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Avoid a Vendor-Customer Disconnect with CMS and CMDB

So after all the soul-searching and researching, you've decided whether or not you need a CMS.  Or have you?  Have you yet sorted out the sordid relationship between CMDB and CMS?  CMDB was ITIL v2, but it's still around in v3's CMS, what's up with that?  What's a CMS again?  Can't buy one.  Has some CMDBs around, why won't just one do?  What's different?  What's a/the CMDB supposed to do?  Why doesn't the vendor just tell us what to do?


Does realizing you need something mean you've decided exactly what it should do, what you expect out of it?  One would hope so, but it's of course not that simple.


As a customer, it's a complex answer:  Fulfill and support my use case(s).  Build my processes according to the needs of my business family.  And within the capabilities of technology I can afford.   ITIL doesn't help much with the "T" part.  You must build or buy or fake something.  And you can't believe everything you read.


But as a vendor, getting it right is even dodgier - you have to decide what the technology should be, based on your knowledge, vision of the future and the needs of your market.  Not enough, and you lose to competitors.  Too much and you have quality ,usability, and other problems (I'm saving that for another post.)  You better trust who you go with into this very uncommodotized world.


Foremostly, by definition, the CMS and it's CMDB(s) are there to manage configuration information.  Everything else in the stack serves this purpose.  However, this isn't a very useful definition.  What does it take to "manage" configuration data?  It's not even so easy as to define it in terms of a lifecycle, or discovery or a database or APIs.  What's required is to understand how configuration management interacts with all the providers and consumers of CIs.


A CMS should understand dependencies and relationships as they exist in reality, not just contain a model created by a human - humans miss lots of things like this.  Tell me your all-knowing person keeps track of every .NET connection that lasts 3 milliseconds yet during those milliseconds some mission-critical data is exchanged.


Dependency discovery and mapping is not just for impact analysis.  There is compliance and audit, DR planning, data center transformations, and other use cases which absolutely require visibility to the dependencies and relationships of applications and infrastructure.  A CMDB must make it easy to make and use dynamic topology visualization (service models, application maps.) for a variety of use cases, not just the ones we can envision.


A CMS must support states of CIs, like "actual" state, "authorized" state (to compare to, control, audit, report, etc.)  There are reasons to make a CMS support an arbitrary number of user-definable states so customers can tightly couple their lifecycle stages together.  The importance of this is described in the ITIL books, and I will expand on it in a later post.


To support a CMS, a CMDB must be a powerful data integration platform, complete with

  • An ontology (Class model), and the ability to manipulate and extend it easily

  • Openness and interoperability (fully-formed discovery, federation,  and APIs.  It's also nice to actually document these things so users can use them, and even better - have a good UI that does all the hard parts of things like keeping names and properties right.  You wanna annoy users?  Make 'em configure the entire product and build all their integration with text files.

  • Capabilities to easily establish common identity and reconcile distributed data.   This is colloquially called a "reconciliation engine" but I'm uncomfortable with the term; it conveys the wrong focus on what should really be going on with multi-source identity.  It's an "engine".  Something under the hood.  Give it gas and it gives you power.  No, no, no.  Reconciliation is powered by business logic, not a commodity-like  fuel, and you can't buy it off (or the investment required) with descriptions like an "engine", even the software kind.

  • Easy-to-use Extensibility - you want to work with standard "pipe-fittings", not a welder-and-torch approach to customization.  Beware vendors whose only approach to integration flexibility is writing your own code.  It has to be actually easy to build and extend any kind of integration and discovery content you need.


Any CMDB and CMS has to be secure in all ways at all times, it has to perform and scale, and otherwise be Enterprise-ready.  You'll rarely get in the door without this.


A CMDB has to be deployable and supportable with practical TCO.  It can't take a room full of people to manage.  A lot of software is great at generating more work than the work it saves you from doing.


If you were expecting deep insight into vendor-customer relationship science, sorry to disappoint.  I believe that good technology that implements the right understanding of customers is what succeeds (usually, although the bookstores are full of examples that prove me wrong, where inferior technology won out because the salesperson's technique was better or more money was spent on marketing than the competition's.  These are exceptions rather than rules and that's why they make it into books - when a superior product wins, it's unremarkable except to the vendor, who is understandably happy.)    Agreeing on what the technology is and does is a necessary step to avoid a disconnect between IT organizations and software vendors.


The "why" of all this covers lots of ground, on which I hope you all have opinions you'd like to share.  What else do you think a CMDB has to do and why?  Feel free to post a comment and let us know.  Thanks!


