Cloud is Here… Is CMDB Dead?

The question about how to manage virtualization and configuration items pertaining to the Cloud continues to challenge service management practitioners and managers who are trying to strategize and architect a working solution to provision business services.  Some would say the idea of the CMDB (Configuration Management Database) is dead because we use the infamous “Cloud”.

Let’s start with a refresher about the structure and purpose of a CMDB and system and then move into how that relates to the management of virtual Configuration Items or Cloud services.

Configuration Management System

The key to a CMDB, or the sets of data that comprise your broader Configuration Management System (CMS), is “Relationships”.  When provisioning a service, the service provider must be able to manage and control all of the items necessary to produce “Value” to the consumer.  All elements in the end to end service that need to be managed and controlled are referred to as a Configuration Item (CI). Most IT practitioners think of a CI as an infrastructure component such as the “Application”, the “Server” that the app sits on, the “Network” that the server is connected to and other elements such as switches, hubs, routers etc.  That is correct, these are all CI’s.  A CI could be critical documents, changes, and other items in addition to the infrastructure and software that comprises the end to end service.  Each one of these CI’s has relationships to one or more services that they support. In addition to CI’s having links or relationships to other components that they impact, they should all be directly or indirectly related to one or more IT Services.  Most integrated suites of ITSM tools or application platforms for ITSM will include the capability for the Configuration Management System. Where they go wrong sometimes is when the focus is on the IT Infrastructure itself and not on service value or business outcomes.  Business outcomes must drive each and every configuration management initiative.  Example:  Rather than have a CMDB project for the creation of a CMDB it is suggested to start with a business need or outcome such as… “we need to be able to track our assets for Total Cost of Ownership” or “we need to know when there is an outage what business services and business process that outage is impacting”.  More importantly how does this impact Q1 bottom line?  Therefore, you should never have a CMDB project.  You should have a project to meet the stated business need and then look at how the CMDB or the broader CMS can help to achieve the defined business outcome.

CMS and the Cloud

Value is determined by the consumer.  As a service provider we must be able to define how a service is constructed and delivered, but more importantly we must know how the service is sustained and consumed.  This mapping of services is referred to as a Service Model.  There are many layers in the Service Model and if we design it from the top down it is comprised of Business Process to Business Service.  The Business Service is then mapped to the IT Service/IT Services that support it.   Each of those IT Services are then mapped to the Infrastructure components as described in the CMDB relationships.  Identify the hierarchical layers needed to support your business process. Each of the layers above could be broken down into a much more detailed tiered hierarchical structure.  In the case of virtualization or the Cloud the key thing to remember is that you (the service provider) must still retain management control over the configuration and support of the services that you support.  The Cloud is only one element in the end to end service mapping and although it must still be identified in your CMS, you will not have to have all of the underpinning CI’s that are owned by the Cloud represented.  There are linkages to dynamic virtual data from your CMS but the detail will of course be managed and controlled by your service provider and you will then manage the overall service to the consumer.  The virtualization and Cloud are still represented in your CMDB and they will still be part of your end to end service mapping, but they will not contain the level of infrastructure detail that they would otherwise.

The CMS is not dead with the onset of virtualization and the Cloud.  It may be lighter and better tied to business outcomes, but we still need to manage and control the delivery of service VALUE.


For more information or questions on “Service Mapping” and “Configuration Management Systems”, send questions to the itsmprofessor@itsmacademy.com.

For Training and certification opportunities relating to “Service Offerings and Agreements” or “Release Control and Validation” through delivery with focus on CMS relating to change and release go to:  http://www.itsmacademy.com/capability/


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