CMDB: Your Family Tree of Dependencies

June 18, 2020

CMDB: Your Family Tree of Dependencies

Configuration items (CIs) in the configuration management database (CMDB) stores information regarding the relationships among its assets. IT configuration management is becoming increasingly critical in order to maintain service levels and keep all hardware and software performing at peak levels. In order to maintain those levels, there are a few things to understand about the CMDB, how those CIs are connected, and how their relationships can be used to improve technology services.

What are CI dependencies and how do they fit together?

Relationships between CIs usually indicate dependencies. One CI might be a “parent” of multiple “child” CIs. One CI might be hosted on another CI. Those types of dependencies are key in understanding the full scope of technology as it impacts the business. If there’s an interruption of service for a router, most likely service will be interrupted for other servers, PCs, and laptops in the business. Think of these CI relationships like a family tree—no matter how distant the relationship, each family member shares the same blood.

Automated discovery in the service desk helps locate CIs. In a mature CMDB, IT pros can establish these relationships, which will provide a detailed view of how CIs fit together, also called visual relationship mapping. Insight into these relationships can help IT pros make better decisions when implementing changes or troubleshooting incidents, as well as effectively managing resources and outages.

How to use CI dependencies in service delivery

One important distinction is the difference between IT asset management (ITAM) and a CMDB. ITAM is the “what” and “where.” Which assets does the organization want to track, and where are they located? CMDB is the “how”. The CMDB takes it a step further after a link between ITIL practices and asset records has been created. This gives the service desk an understanding of how CIs fit into technology services, including:

  • The ability to identify impacted CIs for every change, including downstream dependencies
  • Complete risk assessment
  • Discovery of potential change conflicts
  • Minimized downtime for impacted assets
  • A document of complete historical data for individual CIs and related service records

Applicable use of CMDB, data mapping, and visualization

Imagine a series of employees submitting related tickets. After diagnosing a problem, you’re committed to rebooting a server to address the issue. Before that change is approved, the change advisory board (CAB) will need to know if any other critical services depend on that server. What are the dependent CIs? Are there any other planned changes for this server? If so, could the changes be bundled together? The CMDB can mitigate that risk and minimize downtime simply by showing those relationships. It can also help you diagnose root causes.

The CMDB’s ability to automatically discover IT assets in the service desk, combined with ITIL practices and visual relationship mapping is a great way to understand how CIs depend upon one another. This understanding makes for more thorough incident, problem, and change management, which helps to improve how technology is used and how service is delivered.

Jason Yeary is a technical expert for SolarWinds Service Desk customers and a former service desk manager in the healthcare industry. He is ITIL 4 certified and specializes in ITSM best practices, configuration, and integrations. He also has a refined palate for craft beer and knows professional football news before it's on your TV.