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A Guide to CMDB Automation

A Guide to CMDB Automation

Configuration management databases (CMDBs) help IT teams track hardware, software, and virtualized assets, configurations, and changes. This single version of truth helps IT teams make better decisions about their assets and improve service quality over time. Whether teams use manual or automated processes to discover, manage, and update their assets likely depends on several factors. Teams with small networks and modest budgets may opt for manual processes. However, enterprise teams will almost certainly select CMDBs that automate asset discovery and updates and can also map application dependencies.

So, what does it mean to automate a CMDB? A next-generation CMDB will scan the entire network, auto-populating the database with all assets, their current status, and dependencies. It will also automate the normalization and categorization of all configuration item (CI) data. IT teams benefit by gaining an accurate, up-to-date view of all devices and data they can leverage for analytics, reporting, and process optimization.

Next-generation CMDBs offer users the ability to execute both agentless and agent-based discovery of assets. These CMDBs also integrate with cloud-native tools, such as microservices, containers, and other solutions used to build modern applications. By doing so, they create a clear picture of network infrastructure at all times. 

So, who is using CMDBs today? Publicly accessible data on CMDB adoption is hard to come by, as much of the research is gated behind paywalls. 

A 2019 survey by Enterprise Management Associates found that 89% of IT professionals surveyed were using a CMDB or configuration management system (CMS). More than half of this group (53%) also had integrated discovery and dependency mapping (DDM) capabilities. As a result of lower-than-expected adoption, just 20% could update their CMDB in real-time, with another 19% gaining updated data multiple times a day. 

A CMDB that doesn’t leverage automation to scan assets and input data in near-real-time into a globally available database is setting teams up for failure. Data will be incomplete, inaccurate, and age fast. As a result, both IT teammates and business stakeholders will lose faith in the CMDB’s data and it will grow harder to find the collective will to maintain the system. 

Read our blogs:

To CMDB or Not to CMDB?

Harnessing Cloud Discovery and Dependency Mapping for Hybrid Infrastructure Management

Harness These Many Benefits of CMDB Automation

Fortunately, there are many solutions available on the market today that offer automated scanning, device discovery, and data normalization and categorization capabilities. They also can offer other capabilities, as well. As an example, Device42’s CMDB provides both agentless and agent-based discovery and offers optional dependency mapping. It also integrates with IT asset management (ITAM) and data center infrastructure management (DCIM) tools, providing IT teams with the opportunity to gain a full-featured solution that can help them improve multiple processes. 

The benefits of using an automated CMDB solution include:

  • Improving efficiency and accuracy: CMDBs can scan networks in near-real-time or on preset schedules, providing IT and IT service management (ITSM) teams with a comprehensive, accurate view of network devices. The solution provides visual maps of devices and dependencies that enable teams to see all computer rooms and racks with power and capacity heat maps; the full IP connectivity and power chain; and all hardware, software, and application dependencies. With data and visualization tools, IT teams improve data center management, change management, configuration, and ITSM processes. They also can use insights to improve cooling efficiency and reduce energy consumption, returning cost savings to the budget.

    Covenant Health is a Catholic regional health delivery network located in the northeast United States. The organization kept some of its asset information, including subnets and IP address assignments, in spreadsheets and used a second system for application and support escalation inventories. Manually updating the spreadsheet data was time-consuming and limited its usefulness. “For some important metadata, we had no agreed-upon, useful source of truth, including departments and end-user device assignments,” says Adam Sherwood, Enterprise Infrastructure Architect.

    After deploying Device42, Covenant Health was able to use a RESTful API to automate device discovery and gain a centralized view of all of its assets. The improved visibility and detailed information has helped the IT team optimize multiple processes, including improving user access controls, asset provisioning, and business continuity and disaster recovery.

    “We get a ton of mileage out of the Device42 API. It is the business glue that lets us federate data,” says Adam Sherwod. “Now I have this very usable, flexible, importable, exportable, queryable by the API data that is the single source of truth.”

    15%: More efficient asset provisioning times that Covenant Health is achieving with Device42.
  • Increasing time and cost savings: The fast pace of digital transformation, rapid adoption of cloud computing, and democratization of data and development means that more people than ever are creating and modifying devices. Even if they wanted to, IT teams couldn’t keep pace with this rate of change by updating device information manually. Most enterprise leaders recognize adding and cleaning data to CMDBs as low-value work and prefer to leverage automation to free IT teams to monitor, manage, and update corporate networks. Using an automated CMDB can add hours back into each IT team member’s work week, as well as help prevent emergency work to research devices, their status, and connections when incidents occur.

    LeasePlan is an automobile leasing and fleet management company located in Amsterdam, Netherlands. The company sought to migrate six data centers globally to the cloud, but needed to identify all applications and dependencies first. This information is used by the IT team to determine whether to repurchase, rehost, replatform, refactor, retire, or retain applications and services in AWS.

    LeasePlan’s Global Finance System, which is core to its business, ran on more than 200 SAP/AIX servers across 20 different countries. Since AIX isn’t supported in AWS, the application needed to be replatformed. However, the current tools that the IT team was using weren’t able to provide a comprehensive, accurate inventory map of the application.

    “Other organizations typically must move AIX applications to Linux servers before moving them to AWS to get some visibility of dependencies and services. With insight from Device42 we could completely skip that step,” says Kamin Ganji, Infrastructure Architect at LeasePlan. “We gained immediate, detailed insight into our largest application, GFS.”

    “Device42’s automatic and agentless discovery of infrastructure and application dependencies in AIX showed us exactly how we could define and build the necessary compute relationships in AWS. It created affinity groups that helped us build move groups quickly and easily. It found and showed network communications as well. It’s quite impressive,” Ganji continued. 

