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Grow or let go the CMDB – will it vanish into the Cloud(s)?

Posted by Joerg G. Beyer
Most IT managers who aim to deliver high-quality IT services for their business and customers probably came across the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) before. As a collection of good practices ITIL helps companies to organize and setup a professional IT service management. The Configuration Management Database (CMDB) is considered as the information backbone for these processes. It contains a 360 degree view on the underlying IT assets like servers, network or applications. This information is crucial for the IT support staff e.g. in order to resolve support tickets in short response time.


One question arises: Should we make it grow and put further information into it? Some people answer: “Yes”. As the data model of a CMDB can be customized and extended easily, you could use it as a starting point to get a more comprehensive view on your IT landscape. You would make your IT architects happy if you also store which business processes are supported. Your IT controller would become your best friend if you add all the financials related to the applications. Not long ago, approaches focused on how to use the CMDB as basis for full-fledged enterprise architecture tools (https://dspace.ist.utl.pt/bitstream/2295/566567/2/nc-2008-capsi-jc.pdf).

We recommend: Don’t follow this path. As we believe that Cloud Computing will make its way into the companies, we expect that CMDBs will radically change if not completely disappear from the set of IT management tools in companies. The key points are:
  • CMDBs were originally designed and created for static physical systems. In the old days a record was created in the CMDB once the server was setup up. In most cases it rarely changed until the server was shut down eventually. Nowadays virtualized and dynamic environments can change any second. They can scale up, scale down or change the location from one continent to another. Most CMDBs and their maintenance processes are simply not prepared for real-time data at all.
  • Once companies start to use more and more Software-as-a-Service offers like Salesforce or Office 365, a different type of IT service management will emerge. Your company’s IT support does no longer need to know the servers which Salesforce operates on. A proper IT service management will rather need transparency on who is using which services rather than knowing the hardware it is running on.


Therefore we think that it’s not safe any longer to build the critical information base for your IT management decisions on a concept like the CMDB. Looking ahead, companies will prefer a platform which integrates all relevant information about your IT landscape, focusses on the right level of detail and allows you to collaborate to get to the right management decisions.

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