It is important to remember that Configuration Management is not the same as Asset Management. Asset Management is the entire umbrella. Configuration Management is a subset of Asset Management. Asset Management recognizes the accountancy process of keeping track of assets, including the depreciation accounting of those assets. Configuration Management is the process of facilitating and managing the identification, maintenance, recording, and tracking of infrastructure components and devices. By “infrastructure,” one immediately thinks of assets like servers, networks, PCs, and software, but it can also mean the documentations, the processes, the procedures, and service accounts essential to daily operations. Alongside the challenges of working remotely and running remote access, an organization’s IT department has an even bigger responsibility of trying to keep track of devices that maintain their infrastructure. In Configuration Management, those components and devices are called Configuration Items (CIs), and a Configuration Management Database (CMDB) is the repository holding the CI data. From this perspective, a CI can constitute any component, device, item, or resource that an organization wants to keep track of financially.
Accurate Asset Relationships
Configuration Management enables an organization to keep track of and understand the relationships between CIs crucial to the IT infrastructure. Configuration Management tracks servers, applications, switches, databases, desktops, and laptops, providing operations with accurate asset relationships. Anything crucial to the organization’s functionality can be kept and monitored in the CMDB, improving an organization’s tracking capabilities. With enhanced tracking capabilities, organizations can access historical data elements, such as maintenance history, expiration date, location, ownership, review procedure, status, and lifecycle health.
Using a CMDB, organizations can perform an impact analysis before a change occurs. If a change is being made to a CI, like a server coming down, IT will understand before the change’s approval of all the asset relationships to be impacted. In turn, if IT knows the relationships between the servers and the applications, one can identify what applications will be affected as well. By implementing Configuration Management and utilizing a CMDB, organizations can address Asset Management effectively, determine asset relationships, and execute impact analysis to ensure CIs continue operating efficiently, safely, and correctly.
Applications are a crucial piece of an organization’s CMDB. To stand up servers and applications effectively, it requires a service account connecting to a discovery tool like Active Directory. What happens if that service account is used by four different applications and a user makes a change to the password? Suddenly, the service account is no longer working in those four applications. In this case, an organization can even include a service account as a manageable CI. The key concept to keep in mind is that whatever is going to be critical to the functionality of the IT infrastructure can be managed and tracked through Configuration Management and the CMDB.
Even if an organization is not ready to manage the relationships between CIs, Configuration Management’s versatile capabilities facilitate the CI’s tracking and location, which can be used in Incident Management. For example, when a server or VPN crashes, IT can associate the CI to a ticket to view its service history. In addition, IT can use the information in conjunction with Change Management in case a change is required. Linking the CI to a change request makes it easier and faster to resolve such issues and ensures a record exists tracking all the changes. For verification and audits, Configuration Management ensures organizations can verify the physical existence of CIs, help in the controlling documentation and updating of CIs, confirm an approval process exists, and show that assets have been disposed of in the proper format.
The most vital Best Practice for creating a CMDB is planning strategically. Before beginning, an organization must determine the policy, the objective, the scope. What’s the purpose of the Configuration Management process within the organization? In essence, what are you going to track? How much detail of what is being tracked do you want to keep? Very quickly, it can turn chaotic if an organization starts throwing data in without first considering policy and procedure. Policy and procedure dictate what is going to be tracked in the CMDB.
During the planning phase, organizations must also identify the data sources that are going to maintain the CMDB. These external sources are technologies that perform endpoint discovery, like Landesk, Microsoft SCCM, or SolarWinds, which can be leveraged to pull data into the CMDB. Instead of relying on agents and manual approaches to keep track of assets, their relationships, and their changes, which are labor-intensive and prone to error, these data sources discover infrastructure components on the organization’s network. They are integral for maintaining accurate, up-to-date information about CIs. Without these types of discovery tools, where is the documented work instruction and procedure of how the data will be maintained? Organizations must establish how the information will be maintained or that data will become obsolete quicker than you can say, “Configuration Management.”
Instead of trying to figure out what should be a part of the CMDB, it might be easier to define what should not be a part of it. After all, objectives are quite unique from organization to organization. There is no singular, basic design that will work for all. If using the CMDB for its primary purpose, which is tracking CIs that are going to be used in Problem Management or Change Management, then it’s unnecessary to track laptops in the CMDB as long as it’s not typical to submit a change request for upgrades. In this situation, somebody’s laptop RAM does not require an impact analysis. In contrast, if laptops are few and far between and all are crucial to an organization, laptops need to be a part of the Configuration Management process. Ultimately, the decision of what should be included in the CMDB should be based on an organization’s critical systems and the components supporting those critical systems, targeting relevant service delivery objectives.
To learn more about creating a CMDB and implementing Configuration Management, contact Flycast Partners. With our help, your organization can establish tested, process-driven IT solutions for tracking and maintaining asset data from a single, accurate source.