You can’t manage what you can’t see. That’s why keeping an inventory of IT assets is so important for IT operations and IT security. ITIL — the global standard for IT service management — proposes that companies keep their IT inventories in a configuration management database (CMDB). The CMDB would track hardware, software, locations, documentation, people, and the relationship of one inventory item to another.
That’s a great idea, but it hasn’t worked well in practice. About 75% of CMDB implementations fail. They usually fail because of the incompleteness or inaccuracy of their data. In addition, some legacy CMDBs have trouble scaling to handle the volume of data flows and devices in today’s fast-moving, highly distributed enterprises.
Salesforce and Tanium are adding a new feature to the IT Service Center (ITSC): a CMDB that’s built into the Salesforce platform and integrated with the Tanium platform. The ITSC’s CMDB combines the real-time data access and automation of the Tanium platform with the ease of use, familiar interfaces, and built-in AI capabilities of the Salesforce platform.
In this post, I’ll discuss why CMDBs are so important, why most CMDBs fall short of their expectations, and what’s different and important about the CMDB that we now offer to ITSC customers.
A comprehensive inventory of your enterprise IT environment
As its name suggests, a CMDB is a database. Specifically, it’s a large, often complex database that stores records about every configuration item (CI) in the enterprise. A configuration item is any element of the IT environment that your company wants to inventory and monitor.
Different companies make different decisions about what constitutes a CI. Typically, though, CIs include servers, employee endpoints such as laptops and desktop computers, network routers, software applications — basically the hardware and software components that IT manage and track to continuously deliver a service to employees or external customer. They can also include people, locations, vendors, and business services.
The idea is that the CMDB is “the single source of truth” about what’s been provisioned within the company. It can tell you about dependencies among devices, and which services are used by which users in which departments. Obviously, this information is crucial for any IT operations teams trying to keep their company’s IT infrastructure updated and running optimally.
Need to know which devices access the finance department’s SAP server? Check the CMDB. Need to figure out the business impact of a change to your network routers? Check the CMDB. Need to know which services run on which servers? Again, check the CMDB.
If the CMDB is up to date, it’s an invaluable tool for keeping track of the details that IT teams are responsible for managing.
Reasons why most CMDBs fall short of their promises
In theory, having a single source of truth like a CMDB sounds great. But in practice, a CMDB often turns out to be yet another source of confusion. More often than not, a CMDB doesn’t end up providing the comprehensive, detailed, and accurate picture of IT assets that CMDB vendors have promised.
Here are some of the reasons why most CMDBs fall short:
For a CMDB to be the single source of truth, it needs to store important configuration information in a single location. At many organizations, there are at least two sources of truth, if not five or ten. Additionally, most companies have only incomplete inventories of their devices. For example, many IT service management toolsets routinely overlook 10-20% of their endpoints. If your CMDB is missing information about one out of every five devices, it’s not going to be very effective at helping you streamline and automate your IT operations. Whatever risks pertain to those uncatalogued devices will continue indefinitely.
The data in a CMDB has to be collected either automatically or manually. Usually, it’s collected from different systems, using different techniques, on different time intervals. As a result, some data in the CMDB might be a week old. Some might be a month old. You might have accurate data about endpoints in Chicago but inaccurate data about endpoints in New York. These differences make it difficult to automate IT tasks. For example, when you plan a change to push software updates to hundreds of systems, if many of them already have received the updates, then errors may result.
Many legacy CMDBs weren’t designed to handle the scale of today’s large enterprises. The number and variety of endpoints continues to increase. Twenty years ago, a CMDB would have tracked PCs on a local LAN and servers. Today, a CMDB is tracking PCs, Macs, BYOD devices, IoT devices, cloud applications, and more.
Those devices are in more locations than ever before, thanks to today’s Work from Home (WFH) workforce. And these device numbers, already high, are poised to skyrocket as more companies deploy more IoT devices, which are expected to number 43 billion worldwide by 2023. To avoid bogging down CMDB performance, many companies end up omitting certain classes of data from their CMDB. But excluding that data defeats the purpose of a CMDB. If only certain types of devices, software packages, and employees are cataloged in the CMDB, it’s no longer an authoritative source of IT information. It’s just one of many data sources that engineers will consult as part of their “swivel chair” approach to IT operations.
Here’s a test of any CMDB: Can the IT operations team reliably automate work using the CMDB? For example, can your rely solely on the CMDB to identify and update certain types of devices?
If the CMDB cannot support IT teams interested in automating their IT operations work, it has failed in its mission.
Salesforce ITSC: a CMDB with comprehensive, real-time data
If you’re working with a legacy CMDB that’s not pulling its weight, or if you haven’t selected a CMDB yet but feel you’re finally ready to deploy one, you’ll appreciate the CMDB included in the Salesforce ITSC.
Data is the heart of any CMDB. To provide the ITSC’s CMDB with accurate, comprehensive, and up-to-date data about endpoints, we’ve integrated the CMDB with the power of the Tanium platform. Tanium’s endpoint management solution helps IT teams obtain the data they need for managing and securing endpoints.
Tanium’s endpoint management capabilities solve the problems that cause so many CMDBs to fall short. Why? Incorporating the Tanium technology, the ITSC CMDB provides:
Comprehensive endpoint data
Tanium discovers the 10-20% of endpoints other IT management systems may miss. As a result, Salesforce customers can be confident in the ITSC CMDB’s endpoint records.
The Tanium platform provides real-time data about endpoints. IT operations teams no longer have to worry about the risk of working with stale data. They can trust that they’re getting real-time configuration data, not last week’s old data.
Fast, scalable performance
Like the ITSC itself, the ITSC CMDB is a cloud solution built for flexibility, scalability, and reliability. It’s part of the Salesforce platform, which helped set the standards for high-performance SaaS solutions for business.
Support for AI-driven automation
As part of the Salesforce platform, the ITSC CMDB can access Salesforce Einstein to apply machine learning to CMDB data and IT operations tasks. That means that IT operations can learn from data in the ITSC CMDB, recognize patterns, and suggest opportunities for automation that IT teams might have otherwise missed.
Proactive event and incident management
The ITSC includes Tanium templates for automating common IT tasks such as querying and patching endpoints. By automating this work, the ITSC helps IT teams create a self-healing IT environment that fixes problems before employees notice them.
Ease of use
One other benefit of the ITSC CMDB is that it is part of the Salesforce ITSC platform: It’s easy to use. Companies already familiar with Salesforce will likely experience a minimal learning curve, and companies new to Salesforce can quickly discover what’s makes Salesforce so popular. The user interface is designed for speed, convenience, and productivity.
By adopting ITSC and its CMDB with real-time data capabilities, companies can gain unparalleled visibility into their IT environments. They can also establish a data-rich foundation for automating and optimizing IT operations tasks.
Learn more about Salesforce ITSC and its CMDB.