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How to Move Beyond the CMDB in ITIL Version 3

eWeek published a pretty informative article today: How to Move Beyond the CMDB in ITIL Version 3.

"ITIL Version 3 introduces a Service Knowledge Management System (SKMS) whose goal is to provide meaningful information, knowledge and wisdom to appropriate IT or business users for quality decision-making."

In the article, Knowledge Center contributor Linh C. Ho explains how the Service Knowledge Management System is achieved and how it relates to the CMDB. The article covers....

  • How to Move Beyond the CMDB in ITIL Version 3
  • How the SKMS Works
  • Why the SKMS is Significant


I liked this article, but the road to a useful SKMS may be just as long (or longer) than the journey toward a CMDB.

Having a system "to provide meaningful information, knowledge and wisdom" is great -- but let's keep our feet on the ground. Moving 'beyond the CMDB' may not mean directly moving to an SKMS, (particularly if you've never really succeeded in getting a useful CMDB implemented in the first place!).

I believe in the concept if ITIL's SKMS. But I also like V3's clarification of a Configuration Management System (CMS) federating multiple CMDB sources, and I think for many this may be a more appropriate next step towards an SKMS for several reasons.

Most CMDBs I've seen are heavily centered around workflow -- Incident, Change, Config, etc. This data tends to be relatively static, and is focused on the impact of changes to the infrastructure. This is an important step in the journey and one that most are familiar with.

But with the emergence of n-tiered and virtual infrastructures, there is a critical need for real-time data about the service infrastructure. I used to call this the CDB (v2), Gartner has called it a 'PMDB' (see The Savage Journey continues...PMDBs), or I suppose now with v3 it's just another CMDB. Regardless, it reflects the need for real-time information focused on service impacts.

This real-time CMDB enables other critical ITIL processes, including Event, Availability and Capacity Management among others.

More importantly, providing the right intelligence (i.e., event correlation) can turn event data into meaningful information -- a pre-requisite for a useful SKMS.

The ability to monitor what is happening at every layer of every component in an IT service -- network, system and application -- learn the norms of all collected measurements and automatically identify which layer of which component is the source of an anomaly can have far reaching benefits.

Consider the following customer feedback:

“When the team saw the multiple technologies making up the application (service) in context they were able to compare the performance with one another, resulting in helping other teams resolve an unusual problem….when other support teams heard about this capability, they wanted access to the monitor as well.”

“The monitor automatically calculated baselines and internal thresholds that established “normal”
utilization and behavior, giving the capacity management team almost immediate visibility into the impact of customer demand on the IT ecosystem…other teams quickly saw the kinds of information the team was getting and requested access for their own work.”

“An unexpected benefit of service monitoring was use as a training tool for new IT employees; the
infrastructure models provided a high-level business service view that enabled new support personnel to quickly grasp the composition of the business services they were supporting.”

This kind of real time information can provide excellent information on which to build the SKMS. It can also provide tribal IT communities with an opportunity to engage in a more meaningful dialog, since they all have an intelligent, service-oriented perspective of what's happening in real time.

“When people lack connection to others, they are unable to test the veracity of their own views, whether in the give or take of casual conversation or in more formal deliberation. Without such an opportunity, people are more likely to be swayed by their worse impulses….”

- Robert Putnam (2000) Bowling Alone: The collapse and revival of American community, New York: Simon and Schuster: 288-290

So by all means move towards ITILs SKMS concept, but understand your CMDB journey may not yet be complete.

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