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What is a CMDB (Configuration Management Database)?

A configuration management database (CMDB) is a database of the relationships between all hardware and software components used in an organization's IT services. A CMDB provides an organised view of configuration data and a means of querying and tracking that data.

How CMDBs work and why they're important

The importance of tracking and understanding the information within the IT environment increases as IT systems become more complex. The use of CMDBs is a best practice for IT teams to identify and verify each component of their infrastructure to better manage and improve it.

Components within the CMDB are known as configuration items (CI). A CI can be any IT component, including software, hardware, documentation, resources and staff, and any 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.

Benefits of CMDBs

  1. CMDBs provide a centralized view of IT data providing more control over infrastructure
  2. CMDB’s can provide visualisations for each individual IT infrastructure component reducing complexity.
  3. CMDB can assist with identifying administrative and management errors, and improving security. 
  4. CMDBs can help save costs by identifying and eliminating unnecessary or redundant IT resources and their associated costs.
  5. CMDBs can also integrate data from another vendor's software, reconcile that data, identify any inconsistencies within the database and then ensure that all data is synchronized. 
  6. A CMDB system can also integrate other configuration-related processes, such as change management and incident management, to better manage the IT environment.

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