Configuration management data - ITIL Configuration Management

Beyond the operational processes, however, there is a significant business value to having complete and accurate configuration management data. The old saying “time is money” was never truer than in systems management. Having timely and accurate data at the point of resolving an incident or considering a change will result in huge savings. As everyone knows, having information is critical to making good decisions, and this is certainly the case with configuration information.

Making Good Decisions

Although configuration management should never be confused with IT asset management, there is certainly value to having more information as part of the IT purchase cycle. The CMDB can help determine when it’s appropriate to refresh hardware sooner than expected, or when it is acceptable to let the refresh cycle lag behind the original schedule. If a server is hosting business critical applications and has had a whole series of minor incidents reported against it, it might be time to escalate the refresh time of that server, or perhaps swap it into a less critical part of the environment. But rather than simply deciding based on the annoyance of the most recent incident, you can have concrete information from the CMDB on which to base this kind of decision.

Without configuration management information, you won’t have solid information on when to shift your IT policies, and you will have to rely on instinct or emotion. If your organization has adopted grid computing to any extent, you already understand the significant decisions around this utility-based computing model. Because the basic tenet of grid computing is massively parallel computing, you must have an easy way to understand the configurations available or use. Accurate configuration information will allow for rapid decisions about how much work can be directed to the overall grid, and which potential hosts can support the additional workload. Without having adequate information about the configurations involved, it would be virtually impossible to make workload decisions for the entire grid.

Another kind of decision that is enabled by configuration management data is investment decisions. By looking at the data available, and particularly at the relationships between IT components as captured in the CMDB, it’s possible to isolate single points of failure and see redundancies. Examining the number and criticality of applications related to a server can show potentially under- or over utilized servers.

Process Effectiveness

The business value of configuration management is not limited to making decisions. Configuration management is truly a service support process. It supports all other processes by helping them meet their goals more easily. As an example, consider again the incident management process. Typically during a service disruption, information is in short supply and demands for action are frequent and loud. Knowing which applications run on the downed server, which

LAN segments are supported by the failing hub, or which business processes depend on the bug ridden application can be the difference between a temporary inconvenience and a prolonged, revenue-losing outage. When the organization trusts the CMDB and can rely on its accuracy, every incident will be understood and repaired more quickly. This more rapid understanding allows technicians to recover service instead of trying to discover (once again) how things are pieced together.

Process Effectiveness

A simple example of an environment to be recorded in configuration management.

Release management can also be made more effective by accurate configuration management data. Imagine a major application consisting of a database, an application server tier, and a web-based presentation tier. Each piece of the application may run on one or more servers, and all those servers might host other applications beyond the one being considered part of the release. A release manager needs complete and accurate information about this entire environment, including the dependencies of one part of the application on another, before scheduling the series of changes needed to put a new release of this application into production.

Finally, consider the significant advantage that configuration management data provides in making outsourcing more effective. In the simplest case where a single outsourcing vendor is involved, configuration information provides a solid baseline for understanding the services being provided. In a more complex situation where multiple vendors provide different services, configuration management can enable the communication between vendors. Rather than pointing fingers or placing blame, each vendor can take responsibility for specific configuration items, and the scope of duties can be very clear. For such multivendor environments, configuration information is critical.

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