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Start Building Your CMDB
Where should you start when building your CMDB?
Many consultants and vendors recommend purchasing a tool before starting to build a CMDB. However, this is unnecessary because most IT organizations have very little idea, from the start, of what kind of information will end up in the database(s). .
To start, an Excel spreadsheet will work well. The idea is to start by mapping out the entire configuration management process before buying a fancy, and expensive tool. Often one of the biggest dilemmas associated with building a CMDB is deciding where to start.
It is considered good practice to involve other process owners in the design of the CMDB. This way, you can ensure that the database contains information that will be immediately useful and beneficial to the organization. It also helps to get started.
Most organizations already have some form of incident and change management processes. These processes are sometimes called “clients” of the configuration management process.
In this sense, incident and change management will directly benefit from the data stored in the CMDB. Starting with requirements from these two processes is an effective way to resolve the often lengthy discussions regarding CMDB strategy and design.
For example, the change management process uses relational data from the CMDB to help determine the potential impact and/or risk to IT service availability associated with a particular Configuration Item (CI) change. It is helpful in planning and coordinating changes to prevent unnecessary downtime.
Likewise, the incident management process (with Service Desk) uses relational data in the CMDB to determine the impact of an unplanned outage event on the user community or on defined service levels. The service desk can use the CMDB to find out if the CI is related to any known defects or errors. In this event, measures may also be available to resolve the situation and thereby minimize the impact on IT services.
It is also useful for incident and change management processes to have a certain level of maturity before starting configuration management. This is often because, there must be some idea of what kind of information would be best to help these processes be effective in achieving their objectives.
For example: What level of detail is required for the incident management process to be able to adequately resolve breakdowns in order to meet agreed service levels? For change management: What level of system detail is necessary to accurately assess the risk associated with a particular change in order to maintain the required level of stability.
In practice, these thresholds are usually different for different IT systems and services. Therefore, decisions regarding the breadth and depth of your CMDB will largely depend on the level of control required for each IT system/service. This control will mainly depend on the importance and required system availability.
For each service, start with those CIs that:
- are subject to change
- Need to provide service
- can be managed
- can be uniquely identified
Once the scope of the CMDB is decided, a detailed project plan must be created. This plan should be divided into several steps with discovery and CMDB population for each IT service. This means that once the level of detail has been defined for each IT service within the scope of the project, this master plan should be broken down into roll-out phases and all the services involved should be outlined for each phase.
Each phase will include CMDB population tasks followed by CI inventory tasks. Additionally, auditing and verification (of data) functions are also very important as the accuracy of data is critical to the success of a database.
Each CI entered into the database must have an owner or someone who is responsible for ensuring that the data relating to that CI is complete and accurate. A CI should also be assigned a unique identifier (CI Name) that never changes throughout the life cycle (ie, from CI purchase to retirement). This means, you should think twice before including any intelligence in a naming convention that refers to things. which is subject to change (location, owner, host name etc.)
The name should make sense (ie, servers start with the letter s, perhaps) but should not be such that the name no longer makes sense when circumstances change (for example, a data center move). This information can always be included in CI attributes.
Naming conventions should also be consistent across environments. When deciding which relationships to map for each CI, consider only the important relationships first. This means, start by describing in the CMDB, the most obvious relationship between CIs.
For servers, important relationships might be what is connected to the server, what applications are running on the server, what services are dependent on the server, etc.
Once this decision has been made, it is time to start populating the CMDB. Again, a CMDB can start as simply as one or more Excel spreadsheets.
What is important is the process. A sound and well-thought-out process regarding the design of a CMDB and the continuous maintenance of complete and accurate information are the keys to creating a successful and effective repository.
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