Documentation forSolarWinds Service Desk

Getting to know your CMDB

Everyday you utilize a variety of tools to improve your business processes. A Service Desk to meet the daily needs of your users, to allow your team members to open Incidents, Problems, Changes etc. to ensure delivery of engaging service experiences, quick problem resolution, business alignment, etc. A Discovery tool, to provide a list of assets used by your organization. A Configuration Database to maintain a list of all IT and Business Components within your organization. However, to be truly beneficial, it is imperative to understand the relationships and dependencies among those assets to understand how they impact everyday organizational operations. By implementation of a CMDB, you are able to take your IT productivity to another level by integrating the CMDB to key ITSM processes. The goal is to assist IT professionals proactively deliver services to their users by improving key IT service management processes.

What is a CMDB?

A CMDB (Configuration Management Database) contains up-to-date information about all components of information technology systems used by an organization as well as the relationships between these components. This database is organized in a way that clearly defines the relationships and dependencies among the components stored. Each component is defined as a Configuration Item (CI) and often associated with other CIs to show how the CIs work together to help deliver IT services.

How your CMDB Works for You

As technology improves, expands in capabilities and becomes more complex, it makes understanding your IT infrastructure that much more important. Similar to any highway you travel to get to work, if there is construction occurring on your route, you would like to know as early as possible, to:

  1. Find yourself an alternate route or
  2. Leave earlier to ensure you give yourself ample time to sit in traffic on your way to work.

So how can the CMDB help us once we get to the office, with proper upkeep, the CMDB can predict behavior and ensure we minimize and even prevent issues that can lead to downtime in our workday.

As a best practice, your IT professionals can identify, manage, and improve how each component that makes up your IT infrastructure impacts key IT service management processes such as Incidents, Problems, Changes, Releases, and Configuration Management.

For example: A planned operating system upgrade to an application server will definitely cause downtime. With proper understanding of your CMDB, IT professionals can quickly and accurately determine which systems (additional CIs such as business services, applications, etc.,) will be affected. This information is most helpful in determining when to schedule the upgrade at a time which will minimize the negative effects on employees and business processes.

Major Tasks of your CMDB

The CMDB can lead to more proactive service delivery by increasing your visibility into the technological landscape of your IT community. This leads to:

  • Overall improvement of your IT service management processes
  • With a deeper understanding of Change Impact, you can confidently streamline Change Management
  • Rapid analysis and diagnosis of root causes enable for faster incident resolution
  • Improved problem resolution.

Steps to success:

  1. Identifying the CIs that will make up your CMDB
    • No need to define every device. Begin with mapping out the IT backbone of your organization (This can be achieved by utilization of SolarWinds Discovery)
    • Include the dependencies between CIs
    • Associate these CIs with relevant ITSM items such as Incidents, Problems, Changes, and Releases
  2. Ensure proper levels of control
    • Only authorized individuals should have access to and the ability to make changes to the information collected (Ensure Security)
  3. Maintain automatic updates of all CIs in your CMDB via integration with SolarWinds Discovery

Getting to Know your SolarWinds CMDB

The SolarWinds CMDB data model has a parent/child hierarchical and provides Out-of-the Box CIs while allowing you to create additional custom CIs to ensure your data model most accurately reflects your physical and virtual IT infrastructure. Defining your CIs is step one, we then offer an extensive CMDB Data Model to assist you when defining the relationships and dependencies among your CIs.

The CMDB data model is built so that each CI type inherits the layout and fields of its parent CI. This allows for time efficient customization of the data model to meet each organization's business needs. For example:

  • When you add a custom field to the System CI type layout, it will appear on all of its child layouts as well, such as Computer, Network Device, Router, etc.

To review the configuration items stored in your CMDB, hover over the icon and navigate to Service Desk > CMDB.

Configuration Items (CI) Index Page

From this page you are able to view all the configuration items entered into your database. You can customize, edit and filter your view to best meet your needs. For additional customization information, click here.

To add a CI, press the icon and select the relevant CI from the dropdown menu.

Enter the requested details and notice the tabs at the bottom of the window.

