ITIL’s Service Asset and Configuration Management process, found in the Service Transition book, requires IT organisations to establish and maintain a Configuration Management Database (CMDB) to keep track of Configuration Items (CIs) and the relationships between them.
An up-to-date and functioning CMDB is one of the most important indicators of ITIL implementation success and the organisation’s overall IT maturity, yet many organisations seem to overlook or underestimate its importance in supporting other ITIL processes.
The CMDB is a valuable source of input for many ITIL processes throughout the entire service lifecycle, and effective maintaining it drives numerous operational benefits for the IT organisation. We’re going to list some of the most important benefits below, but first, let’s develop a clear understanding of what a CMDB is and the role it plays in the IT organisation.
“A configuration management database (CMDB) is an ITIL term for a database used by an organisation to store information about hardware and software assets (commonly referred to as Configuration Items. It is useful to break down configuration items into logical layers. This database acts as a data warehouse for the organisation and also stores information regarding the relationships among its assets. The CMDB provides a means of understanding the organisation’s critical assets and their relationships, such as information systems, upstream sources or dependencies of assets, and the downstream targets of assets.”
There might be a single database for hardware assets, a separate one for software assets, and a separate, totally siloed system for managing software license agreements. With CMDB, all of the IT assets and infrastructure are managed together under a single system that acts as a centralised reference point. This means that a single system can be used to answer questions such as:
What IT assets are connected to a user that was just terminated? What IT assets must be assigned to a new employee in a given role?
These questions encompass some of the most basic knowledge that IT organisations need to have ready access to, and they can all be easily answered by an up-to-date CMDB.
CMDB can offer IT organisations a transparent and highly visible means of tracking IT assets within the organisation. Anyone can access the CMDB with the right permissions and check on the status and relationships between individual configuration items, and each configuration item is fully accounted for throughout its entire lifecycle.
Change deployments and implementations are a significant source of risk for the IT organisation. When a deployed change affects systems in an unexpected way, it can lead to service outages that negatively impact the business. The IT organisation may have to initiate emergency change protocols to revert back to a stable and functional environment or to otherwise remedy the interruption caused by a change.
Change managers can use the CMDB to understand the relationships between configuration items and anticipate which users, systems, software, and that configuration item could be affected by an upcoming change. In turn, change managers can implement strategies to reduce the risk of business disruption and ensure that the change process is conducted smoothly without causing outages.
One of the major challenges that IT teams face is keeping their configuration items and CMDB up-to-date on an ongoing basis. Each day, especially in large organisations, there are changes to existing configuration items, CIs that go out-of-service, and CIs that enter service and the organisation needs to change and update records to reflect the latest changes to the IT infrastructure.
Continual service improvement is a crucial aspect of a successful adoption of ITIL principles and processes. To facilitate that improvement, IT organisations need to leverage systems that can change and evolve over time as the organisation increases its knowledge and updates its policies and procedures to reflect new insights and industry best practices.
When an organisation solves a problem, it should capture some new learning and knowledge that can be used to prevent the problem from recurring in the future. The changes can be implemented through the CMDB in the form of updated test routines, modified running books, new monitors/alerts to detect specific signals in the IT system, and new documentation in internal knowledge bases. At the same time, the CMDB can be updated with new CI types, relationships, and attributes to reflect changes in the environment.
If a similar problem happens again in the future, IT operators can leverage the newly captured knowledge to more easily resolve the issue.
ITIL is a registered trademark of AXELOS Limited, used under permission of AXELOS Limited. All rights reserved.
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