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How Well Do You Know Configuration Management (CMDB)?

10/06/2011 by: The SunView Team

"We're having trouble accessing Address Lookups. It appears to be down?" a message read while I was enjoying a barbecue at the beach. I shrugged it off since it was a system that only a couple people used. From that point forward, I learned the road of life is paved with experience.

If you've spent any amount of time on the receiving end of tickets for a Service, Support, or Help Desk, you know that even the most obvious emails can have a completely unrelated impact or resolution. Such was the case with the simple message I received one weekend while "on call."
Now, in the message above, you have to understand that Address Lookups was not an essential service. However, it just so happened that this application also resided on a web server that housed an externally facing Intranet in addition to one of the essential systems of the organization. So, when there was trouble accessing Address Lookups, this actually meant the web server hosting the other two systems had experienced a catastrophic hard drive failure. But, we wouldn't know this for at least a couple days (many warning systems were either non-operational, or had been turned off).
On the support side, I had evaluated the exposure, and triaged it accordingly. The system indicated was not one that required a mobilization of an emergency force of IT Super Heroes. Instead, I tucked it away to be identified first thing Monday morning - at which point all heck broke loose when the realization one of our essential systems was inaccessible, had been that way for a couple days, and would be that way for some time. How could this have been avoided, or at least triaged more effectively?

It really goes back to planning, understanding the relationship of assets within your organization, and evaluating the effect a change can have. A lot of things went wrong. Warning systems had been turned off, and core systems were on old hardware that housed rarely used systems. But even worse, an essential web application had been moved, mistakenly, to this old hardware.

What we really needed, but didn't have until after the disaster, was a map and a database. These tools would have shown the interdependencies of our systems, and alerted us to the potential problems the changes made could cause.
If you've read any of our articles here on the blog, you've started familiarizing yourself with a few of the best practice recommendations from ITIL. In the situation above, you should already be thinking CMDB, or Configuration Management Database. With a CMDB you can quickly make sense of the relationships within your IT infrastructure, giving you a picture of how things can be managed more efficiently, or as in the case above, correctly.
So, have we got you thinking about a CMDB? Even if you're an expert, just how well do you know your best practices for ITSM? Take our short True/False quiz, and see how well you do (don't worry, it's " open book"). We'll post answers next week.
  1. True/False - A Configuration Item, or CI, can be a computer, application, or other system, but cannot represent other IT assets such as an employee or contract.
  2. True/False - A number of organizations still prefer (by choice or happenstance) to be reactive, rather than proactive, to IT Service Management.
  3. True/False - When setting up a CMDB, the most important aspect is determining the "what." The "who" will come later in the process.
  4. True/False - It's better to develop and establish standard processes after installing and configuring a CMDB solution.
  5. True/False - A CMDB is just another name for an Asset Management System.

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