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Self discovering Infrastructure tools key to accurate CMDB

Organizations are increasingly dependent on their IT networks to provide a competitive advantage. These networks are becoming progressively more complex in a bid to provide more sophisticated business services. The migration toward the goal of on demand, high availability, and converged enterprise networks is set to provide a considerable challenge to those organizations wishing to reap the undoubted business benefits.

Organizations are increasingly dependent on their IT networks to provide a competitive advantage. These networks...

are becoming progressively more complex in a bid to provide more sophisticated business services. The migration toward the goal of on demand, high availability, and converged enterprise networks is set to provide a considerable challenge to those organizations wishing to reap the undoubted business benefits.

The realization that 100% availability of IT services will assume ever-greater significance has led to the introduction of the ITIL best practice standards for IT Service Management.

At the core of ITIL's framework are the configuration, change, and incident management processes. The accuracy and relevance of the information within its main configuration management database (CMDB) is critical in delivering the effectiveness of all the associated IT Service Management processes. It is suggested that 80% of critical system outages are the result of people or process failure with the main proponent being change. This is underpinned by the cyclic rational that planning with poor information is destined to fail and the subsequent recovery process is hampered by originally poor configuration data.

The management of changes to the CMDB is highly critical as service delivery managers must know the exact implications of carrying out any changes before they take place. Avoiding the potential for a 'butterfly effect' to develop as a result of a poorly executed change or problem resolution is essential if 100% service availability is to be maintained. As David Cuthbertson of the British Computing Society points out "How can you manage IT services if you don't know what equipment you have, where it is, how it's connected, and the impact of changing it?"

Configuration management is cited as the most difficult IT discipline to implement due to the manual effort needed to maintain its accuracy resulting from the constant changes to the IT infrastructure and the lack of suitable tools to intuitively manage the processes.

A number of software vendors have sought to overcome this with the Development of IT Service Configuration Management Applications that self discover substantial amounts of interrelated network information dynamically. Deploying such applications and processes upon a traditionally managed cabling infrastructure is an impossible task as the connectivity and asset information contained within traditional tools and documentation processes, being manually maintained, is inevitably inaccurate, outdated and therefore cannot be safely incorporated into an accurate CMDB. This severely limits the speed of application deployment and the quality of IT Service Management. This is a major barrier to successful ITIL adoption.

By adopting Intelligent Infrastructure Management (IIM) tools as a key part of their IT Service Management strategy, IT managers can create an infrastructure platform capable of addressing these problems, providing a 100% accurate, real-time, trusted source of connectivity and asset physicality information that can be incorporated within the core CMDB and consequently, utilised to enhance all associated IT service management tools and process.


Fig 1: Depicting the complexities of data center infrastructures

There is another way -- Implement IMM

What is IIM?

Intelligent Infrastructure Management is a combination of technologies that:

  • Self discovers network connectivity from End to End
  • Provides Real Time IP asset management to the Physical Location
  • Generates Alarms & Events for unauthorised activity on the physical layer
  • Shares its information with various work streams and core applications

The key components to an IIM solution are:

  • Relational Infrastructure Database
  • Patch panel sensing system that detects the state of patching and constantly monitors for change
  • IP discovery engine to add end devices and switches to connectivity circuits
  • Multi user interface and 3rd party application integrations
  • Work order system

Figure two: What is IIM?

Leading IIM solutions provide an auto-routing capability within their work order management functionality that automatically routes the required services to the desired servers via the most efficient and effective cable links. The work orders required to execute the activity are automatically created, issued to the appropriate technician, and managed by the IIM system. Any actions that do not adhere 100% to the work order are instantaneously identified and raised as unauthorised actions requiring attention.

Implementing IIM solutions to automatically provide services within a standard office environment will improve change efficiency (and hence reduce cost) by a minimum of 40%. Within the data center, IIM solutions have been proven to reduce server commissioning time by up to 80%, while simultaneously reducing the number of incidents caused by poorly executed change. If incidents do, for whatever reason occur, IIM solutions can dramatically reduce mean time to resolution (MTTR) by up to 45%.

The main issue reducing the effectiveness of the CMDB is the sheer effort required to coordinate and manage the manual physical connectivity documentation in complex IT environments. A trusted source of documentation, or the lack of it, has a major impact on the successful adoption IT Service Management. Rather than a fully integrated CMDB addressing OSI layers 1 to 7, the vast majority of organisations currently rely on tribal knowledge and/or numerous sets of spreadsheets, diagrams, whiteboards, post-it notes and the knowledge in peoples' heads to document the physical infrastructure elements.

Riches is Senior Business Manager, Support & Intelligent Infrastructures with Comunica Limited.

This was last published in February 2006

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