How to Move Beyond the CMDB in ITIL Version 3

"Too much data and not enough information" has been something heard repeatedly, as IT service providers struggle to make sense out of disparate data that exist in the IT universe. The CMDB within the ITIL has been the perceived answer to managing the wealth of data. ITIL Version 3 introduces a Service Knowledge Management System whose goal is to provide meaningful information, knowledge and wisdom to appropriate IT or business users for quality decision-making. Here, Knowledge Center contributor Linh C. Ho explains how the Service Knowledge Management System is achieved and how it relates to the CMDB.


Data without any context or meaning is not useful to anyone. When the data is processed and presented, it becomes meaningful information with which the user can make informed decisions. In IT service management, providing the right information to the right people at the right time empowers IT, business managers and executives. It allows them all to be knowledgeable and wise, as IT Infrastructure Library Version 3 (ITIL V3) puts it. As a result, they are more agile in efficiently meeting client and business requirements.

Over the last few years, the perceived answer to managing the wealth of data is the Configuration Management Database (CMDB). The CMDB has been hyped to deliver great value; however, many are still trying to work out how and where to start. Interestingly enough, ITIL V3 introduces Knowledge Management as a key process that touches all five life cycle phases, but with particular emphasis in Service Transition.

As part of Knowledge Management, ITIL V3 introduces a Service Knowledge Management System (SKMS) with the goal of effectively providing meaningful information, knowledge and wisdom to appropriate IT or business users for quality decision-making. The SKMS is defined as a set of tools and databases that are used to manage knowledge and information. The SKMS includes the Configuration Management System (CMS), as well as other tools and databases. The SKMS stores, manages, updates and presents all information that an IT service provider needs to manage the full life cycle of IT services.

So, how do we achieve the SKMS? How does it relate to the CMDB? We will explore these questions in this article. In a future article, we will cover how Business Service Management (BSM) enables the SKMS.
How do the CMDB, CMS and SKMS relate to one another?
First, a CMS brings multiple CMDBs together in a federated approach. The CMDBs make up a CMS along with other data, and a CMS makes up a SKMS. CMS provides information for IT decision makers that are typically derived from changes, assets, configuration and so on. Examples of CMS information for the Configuration Items (CIs) can be costs, purchase dates, suppliers and support levels, SLA status, locations, contact information and so on. The CMS supplies this information to the SKMS.
Second, the industry is recognizing that it is not as easy as it sounds to implement a CMDB-perhaps ITIL V3's SKMS reflects this realization. So the federated model acts as a CMS to provide the ability to get data from multiple CMDBs (homegrown or commercial). The CMS feeds the SKMS (along with other business-relevant data elements) to process and present to the right users via dashboards and intelligent portals.