    18 months: Time savings created by using Device42 to map LeasePlan’s system of record, accelerating the replatforming initiative. 

  • Strengthening risk management: IT teams that use an automated CMDB have full visibility into networks and their health. They can use this information to take proactive steps to improve infrastructure stability and performance, sequence changes and configurations, refine business continuity and disaster recovery plans, and manage devices across their lifecycle. All of these steps reduce the risk of major incidents, such as device failures that take applications offline.
  • Improving service management: Leading CMDBs integrate with ITSM platforms, such as FreshService, JIRA, and ServiceNow. They pre-populate tickets with device data, such as location, owner, change and configuration status, and dependencies. Since automated processes keep CMDBs up-to-date, even the most recently provisioned resources will appear in ITSM workflows. Teams can use this information to prioritize incidents, alert stakeholders about impacts and projected resolution timeframes, and perform root cause analyses. With current information it’s easier to identify issues harming performance, such as the device causing cascading errors or a recent misconfiguration that’s causing application issues.
  • Enhancing decision-making: CMDBs link global teams, providing them all with the same view of assets and their status. IT leaders and teams can use this information to plan future growth initiatives, set up device maintenance schedules, ensure regulatory and customer compliance, and more. 

SoftBank Corp, a telecommunications company located in Tokyo, Japan, sought to improve its configuration management processes. The company had developed and used an in-house system that provided CMDB, ITAM, DCIM, and IP address management (IPAM) capabilities for years. However, the in-house system had limitations. It could only detect 70%-80% of data on OS versions of servers and their system status, meaning that team members had to update some of the data manually.

“Data inconsistency was found when we inspected in detail. That led us to question the credibility of the entire information, which would cost the increased man-hour to check the data. We aimed to improve the management quality by integrating the data well and by automating the process,” says Kenichi Yamane, Section Chief of the Infrastructure System Development Section, IT Infrastructure Development Department.

After deploying Device42 with integrated CMDB, ITAM, DCIM, and IPAM capabilities, SoftBank now has a source of trustworthy asset data and fully integrated, automated processes that improve IT operations in multiple areas.

SoftBank is using its integrated Device42 CMDB solution to empower multiple teams with better data that they can use for decision making. “The degree of information utilization within the company has greatly improved, as the ratio of automatic management has increased from 80% to 95%. We used to receive complaints when configuration information was not available, but now with more accurate data available, complaints have significantly reduced. The fact that we are now able to grasp the status of devices on-site and make plans is a very significant achievement,” says Kenichi Yamane, Section Chief of the Infrastructure System Development Section, IT Infrastructure Development Department.

25%: Improved efficiency and reduced total cost of ownership that SoftBank achieved by deploying Device42.

Automating CMDB Processes

Want to achieve great results like Coventry Health, LeasePlan, and SoftBank Corp? Here’s how to get started with Device42. 

  1. Decide whether you just want asset discovery or would also like to gain integrated dependency mapping, which is an optional service.  
  2. Download the Device42 remote collector, which automates agentless discovery, and our main appliance, which provides agent-based discovery.
  3. Use our preconfigured CIs and relationships or customize them to your needs. 
  4. Install Device42 instances from all of the public cloud services and virtualization tools that you use, such as AWS, Microsoft Azure, VMware, and more. 
  5. Connect your remote collector to a Windows Discovery Service instance, and run your first discovery job. 
  6. Device42 provides if-this-then-that tools, homegrown scripts, powerful Webhooks, and well-documented RESTful APIs that trigger automation, populate your CMDB, and keep it updated. 
  7. Leverage our third-party integrations to connect Device42 to cloud-native platforms and tools. When your team members open those tools, they will see Device42 data right where they need it.

Need more help? Consult Device42 resources, including bulk data management tools; RESTful API documentation; and tools we’ve published to GitHub, such as integrations, sample scripts, and open-source tools. 

Future of CMDB Automation

A CMDB can be a key linchpin of your future automation strategy. Many enterprises are seeking to automate both short and complex business processes. 

Enable tracking of transient cloud assets: Many cloud-native assets are short-lived, making tracking them challenging. That’s why CMDBs that provide real-time discovery are important, as they can capture information on assets as they are created, used, and then decommissioned, providing a holistic, living record of hybrid cloud infrastructure. 

Provide risk-based change management: CMDBs will use AI to categorize requested changes and configurations by level of risk, determine which ones could potentially destabilize business-critical applications, and prompt approvers to review and accept risks. In addition, they will record all changes, so that teams can analyze trends and improve processes.

Power AIOps capabilities: Enterprises are moving beyond robotics process automation (RPA) to deploy AIOps tools. These tools ingest data from across different domains to recognize patterns, predict events, identify root causes, and recommend remediation strategies or automate a response. A CMDB can provide AIOps capabilities, such as identifying and preventing misconfigurations. It can also power other platforms that offer AIOps features, provide a robust source of asset discovery data and dependency mapping to correlate events, enable predictive analytics, and automate key processes. 

Go deeper:

How Technology Has Transformed the CMDB

Why and How to Integrate a CMDB with Cloud-Native Tool

Improve IT Operations with Automated CMDB Processes 

IT teams are being asked to manage larger networks with smaller teams. Device42’s CMDB provides automated processes that help teams discover all assets, track changes and configurations, and map application dependencies. This information supports IT leaders, as they make decisions about infrastructure growth; DevOps teams, as they create new solutions; DCIM and IT teams, as they manage data centers and hybrid cloud networks; ITSM teams, as they seek to strengthen incident management; and others. 

Using Device42 can help your teams improve efficiency and accuracy, increase time and cost savings, strengthen risk management, improve service management, and enhance decision-making. 

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