The Federated CMDB ~ Back To The Future?

Sep 30, 2015

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the concept of the Federated CMDB (Configuration Management Database) has disappeared off the face of the IT landscape. Aggregating configuration data from disparate sources, bringing it all together and translating it into something that makes business sense sounds pretty compelling – doesn’t it? Nevertheless, despite being hailed by many as The Next Big Thing in the early 2000’s there’s scarcely been a mention of it since 2010. Try a web search for yourself!

So what happened? Maybe people got distracted by the tidal-wave of new, game-changing technologies – the web, mobile, virtualization, cloud etc. Disenchantment with the CMDB’s feasibility probably played a big part too. In 2006 industry commentator The IT Skeptic went so far as to declare the CMDB “ITIL’s Dead Elephant” – certainly as ITIL describes it anyway. Attempting to construct such behemoth, all encompassing repositories for “managing all the bits” he describes as being a monstrously expensive, impossible folly – doomed to failure.

Building a CMDB throws up a lot of challenges – agreed. A typical large enterprise might have 100’s of thousands of IT infrastructure components. How do you gather all this information in the first place? Where do you put all the data once you’ve got it? Do all these components really need to be registered in the database? On what terms do you manage and maintain relationships between them? How do you keep everything up to date? What meaningful use will the enterprise put the CMDB to once its been built? And so on…

The Federated CMDB presents the ideal solution to the complexities aforementioned. It isn’t about building a database that contains ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING in your IT estate, down to the last component granule. It’s about viewing configuration management from the perspective of what’s most important to the business – that of course being Service.

For us the Federated CMDB never went away, consistently the lynch-pin of many of the projects we get involved in. And we detect evidence of renewed interest from the wider market. Of CMDB and Configuration Management Systems analyst group EMA noted in research* conducted earlier this year that 80% of their 270 respondents recognised the need to sharpen up their capability, or address a tools gap in this area. Of these 81% plan on taking a Federated approach to CMDB adoption.

And in our quest to take all that is overwhelming out of ITSM ~ developing a Federated CMDB goes something like this:

  • From the top-down define your service catalogue – taking in each mission critical business service
  • Discover and collect data on the associated infrastructure components
  • Model your services based on a repository of CI’s and their relationships clean, verified data – dynamically updating
  • All wrapped up in a dashboard, with added business context – a window on the health of your business services and the IT infrastructure each services is reliant upon

Taking a fresh look at your CMDB capability? Not quite sure where to start? Contact us for some insights

*Read the full EMA Research Report Summary by Dennis Nils Drogseth here: Summary.pdf



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