moreover, this information is likely to have different owners, and it is almost impossible to get a single source of truth.

Even if there is access to configuration information, there is no way to make sure it is up to date. All these barriers will impact the quick decision-making ability of an organization. In addition, the chances of errors are very high if there is no CMDB. This leads to huge delays in issue resolution throughout the organization.

Ultimately, all these issues will prove costly for an organization in the long run.

How does a CMDB work?

A CMDB works by incorporating a database for all your asset and configuration details. The data to be included in a CMDB comes from various sources. The data collection process works through both automatic and manual methods. Owners of various CIs need to ensure the accuracy and consistency of their data.

Once the data is populated into the CMDB, users can access it whenever they want using the right tools and processes. The key challenge in making a CMDB work is to regularly update it with new data. There are tools available to populate the CMDB with the latest information. Regular audits are also recommended to ensure that the CMDB remains up to date.

CMDB Discovery

For a CMDB to be useful, you must regularly update it with the right data and CI configurations. The best way to do this is through IT discovery. Using a specific attribute, you can locate any asset within the IT environment and update it with the new data.

Let’s say you have added a new computer to your network. The discovery process runs probes to locate the device and scans all the information about the machine including its key attributes such as processor, RAM, model, server, etc. The gathered information is then updated on the CMDB table. This process is automated in a CMDB with the help of discovery tools, and it keeps the database up to date.

Configuration Items (CIs)

Configuration items are the data of various elements or assets in a network. It could be anything from a hardware device to a network application. A CMDB tracks and stores various types of CIs. When an organization is just starting, it may store only a few CIs in its CMDB. As it grows, it will continue to add new CIs from all stakeholders including third-party vendors and partners.

CMDB Data Model

This refers to a series of CMDB tables connected to each other and contains information about all the assets in the organization. Computers and devices on the network, software contracts and licenses, business services and so on are all stored in CMDB tables. The CMDB data model may be used by the IT desk to have a better understanding of their network users’ equipment and the links between it. Other operations in the system can also make use of the CMDB data model.

What is a CMDB tool?

As you may know by now, there could be millions of CIs within the IT network of an organization. While populating the CMDB with the right information is a big task, keeping the database up to date with relevant information is even more challenging. This is why you need to automate the process with the help of a software tool.

By automating various processes like asset discovery, data collection, management, etc., you can save a lot of time and efficiently manage your CMDB. Hence, choosing the right tool is critical. Some CMDB tools may not be more than just glorified storage repositories. You need a powerful and robust tool that can integrate multiple functions and manage your data effectively.

Managing your CMDB with IT Glue

IT Glue is an IT documentation solution that allows you to automate and capture all of your configurations, including hardware, software and their associated passwords and SOPs. In addition, it fully automates and allows proactive tracking of upcoming domain and SSL expirations.

Find, track and know everything with an all-in-one configuration management, knowledge and password management solution. IT Glue is built for IT teams and MSPs of all sizes with a range of robust features and enterprise-grade security.

IT Glue’s SOC 2-compliant documentation platform features an immutable audit trail, multifactor authentication and next-generation password management engine. These features are fully integrated and linked with all your documentation.

To learn more about how IT Glue can help you with configuration management, request a demo.

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