But sometimes fear comes from something as simple as a name. Earlier this year, for instance, I heard about a CMDB deployment in a financial institution in Scotland. Even before deployment, the IT executives there had decided not to use the term CMDB as if it might tempt the vexing powers of fate that all too often plague strategic IT initiatives. And so instead they called in the "Scottish Database", and proceeded with renewed peace of mind.
Clearly, 2009 is placing some level of anxiety over any IT initiative that seems more philosophical than tangible. And in some environments, CMDB deployments are getting cut, with dollars deferred to other projects, or just cut across the board. This is particularly true where CMDB systems were never well understood to begin with, or where vague expectations about changing the known universe overnight ran aground.
This is not to say there still isnt a lot of confusion in CMDB land. And the confusion isnt just among IT organizations. Its pervasive across the vendor and the analyst communities, as well. In part, this is because the CMDB marketplace is going through another bend in the river that requires more navigation than just staring straight ahead and paddling. It is related to, but not entirely circumscribed by, the difference between ITIL v2s notion of a CMDB and ITIL v3s notion of a Configuration Management System (CMS). The latter is made up of multiple technologies and, at least potentially, multiple CMDBs.
I was told by one of my vendor clients that some analysts are preaching that anyone who backs away from a single, monolithic CMDB is wimping out. The notion here is if you cant own up to a Platonically pure, single source for desired state configuration items (CI) youre falling down on the commitment to consolidate, centralize and get unanimity across IT. I suspect this also comes from the need to create discrete market categories that can be quantified, owned", and reported on neatly and definitively. But what this approach misses, and I think what ITIL v3 largely gets", is CMDB-related deployments are not really single technologies, but a series of related and enabling technologies.
ITILs language is as follows regarding the CMS: A set of tools and databases that are used to manage an IT service providers configuration data. The CMS also includes information about incidents, problems, known errors, changes and releases; and may contain data about employees, suppliers, locations, business units, customers, and users. The CMS includes tools for collecting, storing, managing, updating, and presenting data about all configuration items and their relationships." In this vision, then, the CMS can include multiple CMDBs.