Taking the Heebeegeebees Out of CMDB

“The goal here is like trying to minimize the impact of one of those humongous pileups in the fog on I-5 in the San Joaquin Valley in California,” said Potter. “You can’t do anything for the initial group of people but by putting up flashing warning signs you can slow down the ones behind them and stop them from crashing into the back of the accident victims. This buys time for the other users to devise workarounds until service is restored.”

CMDB Central to ITIL

EFW, for instance, began to harness ITIL a few years ago. At that time, its IT infrastructure was inefficient, unresponsive and difficult to manage. EFW had five unintegrated systems for problem tracking, for example.

If someone called in to speak to IT, but it turned out to be a facilities problem, IT would have to cancel its trouble ticket, call facilities and ask them to open another ticket. Under such circumstances, tickets sometimes got lost yet the person was still left with a problem.

EFW adopted CA Unicenter Network and Systems Management (NSM), and Unicenter ServicePlus Service Desk as well as other CA elements for remote control, asset management and software delivery. This was done in parallel with the adoption of ITIL best practices.

“The ITIL methodology gives you the framework of best practice solutions to pull everything together,” said Butler.

Initially, Butler focused on other aspects of ITIL and was too engrossed in those to fully appreciate the value of a CMDB. Gradually, however, he came to appreciate that this one aspect held back the achievement of his overall ITIL objectives.

”Without a CMDB, your ITIL processes will be flawed,” said Butler. “They might work, but not fully. The thing you have to realize is that all processes depend on each other and everything has to integrate.”

He attempted to solve the problem by using spreadsheets, Microsoft Access databases, and paper-based systems. But these proved difficult to keep updated. Further, they didn’t satisfactorily highlight the relationships between hardware, software and documentation. This led him to look for a more automated approach. As he had a lot of CA software already, it made sense to add CA’s CMDB software. After a successful trial, he is now rolling it out as part of his ITIL framework.

“We can now see graphically how things relate to one another,” said Butler. “If a server has a change, we can see how that software change impacts everything else and how other applications are going to be affected.”

However, Butler warns others that engaging in a CMDB is not something you plan to accomplish and then forget about. It has to be worked on constantly. Every change has to be documented, entered into the system and updated i.e. even with his automated system, he still says about 25 percent of the work has to be done manually. Accordingly, he recommends that others bite off a CMDB a little at a time.

“A CMDB is not going to be easy and it’s not going to be fast,” he said. “As your system continues to change and grow, you have to keep at it. There is no light at the end of tunnel – it’s more like an ongoing train.”