The concept of a CMDB has been around for a long time, ITIL just made it more front and center. From my point of view, the quick adopters of "building" a CMDB was the help desk tools maker. If you think about it, Help Desk tools were focused on features to allow the end customer to open a case and the internal users to work the open issues. IT was a common purchaser of help desk applications, so the producers of the application added additional features like inventory (or asset management). They also added other features like Service Level monitoring around the tickets, but that is not the topic for today.
So when ITIL became a hot topic, help desk tools (or asset management systems) were the closest products to a CMDB since they already had inventory capabilities within their solutions. These tools were typically very data entry centric and with some changes here and there, it became a CMDB. I'm not saying it was good or bad, just giving you my view of what I saw over the years.
A CMDB is more than an asset management system (or inventory, pick your word), everyone pretty much realized it was more than that. ITIL used some basic description of the CMDB being a 'repository' and that it needed to be able to store CI's, Attributes and Relationships/Dependencies so it was a natural fit (in my opinion) to enhance an inventory system to become the starting point (or "the") of a CMDB.
While data entry screen based applications provide value, it is my belief that due to the need to leverage the CMDB in many practices of ITIL, it needs to be more than that. Being able to visualize the CI's, look at changes through a window of time, etc. It is more than just searching for a CI and looking at fields of data.
Typically the owner of the CMDB (IT, change management, whoever it is), they don't want to own the CI's, they can't. In many cases, it's not a person who owns the CI's, it is a group of people. Databases, networking equipment, servers and applications are common dividing lines of who owns the CI. They are the ones that know the CI the most, have the most current relevant information on the CI (ok, not all the time, but one can dream), so it is their fiduciary responsibility to help maintain the CI. Fiduciary may be a powerful word or a stretch, but the concept holds water and I'm running with it.
The Novell Operations Center solution for the CMDB is through the Configuration Management System (CMS) feature of the product. CMS is a completely different approach to solving the challenges of implementing, leveraging and maintaining a CMDB for an organization. The approach started with adopting several methodologies used routinely today such as social networking. The general idea is to use these proven approaches and apply them to the CMDB space.
I will begin with the basic starting block, Communities. Communities is a generic word in the social networking sense, but the overall concept is a place for people with a common background or topic to share ideas and information. An example of a community could be an online forum such as gardening or computer games, etc. No, the CMS is NOT a forum, there is a place in CMS for individuals with similar interest (or ownership) can go to a common area to have focused content (IE: databases, servers, etc).
Once you enter a Community within CMS, you are provided a news type of feed similar to LinkedIn or facebook, this is the way that the CI's communicate to the community. This feeds informs the community of changes that might be of interest such as a new CI (Database) has been added to the network, an IP address changed on another CI, etc.
After reviewing the feed of changes that occurred within the Community the user can then review their inbox. The inbox provides details around the CI's and feedback. One example of feedback is another user was looking at a CI and noticed some details that were inaccurate. The users provide feedback by flagging the CI. Flagging CI's is a method to allow users to help ensure data quality is maintained (very important for ANY CMDB). Kind of a Wiki approach to getting others involved on ensuring data quality is high.
From there, if the user wanted to find a specific CI, they have google like search capabilities, the meaning behind that is, for some of the CMDB applications that I have seen, you need to have a good understanding of the (database) schema in order to perform searches. The search capabilities within CMS remove that burden and get down the basics of doing a search.
The other option users have for finding the CI is to leverage the tag cloud. This quadrant provides a way to group the CI's, so while the user is in the Database Community, if this particular user is more an Oracle person, they can select the database servers that are running oracle. The tag cloud allows the user to select how items are grouped, it's just a matter a selecting a different attribute to group the CI's on. If the user was in the Server Community, having the tag cloud group by Operating System or by Manufacturer might be a better option. The tag cloud allows the end user to select the Attribute that makes the most sense for what they are doing at that moment in time.
The CMDB can be a wealth of information to be used by many groups, it's not just a day to day IT repository to look at configurations or relationships between devices, the data is used for other projects such as Data Center migration, Virtualization planning, Operating System migration and a slew of other things. With the Novell Operations Center approach of a browser based application that provides access to the data in manners that are familiar to the end user such as LinkedIn, Facebook, etc, you will be driving towards a successful CMDB project. It is important to get the data in the CMDB, it needs to be accurate, the ownership of the CI's needs to be in the right group and the data needs to be easily accessible by users who do not use the system on a routine basis.
Below is a screen shot of the CMS interface that shows some of the things that I have highlighted. In future blogs I will cover additional features of Novell Operations Center Configuration Management System.
Disclaimer: As with everything else at Cool Solutions, this content is definitely not supported by Novell (so don't even think of calling Support if you try something and it blows up).
It was contributed by a community member and is published "as is." It seems to have worked for at least one person, and might work for you. But please be sure to test, test, test before you do anything drastic with it.