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Posted by Glenn O'Donnell on December 22, 2013
I’m sitting on my sofa at home (Yes! Home!) on Sunday morning just before Christmas. I’m “shut down” for the holidays now, but of course, I’m watching Twitter and now listening to my brilliant friends Chris Dancy and Troy DuMoulin discussing CMDB (configuration management database) on the Practitioner Radio podcast. It’s a marvelous episode, covering the topic of CMDB in with impressive clarity! I highly recommend you listen to their conversation. It’s full of beautiful gems of wisdom from two people who have a lot of experience here – and it's pretty entertaining too!
I agree with everything these guys discussed. In particular, I love the part where they cover systems thinking and context as the key to linking everything conceptually. I only have one nit about this podcast, and the greater community discussion about CMDB, though. Let’s stop calling this “thing” a CMDB!
I coauthored a book with the great Carlos Casanova (his real name!) called The CMDB Imperative, but we both hate this CMDB term. This isn’t hypocritical. In fact, we make this point clear in the book. Like the vendors, we used CMDB to hit a nerve. We actually struggled with this decision, but we realized we needed to hit those exposed nerves if we were going to sell any books. Our goal is not to fund a new Aston Martin with book proceeds. If so, we failed miserably! We just wanted to get the word out to as many as possible. I hope we've been able to make even a small difference!
“CMDB” is misleading in countless ways, but let me highlight a few of the biggest flaws:
I keep referring to the right approach, so what is this right approach? The community debated this heavily in 2011, culminating in a report I published at the end of that year with the title, Reinvent The Obsolete But Necessary CMDB. While I was one of the principal instigators of this debate and the primary author of the report, many people in and out of Forrester contributed to this. The biggest part of the debate was what to call this new model. After a lot of gnashing of teeth, we all concluded that an appropriate identity was Service Information System (SIS). It’s not sexy, but it captures the essence of the right approach.
I implore the entire community to wean themselves off CMDB - the term, not the concept. The concept of having a model of reality is profoundly valuable, but the tarnished CMDB term is holding us all back. As we try to automate more of our environment and as the services themselves get more dynamic every day, this need for trustworthy contextual information becomes more important.
Nobody is yet married to the SIS term, but it seems to be catching on. It is the best identity we have for this new model of CMDB. Let’s start talking about SIS instead of CMDB. Doing so is an audacious step, but it’s also necessary. You should not have to deal with the intricacies of federation and object modeling. Apply pressure to the vendors to simplify the inherent complexity. Make them do the hard work for you.
While you're at it, push the vendors to also hop on the SIS bandwagon. I will publicly appaud the first vendor to make the jump from CMDB to SIS. This is not easy for them and it's our fault. If customers are asking for CMDB, they must deliver it or they don't make money! Stupid demands yield stupid products. Help them gain the courage to break the mold, but that means you and I need to have the courage too! The future belongs to the courageous, not the conformists.
Death to CMDB!
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