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About the Author(s)
  • HP IT Service Management Product Marketing team manager. I am also responsible for our end-to-end Change, Configuration, and Release Management (CCRM) solution. My background is engineering and computer science in the networking and telecom worlds. As they used to say in Telcom, "the network is the business" (hence huge focus on service management). I always enjoyed working with customers and on the business side of things, so here I am in ITSM marketing.
  • David has led a career in Enterprise Software for over 20 years and has brought to market numerous successful IT management products and innovations.
  • I am the PM of UCMDB and CM. I have a lot of background in configuration management, discovery, integrations, and delivery. I have been involved with the products for 12 years in R&D and product management.
  • Gil Tzadikevitch HP Software R&D Service Anywhere
  • This account is for guest bloggers. The blog post will identify the blogger.
  • Jacques Conand is the Director of ITSM Product Line, having responsibility for the product roadmap of several products such as HP Service Manager, HP Asset Manager, HP Universal CMDB, HP Universal Discovery and the new HP Service Anywhere product. Jacques is also chairman of the ITSM Customer Advisory Board, ensuring the close linkage with HP's largest customers.
  • Jody Roberts is a researcher, author, and customer advocate in the Product Foundation Services (PFS) group in HP Software. Jody has worked with the UCMDB product line since 2004, and currently takes care of the top 100 HP Software customers, the CMS Best Practices library, and has hosted a weekly CMDB Practitioner's Forum since 2006.
  • Software technical product manager for HP Strategic Analytics--Executive Scorecard (XS) and Financial Planning & Analysis (FPA). Generate technologically sophisticated IT Performance Analytics use cases in collaboration with fellow HP product managers and design partners. Liaison for XS & FPA product managers, customers, and development team. Draw upon experience and industry pulse to influence the definition of product strategy and roadmap. Primary implementer of POCs for key elements of the company's offering including executive scorecard, financial planning and analysis, and process analytics..
  • Mary (@maryrasmussen_) is the worldwide product marketing manager for HP Software Education. She has 20+ years of product marketing, product management, and channel/alliances experience. Mary joined HP in 2010 from an early-stage SaaS company providing hosted messaging and mobility services. Mary has a BS in Computer Science and a MBA in Marketing.
  • Michael Pott is a Product Marketing Manager for HP ITSM Solutions. Responsibilities include out-bound marketing and sales enablement. Michael joined HP in 1989 and has held various positions in HP Software since 1996. In product marketing and product management Michael worked on different areas of the IT management software market, such as market analysis, sales content development and business planning for a broad range of products such as HP Operations Manager and HP Universal CMDB.
  • Ming is Product Manager for HP ITSM Solutions
  • Having about 15 years of experience, practical and academic, throughout these years, I’ve been always focusing on both strategic directions side by side with achieving critical business goals Mainly focused on IT operations management, strategy and control, my preferred vendor is usually HP, as I believe HP has one of the best Enterprise portfolios among the current trending technologies
  • Nimish Shelat is currently focused on Datacenter Automation and IT Process Automation solutions. Shelat strives to help customers, traditional IT and Cloud based IT, transform to Service Centric model. The scope of these solutions spans across server, database and middleware infrastructure. The solutions are optimized for tasks like provisioning, patching, compliance, remediation and processes like Self-healing Incidence Remediation and Rapid Service Fulfilment, Change Management and Disaster Recovery. Shelat has 21 years of experience in IT, 18 of these have been at HP spanning across networking, printing , storage and enterprise software businesses. Prior to his current role as a World-Wide Product Marketing Manager, Shelat has held positions as Software Sales Specialist, Product Manager, Business Strategist, Project Manager and Programmer Analyst. Shelat has a B.S in Computer Science. He has earned his MBA from University of California, Davis with a focus on Marketing and Finance.
  • Oded is the Chief Functional Architect for the HP Service and Portfolio Management products, which include Service Manager, Service Anywhere, Universal CMDB & Discovery, Asset Manager, Project and Portfolio Manager.
  • I am Senior Product Manager for Service Manager. I have been manning the post for 10 years and working in various technical roles with the product since 1996. I love SM, our ecosystem, and our customers and I am committed to do my best to keep you appraised of what is going on. I will even try to keep you entertained as I do so. Oh and BTW... I not only express my creativity in writing but I am a fairly accomplished oil painter.
  • WW Sr Product Marketing Manager for HP ITPS VP of Apps & HP Load Runner
  • Vesna is the senior product marketing manager at HP Software. She has been with HP for 13 years in R&D, product management and product marketing. At HP she is responsible for go to market and enablement of the HP IT Performance Suite products.
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