Why A CMDB Can Be A Waste Of Time

In large enterprises where ITIL is an acronym that doesn't need explaining, you'll often find IT pros arguing the merits of a configuration management database (CMDB) to track and manage technology assets. Forrester analyst Glenn O'Donnell argues that while tracking configurations is vital, the CMDB approach is far too limited for modern IT.

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Leaving aside the mixed results many practitioners have experienced with CMDB implementations, one key element of O'Donnell's argument is that it's not possible or sensible to store all this information in a single database:

Every time (every time!) someone attempted to build out a comprehensive, large-scale CMDB as a monolithic database (the vast majority of attempts), it failed. I’ve seen this play out hundreds of times and I myself made this mistake eons ago. The right approach is a federated model of data repositories scattered across your environment. The data is already there in many cases, so why try to force this into a single monster-sized database. Abandon any illusion that a single database will work!

He also notes that a lack of automation, lack of integration with service catalogues and a configuration-only approach also mean CMDB implementations are often too limited.

Forrester is pushing to use the term Service Information System (SIS) as an alternative. Whether this will catch on is unclear, but whatever the label, the approach needs refining. The full post is definitely worth a read.

Death To CMDB! Long Live The Dream! [Forrester]


    The results in this article are very true when someone attempts to build and maintain the CMDB as a monolithic Data Warehouse for IT assets, using big brand CMDBs that have complex infrastructure requirements. In such cases, even when populated with small volumes of data, the cost to populate far outweighs the value of return, especially when data integration costs are taken into account. Enterprises need to start much smaller and build their way to more useful results using tools that facilitate rapid model development at very low costs and in the quickest amount of time.

    A model of the enterprise is always valuable but, often, the tools used do not match the immature processes of the enterprise. CMDBs are 100% successful when enterprises take a non-dabase approach that includes a Compiled Data approach. In other words Data Compilers that require no database can get organizations much faster with far less investment in time, money, and effort. Take a look at Data Compilers like NOUNZ to see the type of enterprise models that can be put together in less than half a day, with far more transparency than big brand CMDBs.

    Data Compilers are the future for CMDBs, for many reasons. Unlike transaction based database oriented CMDBs, Data Compiled CMDBs…

    - allow for snapshots of the enterprise at any point in time, handling history very well,
    - allow for recompiling, at will, to accommodate rapid changes,
    - allow for models to be changed with little impact on work and on the enterprise,
    - allow for multiple instances and portability (because the outputs run on laptops),
    - and cost a fraction of the price to own and support.

    The bigger problem is that most people who preach CMDBs know very little about them or CfM processes. NEVER let your Infrastructure and/or Operations people design solutions. You will pay dearly for such decisions, in the end.

    Good luck!

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