What does the configuration management database (CMDB) mean in your organization? If you are like NetApp was a few years ago, it exists as a database for collecting and tracking information about physical assets in data centers. It’s a good inventory tool, but not much more.

The real value of a CMDB comes when it’s used as an application tool providing complete business service management. End-to-end service management has enormous ramifications. A mature CMDB with accurate relationships allows IT to see the business context of an application or storage cluster and ask the hard questions: How will a change improve the quality of IT service delivery? Which business capability is a new application supporting? Is the application duplicating the functionality of another system? What is the impact on storage operations?

About three years ago, the NetApp IT view of the CDMB changed significantly. The turning point came when IT began its migration to a single production data center in Oregon. The IT team realized an accurate, always up-to-date view of all IT assets was needed. Centrally managed and shared across the whole of IT, the CMDB would provide a consistent view of the compute and storage assets (both physical and virtual) that needed to move. It would also help identify the impact of the assets on data center power consumption, compute build processes, and physical asset tracking as well as on hosted applications and supported business processes. The CMDB was recognized as a tool that would fulfill this need.

A New Level of Maturity

CMDB Scope & LandscapeWe recognized early on that a simple, expanded inventory of assets was not the ultimate goal. The real power of the CMDB would come when the interrelationships between business services, applications, and infrastructure were well understood and documented.  Clearly defined data ownership was the key to maintaining data accuracy and instilling confidence. Only with this could the CMDB become the single trusted data source for supporting all IT operations.

A single point of contact was appointed for central accountability; groups were assigned responsibilities within each layer. Formal processes for capturing, updating and maintaining the integrity of the assets in the repository were adopted. Data Center Services was given responsibility for populating and maintaining all physical asset information. Business analysts, architects and application owners contributed information on application profiles, business services and application relationships. IT began to systematically organize, specify, control and track the configuration items in the CMDB repository.

ServiceNow was leveraged to ingest relationships and mappings into the CMDB. Automation was implemented to tie logical compute assets to their hardware and the applications they hosted. Automated daily scans were employed to maintain virtual and physical machine data. We used NetApp OnCommand® Insight to build the storage relationships. The end result was a CMDB that provides a fully integrated configuration mapping of assets from business services down to the lowest levels of IT infrastructure. In addition, as NetApp integrates with public cloud providers as part of its hybrid cloud strategy, the CMDB helps determine what business capabilities are being supported by these providers to improve problem resolution and change management. (View the infographic about the integration of OnCommand Insight® and ServiceNow.)

Service Management Realized

Although CMDB development was originally undertaken to manage our data center migration program, it has evolved into an invaluable and proven asset in other areas of IT service management including:

    • Risk mitigation. The CMDB data helps better qualify the risks involved in changing infrastructure and storage assets as well as business applications The CMDB reveals both the direct impact and the indirect effects further upstream or downstream. The impact to business services can be reviewed against a calendar of critical business events-for instance, changes that impact financial close functions are not scheduled during a fiscal quarter end. This understanding of application interdependencies has resulted in a decline in the number of service disruptions. (Read more in this blog: Why Storage Doesn’t Keep Me Awake at Night Any More.)
    • Incident management. The CMDB data supports rapid incident response as well remediation investigation. Configuration item tie-ins to Splunk and Zenoss enable automated alerting and streamlined access to operational and performance data so issues can be identified, prioritized and remediated before customers are affected.
    • One-day provisioning. In collaboration with the Service Catalog, the CMDB supports automated server provisioning with a one-day service-level agreement (SLA) from order to delivery. This has reduced the resources expended on compute builds, driven up throughput volume and sped up time to delivery from five days to under four hours.
    • Improved communications. Cross-pollination of the CMDB configuration items with OnCommand Insight allows anyone in IT to access performance and capacity metrics, giving customers access to information at any time and freeing up admin time. (Read more about this innovation in this blog: My Aha! Moment to Cross-pollinate and Integrate Data Between OnCommand Insight and ServiceNow CMDB.)

Mapping the Future

What began as a traditional data repository for physical assets has evolved to a mature CMDB that now serves as a platform for IT transformation. By delivering end-to-end service management-from storage and compute assets to applications and business processes-IT has gained a wealth of knowledge that helps drive improvements in service delivery and support of business goals. The CMDB has laid a robust foundation for NetApp’s future by providing a business context to decisions related to incident resolution, change management and IT investments, both in and out of the cloud.

The NetApp-on-NetApp blog series features advice from subject matter experts from NetApp IT who share their real-world experiences using NetApp’s industry-leading storage solutions to support business goals. Want to learn more about the program? Visit www.NetAppIT.com.