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A CMDB Can Be Done But Why Would You Want To

Sep 27, 2007

Rob England

Let us consider another attribute of technical folk which is not a failing but a weakness if not controlled: the desire for correctness, completeness and perfection. It is hard for may IT people to accept that good enough is OK; that a few gaps can be lived with; that the world functions on imperfect information; that pragmatic considerations mean we have to stop at some point; that business is all about taking considered risks over known exposures; and about prioritising to make best use of limited resources.

I don’t for a moment deny that having a CMDB would be an excellent thing, would make processes better, and would be very cool. It is just that in most cases it is not cost effective and it is not the best use of funds. It would also be cool to hold all CAB meetings in a Lear jet.

Nobody trusts the CMDB anyway. Even after it is built, it is never perfect. Nobody can be as dumb as a computer can, so after a few howler mistakes, people go and check with the expert human: “The CMDB says this change will only impact Service A. Is that true?” There is no substitute for a CMDB called Sue, so why not get over it, and allocate a tiny fraction of the CMDB costs to make sure Sue is well paid and has an understudy or three.

One object in the ITIL environment that barely gets a mention in ITIL v2 and still does not get the priority it deserves in ITIL v3 is the Service Catalogue. The Service Catalogue is the centre of the ITIL universe, the hub around which it all revolves. Once we record what services are, their SLAs, and the applications, servers and networks that deliver them, then we have gone a long way towards satisfying most of the configuration data requirements of the majority of organisations.

So, start with a Service Catalogue, add an asset database, auto-discover your network, and if possible make this data linkable from the Service Desk tool. Many vendors already provided an integrated solution for all that. Most of you will never need to do any more towards CMDB. Settle for good enough so you can move on to something else.

Rob England, an ITIL professional and active itSMF member who lives in New Zealand. More thoughts from the IT Skeptic can be found at his blog www.itskeptic.org.