Configuration Management, CMDB and Co

What are configuration items? How are these related to each other? And what does configuration management actually do?

Jochen Möller
10.08.2020

Configuration management is becoming increasingly important because it has a number of advantages, especially for larger companies with multiple locations. Configuration management is based on the associated configuration items, i.e. the elements inside and outside IT on which business processes are based. But let's start from the beginning: What are configuration items? How are these related to each other? And what does configuration management actually do? We'll clarify this in the following article.

 

Definition: what is configuration management?

A configuration management is a management unit that connects all configuration items (CI) within a company and displays them using a central tool. Configuration items are equipment and components, for example:

  • Systems, facilities and devices
  • Software / hardware (applications, notebooks, servers, network components, etc.)
  • Machine parts
  • Assemblies
  • Components
  • But also: employees, customers, offices, important documents, etc.

This central linking of the configuration items allows you to set up rules and automated processes that are adhered to company-wide. In this way, the connection between the items, as well as between the employees and the items, can be controlled.

An example illustrates the importance of this: A large mechanical engineering company has designed a new machine. In order to guarantee the business service, the company has to get to all relevant data with little effort. This includes, for example, parts lists or information about servicing and maintenance in order to be able to guarantee the long-term functionality of the machine.

This is exactly what configuration management enables. In this, all elements and assemblies of the machine are listed, equipped with information and made available for quick retrieval. Worldwide, for every employee.

But how exactly does it work and how are these configuration elements displayed centrally?

"Recognizing the problem is more important than recognizing the solution, because the exact description of the problem leads to the solution." Albert Einstein

The central database: CMDB

The so-called Configuration Management Database (CMDB) is the basis of Configuration Management. All items of a company or a product are stored and clustered in this. The connection to the items or the interdependencies of the items are also defined in the CMDB. The construction and maintenance are very tedious and complex. The sheer number of different items within a product alone presents some configuration managers with major challenges. The aim is therefore to only enter the necessary elements thanks to well-organized identification. It is important to ensure that the CMDB can also be expanded and edited at a later date. In this way the database can be edited step by step.

A CMDB that is always maintained and updated offers several advantages:

  • Errors and problems can be resolved more quickly because all information on the respective items is available to every employee.
  • The service to customers is improved many times over, since all the necessary data for troubleshooting can be viewed.
  • The configuration item data can be expanded to include financial information in order to make cost and service allocation more straightforward.
  • The availability and capacity utilization of the items can be called up in real time.
  • The configuration items can be clustered within the CMDB according to security and confidentiality aspects. This is how they provide information for risk management.

Nowadays, many companies decide to simplify or control processes and procedures using configurations. But how is configuration management implemented? And what steps have to be followed before it delivers the desired added value?

How can configuration management be implemented?

For a successfully implemented configuration management, it is necessary to go through four sub-areas. Above all, it is important to identify the configuration items on which each further step is based.

  1. Configuration identification: The criteria by which identification is made depend on factors such as the size and structure of the company. For example, a product can become a configuration element if it is used by more than one department in the company, if it is already clear today that the product will change several times over time, if products are significantly dependent on other products or employees or if their continued existence is to be classified as critical. In short: all equipment, objects, products to which special attention must be paid.
  2. Configuration bookkeeping: The aim of configuration bookkeeping is to document all processes and identifications within the configuration management without gaps in order to make them traceable afterwards.
  3. Configuration monitoring: Another important part of configuration management is configuration monitoring. This is used to identify, evaluate and approve changes within the various configuration elements. Every change made must be approved at a central point.
  4. Configuration audit: A configuration audit confirms that the configurations adhere to a certain form and that the documentation and the actual product match. You thus guarantee that the information about the respective configuration items is uniform, accurate and complete.

The bottom line is that the implementation of configuration management means a lot of administrative and conceptual effort. The responsible configuration managers should therefore deal with a configuration management system that can offer them relief in terms of software. We explain exactly how this works in the next section.

What is the Configuration Management System (CMS)?

All data and information on the respective items can be saved and made available in a configuration management system (CMS). This means that the CMS consists of the CMDB and the documents that are also linked to the items, which, for example, result from audits. This greatly simplifies the administrative and organizational scope of management.

EcholoN has taken on exactly this easement and provides configuration managers with their own CMDB. Not only can the type and category of the item be stored in this, but further, important information can also be saved. These include, for example:

  • Relation to other items or employees
  • Affected users per item
  • Faults reported so far
  • Changes to the item and the associated effects on other configuration elements and services
  • Applicable contracts
  • Etc.

This makes it possible to control, maintain and change the configuration element over the entire life cycle. If we think back to our example of the new machine: Thanks to the various options for clustering the items, the number of configuration elements is easy to see. The application of the type and the category is supplemented with information on the location, which defines the configuration element even more clearly. In order to keep an overview, the EcholoN CMDB offers the view of a connection diagram that shows the link between the items in an uncomplicated manner. The bottom line is that less is more, but the added value still follows the level of detail. The more precisely the items are determined, the easier it is for all employees involved in the company and the better the business service is guaranteed to customers.

If you have any questions about configuration management and configuration items, the EcholoN staff will be happy to help. Just give us a call without obligation or write an email - we look forward to hearing from you.

Maybe also interesting: