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Convergence on the CMDB/CMS: Is It the Answer?

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Carlos Casanova explains why a significant amount of convergence around the CMS model will be required if any effectiveness and efficiency gains are to be realized.
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Convergence is roughly defined as the act of moving towards some form of commonality or an authoritative end. Whether in actuality or perception we see examples of it everywhere we look. Everyday, IT professionals are asked to “do more with less” and you can only do that by increasing your process and technology efficiencies and the proposed solutions are plentiful. ITIL®, IT Service Management, Six Sigma, CMMI®, PRINCE2®, SaaS, SOA are all mechanisms that offer aspects of a possible solution to our efforts to become more effective and efficient. But are these the sole answers or is there something in addition to them that needs to exist?

Configuration Management System (CMS) solutions will require a significant amount of convergence around the CMS model if any effectiveness and efficiency gains are to be realized. As an enabling process and technology solution, it is vital that the CMS model becomes the target meta structure for IT data in your environment. It must become the de facto language essentially that all of your other systems understand. This will enable operating cost reduction initiatives such as data source elimination and data storage reduction. It also enables your IT department to move towards a services driven model which provides insight into the true operating cost of delivering a business service.

An important thing to remember is that a successful CMS implementation requires both a technology and a process component. You can not succeed if you only have one. It is imperative that you implement the necessary governance and compliance process lifecycle components of the ITIL framework in order to ensure the legitimacy of your CMS. If your CMS data is not viewed as reliable, comprehensive and actionable, it will be ignored and the CMS will become just another database amongst the others already in your environment. The contents of your CMS must be viewed as information not just more unrelated data. A way of doing this is by using federation rather than integration.

Efforts are underway by the Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF), the designers of the Common Information Model (CIM), to develop a specification for the Configuration Management Database (CMDB) that will enable the CMDB to become a CMS based on federation rather than integration. The Common Information Model and CMDBf specification are the two main pillars of the federated CMS because they will enable IT organizations to leverage existing high quality Management Data Repositories (MDRs) without having to duplicate the data in another source like the CMS. Once in place, the federated CMS will be the convergence point for the myriad of efficiency initiatives.

In most cases, organizations already have tremendous amounts of data but it is spread out across the environment with little or no interconnectivity and hence offers little value to the organization beyond the departmental level. This limits the amount of data that can be treated as actionable information because the quality and reliability can not be determined. IT departments must act now to reverse this mentality by leveraging efforts like those of the DMTF so as to help their organizations drive operational excellence and cost reduction initiatives.

The effectiveness of your CMS strategy implementation will likely play a large part in whether you become the target of punitive outsourcing efforts in the coming years regardless of which framework or philosophy you adopt. The value enabled by the federated CMS is in the simplification and ease of access to data in your environment which can only come by moving your organization towards using a common structure across the entire environment. This common structure will enable other efforts such as SOA and SaaS to prosper because of the reduced number of sources and data complexity that they need to access.

The movement towards commonality in language and structure is the key to becoming a more effective and efficient organization. No one solution alone can provide a reply to “do more with less” but the convergence point that a CMS offers along with coordinated efforts of your frameworks and philosophies can help your IT organization deliver more effective and efficient services to your business partners.

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