  • Dependencies - Select the Attach button and mark all relevant CIs, then click Attach
  • Related - Select the Attach button and select which type of ITSM object you wish to attach. For example:
    • Select Incidents and then select the relevant incidents that should be attached to the CI. Click Attach when completed.
  • Audit - Shows which fields were edited on the record, by whom the edits were made, time and date of edit.
  • Once you have entered all the information and attached the relevant dependencies and ITSM objects, click Create.

As we are undergoing a redesign of the CI pages, you will notice:

  • CIs including Computer, Mobile and Other Assets, reflect an older Information window that will be updated soon to match the flow of ITSM objects and other CIs.
  • CIs such as Contract, Person, Group and Vendor Can only be created from their dedicated page (e.g Contracts, Groups, etc.) therefore cannot be created from the CMDB index
  • When you manually create any of the following CIs, Network Device, Access Point, Firewall, Router, Switch and Printer you will see the updated redesign page. However when these CIs are discovered via automatic scanning, they will be associated with the previous setup of the Network Device page.

Dependencies

It is imperative that your Administrator creates associations that describe the nature of the relationship between two or more CI's.

For example:

If a network router has an interruption of service, then all servers and PCs connected to that router will also experience an interruption of service.

Why is it so important to understand how dependencies work?

Dependencies let you designate the nature of the relationship when associating two or more CI's.

The dependencies relate to the relationships between CI's such as how CI's are connected with one another. Each relationship has a forward and inverse dependency as shown in the chart below.

Note that each dependency has a forward and inverse direction

For example: a laptop is the host that runs software programs. Therefore the software runs on the host.

When you are ready to attach a dependency to a CI

Navigate to Service Desk > CMDB and select a CI.

Click on the CI name in the Configuration Items index and enter the relevant information in the right pane. Click Attach to create the association.

You will be prompted to select the dependency type and then the configuration item(s) to attach to the current CI.

Visual Map

To increase visibility of your IT infrastructure, our Enterprise plan includes a CMDB Visual Map. With a clear visualization, you have a greater understanding of the dependencies and how these relationships can impacts dependent CIs.

If you are on a Professional or Enterprise plan, notice the Open Visual Map button on the top right.

Click Open Visual Map

The map displays the following attributes:

  • All dependent CI's are displayed in a horizontal tree format
  • The root CI is reflected on the left with all dependencies branching to the right

When hovering over the branch, the dependency type is displayed.

Important to attach Configuration Items (CIs) and create relationships between CIs. This will aid in quickly and easily building your CMDB which you can link directly to key IT service management processes such as Incidents, Problems and Change Management.

To delete a dependency, select the CI type and edit out any relationship that is no longer relevant.

Select the icon on the upper right corner of any CI to attach additional CIs.

You can drill down from the map to existing CIs and filter out and CIs and Dependencies you do not need.

See images below, for example:

Filter by CI type

You can drill down to a specific CI type as well:

  • Click on a CI
  • The right pane is revealed
  • If you wish to view the full CI page with additional information (such as related records) click the CI name

Filter by Dependency:

Attaching CIs to ITSM Processes

As previously explained, one of the goals achieved by maintaining a CMDB is the ability to improve key IT service management (ITSM) processes. As you connect between your CIs and ITSM processes such as Incidents, Problems etc., you gain a better understanding of the CIs you depend on and how they work together. This helps ensure continuity of services. An additional benefit in maintaining a CMDB is that data collected assists in determining the root cause of and issue or an impact of a change.

You are unable to attach an ITSM object to the CI software.

For example: You can streamline Change Management processes based on data collected from your CMDB. You have the ability to analyze the impact and risks prior to determining changes.

The next step is to connect CIs with current Incidents, Problems, Changes, Releases, Computers and/or other ITSM processes.

To achieve this:

  1. Open an ITSM object.
  2. Hover over to the Configuration Items section and click Attach.
  3. Select the CI(s) you wish to attach.

An additional method:

  1. Navigate to Service Desk > CMDB > and select a specific CI.
  2. Select an ITSM object such as Incident, Problem etc., and click Attach.
  3. Select the specific ITSM processes you wish to attach.