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:
- Find yourself an alternate route or
- 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:
- 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
- Ensure proper levels of control
- Only authorized individuals should have access to and the ability to make changes to the information collected (Ensure Security)
- 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.
Below the OOTB CI types table we provide details that describe the actions needed to customize your CMDB such as how to add new custom fields to OOTB CIs.
To see the out-of-the-box CI types navigate to Setup >CMDB > CI Types. The table below includes the common components used across most organizations.
|CI Type Name||Parent CI Type|
|Data Center||Configuration Item|
|Other Asset||Configuration Item|
- The CI Legacy is where you will find all custom CIs you have previously created.
- The CI hierarchy has also been defined. The chevron on the right reflects that the CI type has a child CI attached.
When you select a CI with a chevron, a list of child CI types is revealed.
For example: Click on the System CI
Edit an Existing CI Type
Hover over the CI and click the icon. Notice some fields possess a gray background which lets you know the are out-of-the-box and cannot be altered, while custom fields that you have created have a white background and can be modified to meet your needs.
You can then:
Edit the name and description of your CI
- Add custom fields
- Edit the CI type layout by hovering over the CI and selecting the appropriate icon:
Add a custom field via drag-and-drop from the custom fields pane on the right
- Remove custom fields via the trash icon
Change custom fields to be mandatory or optional
Move a custom field directly from the layout to another CI type
- The layout editor shows you all layouts the current CI type inherits from the hierarchy.
- Only the current layout can be edited. For example, when editing the Network Device CI, you will not be able to simultaneously edit the System CI section.
- You will only have the ability to move fields to a CI type that does not have the field in its layout or inherits the field from a parent type.
Create a New CI Type
Hover over any CI type and click the icon to create a new child CI type. For example: When a new service is offered, hover over the Service CI and click the icon to add the new CI to the parent CI.
Disable, Move and/or Remove a CI Type and it's Branch
There are additional actions you can take to customize your CMDB by hovering over a CI type.
You can adjust the data model to meet your needs. If you currently don't want a specific device type, you can disable that type until the time that you need it.
- Disable: Disable a specific CI type and prevent users from creating instances of that type
Disable all: Disabling a CI type and all of its child types and prevent users from creating instances of these type.
Out-of-the-box CIs cannot be moved or removed, however custom CIs (CI types that you have created) have additional options:
- Remove: Deleting a CI type from the hierarchy. This action cannot be undone. When there is data associated with the CI type you wish to delete, you will first be prompted to delete the data and only once deleted will you be able to delete the CI.
- Move: Moving a CI type and its children across the hierarchy. In order to move a CI type, you will be prompted to select a new parent.
- When moving a CI type in the hierarchy, it will inherit its layout from the new parent. For example: If you move the CI computer from System to Other Asset, the data will be maintained however, however the custom fields specific to the System hierarchy will no longer be reflected. Therefore you must manually move any additional fields.
- Moving CI types across the hierarchy does not delete any field.
To navigate to your list of Dependencies go to Setup > CMDB > Dependencies
It is imperative to create associations that describe the nature of the relationship between two or more CI's.
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.
You can choose to deactivate a dependency to ensure users will not attach CI's of that type.
To create a custom dependency
Click the and complete the requested information (mandatory fields are marked with an "*"):
- Name*: Dependency name (e.g. Utilization, Consumption, Insdtallation)
- Forward Dependency*: Name of the forward direction of the dependency (e.g, Utilizes, Consumes, Deploys, etc.). This value will be displayed when attaching CIs together.
- Inverse Dependency*: Name of the inverse direction of the dependency (e.g, Is Utilized By, Is Consumed By, Is Deployed By, etc.). This value will be displayed when attaching CIs together.
- Description: A short description of the dependency for internal usage and documentation.
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.
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 an 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:
You can drill down from the map to existing CIs and filter out and CIs and Dependencies you do not need.
See images below:
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:
- Open an ITSM object.
- Hover over to the Configuration Items section and click Attach.
Select the CI(s) you wish to attach.
An additional method:
- Navigate to Service Desk > CMDB > and select a specific CI.
- Select an ITSM object such as Incident, Problem etc., and click Attach.
- Select the specific ITSM processes you wish to attach.