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Competing Vendors to Develop CMDB Standards

ITSM efforts may get a leg up if these various vendors can come to terms and actually implement what they talk about.
May 23, 2006

Liz Roop

Driven in part by customer demand and in part by the need to advance individual business strategies, several leading software management vendors have teamed up to develop standards to define federation of configuration data into configuration management databases (CMDBs).

The effort is being touted by some as a major step toward heterogeneous IT service management (ITSM) by some, but others are taking the news with a dose of “wait-and-see” skepticism.

For consortium participants—HP, IBM, BMC Software and Fujitsu Limited, as well as CA—the decision to pursue standards was influenced in large part by customers’ demands for the ability to share data that currently is scattered across organizations and resides in different vendors’ CMDBs and other tools.

“There was clearly the internal realization that we need this, and part of it was customers telling us that they’re not interested in paying consultants large amounts of money just to integrate management products, said William Vambenepe, distinguished technologist in the office of the CTO of the HP OpenView Business Unit.

"The other part is, you can’t build a highly scalable and very dynamic solution if you have to keep building adapters every time you bring in a new product … There’s no way we can deliver on the objectives we have if we don’t have the level of simplification that comes from standards on top of which we can build all of the automation we want.”

The consortium will focus on the development of an open, industry-wide specification for sharing information between CMDBs and other data repositories. The objective is to provide companies with greater choice and flexibility in terms of adding new hardware, applications and middleware.

According to Ric Telford, vice president of standards for IBM Tivoli, true ITSM requires integration not only at the process and technology levels, but also at that data level. And while individual CMDB solutions will go a long way toward that integration, they will never be 100%.

“There will always be more than one vendor for key data sources. That’s what led us to the standards,” he said. “Whenever you have data in heterogeneous systems, it calls for standards.”

The Current State of CMDB

The CMBD concept is relatively simple: create a central location for storing basic records related to configuration items—servers, routers, desktops, business processes, etc.—in an organization’s production environment and the relationship between those items.

By creating a single source of configuration information for every component of the enterprise, IT managers can use the CMDB to see the relationship between those components and predict how a change to one will affect the others, as well as the applications they serve. This, in turns, allows them to make better technology decisions to support business initiatives.

“While the good news is that seemingly almost daily a new vendor is claiming to offer a CMDB or CMDB strategy, the bad news is that very few of them offer comprehensive DMDB capability and none have proven multi-vendor federation capability,” write Gartner analysts Ronni Colville and Cameron Haight in research titled Consortium Launches New Effort to Develop CMDB Federation Standards .

Gartner expects that most global 2000 organizations will need to federate between three-to-seven data sources. Further, over the next three years, because at least 25% of those organizations will be implementing CMDB initiatives without proper planning and organizational alignment, the end result will be grassroots initiatives in various departments, such as asset, data center, networking and service desk, creating multiple CMDB silos.

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