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CMDB: The Catch-All Catch Phrase

Configuration management database (CMDB) is fast becoming a buzz-word of choice in U.S. IT shops.
Aug 3, 2006

Allen Bernard

Based on findings from a new Enterprise Management Associates report released last week, CMDB Adoption In The Real World: Just How Real Is It?, more IT folks have heard of or are familiar with CMDB than the ITIL methodology from which is comes.

Over the past 18 months, vendors and IT organizations looking for a better way to integrate their IT infrastructure and infuse best-practices and governance into IT are turning to the concept of CMDB.

And even thought most people in the industry view (and vendors are trying sell) CMDB as a "thing", the report states, CMDB is really a overarching effort not dissimilar (or disassociated from) IT service management initiatives and services-orientated architecture revamps.

"The point is the CMDB is not a 'thing', it's a landscape, it's a system," said Dennis Drogseth, VP of EMA. "So, the CMDB is exactly that political-cultural process of getting organizations to define a trusted source of information for a given environment and to share that info in a consistent way with parts of the organization."

The greatest driver for CMDB adoptions, the report states, is not IT compliance but data integration. The CMDB is a concept not necessarily greater or smaller than its parent, ITIL, but in the “real world” represents an overlapping circle where architectural evolution and best practices come together.

The research and the many interviews and IT dialogs that have gone into developing this report support the following core findings:

• The CMDB has achieved a phenomenal level of attention among the IT population, rising from minimal levels of awareness in late 2004, to exceed awareness levels for ITIL itself within the U.S., in Q2 2006.

• However, the understanding of the CMDB across the industry remains confused. This confusion includes IT organizations with multiple agendas and a “what’s-in-it-for-me” attitude. The misguided notion that a CMDB can simply be “purchased and you’re done,” and the problem of vendors marketing, naturally, to sell a “thing” rather than facing up to the fact that what they are really selling is a catalyst for process and organizational transformation.

• Sophisticated IT buyers tend to be cautious about the current state of technology offered by vendors in support of the CMDB. They feel that vendors consistently over represent available capabilities versus those potentially present in the future, while consistently under representing the need for strong process and organizational consulting related to CMDB adoption.

• While ITIL remains central in CMDB adoptions, the CMDB phenomenon is beginning to achieve a clear definition outside of ITIL. Many IT buyers viewed the CMDB as a requirement rooted in data integration and architectural evolution.

• In other words, CMDB deployments were beginning well before the hype. More than 20% of the quantitative respondents had CMDB adoptions either operational or underway. An additional 20% had targeted plans for CMDB deployments. About 25% had no specific plans, but were interested.

• “Operations as a whole” was by far the dominant group most likely to own CMDB deployments with nearly 60% of the respondents indicating that group. The service desk or help desk received fewer than 10%.


This report was developed in the following manner through eighteen months of industry dialog, research, IT consulting, and extensive writing on CMDB initiatives and vendor technologies.

From this work, a questionnaire was developed which received 154 respondents. The questionnaire was supplemented by more than 20 hours of in-depth phone interviews across 16 IT organizations worldwide. All of the 16 vendors but one were chosen as being CMDB adopters often with significant and extensive histories to share.

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