As IT infrastructure becomes more complex, the importance of tracking and understanding the information within the IT environment increases. The use of CMDBs is a best practice for IT leaders that need to identify and verify each component of their infrastructure to better manage and improve it.

Within the context of a CMDB, components of an information system are referred to as configuration items (CI). A CI can be any conceivable IT component, including software, hardware, documentation, and personnel, as well as any combination of them or dependencies between them. The processes of configuration management seek to specify, control and track CIs and any changes made to them in a comprehensive and systematic fashion.

The IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) best practices standards include specifications for configuration management. According to ITIL specifications, the four major tasks of configuration management are:

  • Identify CIs to be included in the CMDB (discovery)
  • Control data to ensure that it can only be changed by authorized individuals (security)
  • Maintain status, which involves ensuring that current status of any CI is consistently recorded and kept updated (reporting)
  • Verify through audits and reviews of the data to ensure that it is accurate (auditing)

CMDBs capture attributes of the CIs, including CI importance, CI ownership, and CI identification code. A CMDB also provides details about the relationships (dependencies) between CIs, which is a powerful tool if used correctly. As a business enters more CIs into the system, the CMDB becomes a stronger resource to predict changes within the organization. For example, if an outage occurs, IT can understand through the CI data who or which systems will be affected.

Pros and cons of using CMDB’s

CMDBs provide a centralized view of IT data, which, in turn, offers IT leaders more control over their infrastructure. A CMDB user can visualize each individual IT infrastructure component — for example, a storage device or an application running on a server — which reduces complexity, prevents administrative and management errors, and increases security. CMDBs can also enable IT leaders to spot ways to save within the organization by eliminating unnecessary or redundant IT resources and their associated costs.