Over the last decade, vendors of configuration management database (CMDB) solutions have come, gone, morphed and sometimes stayed the course. Meanwhile, the need for proper IT asset management has steadily increased, therefore increasing the need for technologies like CMDB. Today, CMDB tools can be divided into three main categories:
1. Stand-alone open source CMDB software
2. Stand-alone commercial CMDB products
3. CMDB tools that are part of broader IT service management (ITSM) applications.
Stand-alone open source tools are generally available for integration into other solutions, either because they are written in standard languages (Java for example) or because they provide programmatic access (APIs). These tools may be suitable for use in DevOps environments, for instance. Most commercial CMDB solutions are part of larger ITSM suites, but a few stand-alone products like KACE and Altiris can be used. With Configuration items (CIs) defined in these solutions, services can be developed that map to specific IT software and infrastructure. CMDB tools offered as part of a broader ITSM solution may be loosely coupled or more deeply embedded, in which case their functionality may not be easily accessible for applications outside the ITSM solution concerned.
With an increasing number of organizations adopting cloud-based environments, CMDBs also will likely include a narrowing set of services and components, as underlying infrastructure from the cloud provider is obfuscated.
Following is a list of CMDB tools within each category:
Stand-Alone Open Source CMDB Software
- OneCMDB. This CMDB targets small and midsize businesses (SMBs) that want to track their IT assets and their relationships. Strengths of the standalone CMDB are its autodiscovery and its open APIs, allowing it to serve as a CMDB engine for other SMB service management applications.
- CMDBuild. This centralized management module allows users to build a CMDB application (as its name suggests) by linking it with databases and other applications to monitor systems, provide directory services, manage inventory, and handle documents. The user interface is based on Ajax, while the underlying functionality is written in Java for portability.
Stand-Alone Commercial CMDB Software
- iETSolutions CMDB. This CMDB provides a foundation for IT service support processes, as well as configuration management for monitoring and controlling IT infrastructure components. The iET CMDB Intelligence functionality provides a standard interface for bringing data from discovery tools into the CMDB.
- HPE UCMDB. The Universal Configuration Management Database from Hewlett-Packard Enterprise automatically collects and manages business service definitions, associated infrastructure relationships and information on assets. An associated module, Universal Discovery, automates discovery and dependency mapping for asset visibility and impact analysis.
- BMC Atrium. As a CMDB, BMC Atrium gives organizations a view of the people, technologies, and services in their business and IT environments. On-premises datacenters, cloud resources and service configurations can be managed with BMC Atrium federating data from multiple sources for automation, visualization and business alignment.
CMDB Tools as Part of a Broader Solution
- ECDB. As a collection of open source tools, ECDB offers equivalent CMDB functionality through Nmap for network autodiscovery, NAGIOS for systems and service monitoring, OCS Inventory for an agent-based asset reporting, DOC System for document review and updates, WEBMIN for standard Linux-based administration, and PostNuke for content management.
- itop. Standing for “IT Operations Portal”, itop is a web-based service management application that includes a customizable CMDB, as well as helpdesk and document management functionality. itop offers dashboard displays for easy to understand overviews of your IT.
- i-doit. Based on Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) guidelines, i-doit CMDB functionality lets users document IT systems, changes and emergency plans. In-depth technical information can be recorded in a structured way on each kind of IT asset and can be accessed via a web browser.
- Freshservice. This is another ITIL-based solution, focused on a CMDB and functionality for automatically discovering assets, then understanding their relationships and dependencies. It also facilitates root cause analysis of incidents and proactive change planning.
- Axios assyst. Axios embeds its CMDB technology in a larger ITSM application for IT asset management from a business value perspective. Additional functionality includes a service catalog and self-service portal for end-users, as well as tools for evaluation of value, risk, and compliance.
- IBM Control Desk. Within IBM’s IT service management application, a CMDB provides the basis for asset management, automated impact analyses and “what if” scenarios and compliance validation. The CMDB also offers reconciliation of asset data from different sources to ensure that the correct configuration data is logged for every device.
- CA CMDB. CA’s CMDB is a component that is integrated across different CA solutions for the identification and management of assets, dependencies, and relationships. The CMDB maintains current configuration information to help users manage infrastructure changes, isolate sources of IT problems and support business functions.
Which CMDB Solution Should You Choose?
If you have access to programming skills, open source CMDB software may provide a flexible way to create a customized asset management solution. At the other end of the scale, solutions from major IT vendors may bundle the CMDB functionality into more comprehensive solutions, but they also tend to provide more of a business orientation, covering people and facilities, as well as purely IT entities. Your choice will therefore depend on your budget, your wish or need to develop on top of the CMDB, or alternatively on your desire for a solution that covers business and technical aspects, but that is possibly also more expensive.