A configuration management database is one of the most powerful tools an organization can use to manage change. A large-scale change management platform is critical to supporting efficient change operations, but a CMDB complements such a solution perfectly and adds significant transparency and precision to change operations.
At its simplest, a CMDB will provide visibility into all of your configuration items and not only show you what systems are in the configuration, but how they relate and interact with one another. This information is invaluable when it comes to identifying all of the implications of a change. The power of this transparency is so clear that many organizations establish a CMDB and limit its usefulness to creating this transparency and supporting it with effective authorization processes. However, a CMDB offers diverse capabilities when it comes to improving change operations. Four vital issues you shouldn't overlook when establishing and using your CMDB include:
1. Maintaining a Service History
The old cliche that you can't know where you're going unless you know where you've been is especially true when it comes to managing an IT configuration. With so many interdependent parts, small decisions made in the past can have huge implications on how systems interact in the present. In many situations, individual IT workers end up holding this knowledge and organizations become so dependent on those individuals that massive knowledge gaps emerge within the organization.
When you use the CMDB to create a service history - the system would track how the configuration is changed in any way over time - you can easily look back on how your IT setup has gotten to where it is and use that knowledge to inform decision making.
2. Understand Dependencies
You can take the knowledge of how systems interact to another level by using that information to identify how different solutions depend on one another. For example, you can assess how making a change to one network cable will impact data transit in other parts of the network much more quickly with a CMDB telling you how data moves between systems. This knowledge lets you easily identify how network maintenance or change tasks will impact application performance for end users, providing vital insights in terms of how you schedule different moves, adds and changes. All of this transparency extends beyond the network, of course, and can be used to help you understand the nuances of how different IT systems depend on one another.
3. Life Cycle Management
Understanding how old different systems are and how they are performing relative to operational needs is vital to optimizing the IT setup. However, life cycle management isn't just a matter of noticing older systems that are not meeting performance demands, it also involves managing software and equipment licenses and ensuring applications are maintained properly in terms of patches and updates.
The visibility offered by a CMDB can help you quickly asses hardware, software and application life cycles, streamlining what would otherwise be an incredibly complex life cycle management process.
4. Tracking Changes
A CMDB can be used to track changes, letting managers quickly assess the implications of a change and move to either authorize an action or identify a potential problem and halt processes before any damage can be done. Furthermore, this tracking process extends beyond authorizations and the ability to document change tasks as they happen is key when it comes time to audit operations for regulatory compliance.
All told, a CMDB is more than a basic transparency tool. When used effectively, a good CMDB system will provide key insights into every phase of your configuration, allowing you to more easily manage complex technology configurations.