Enterprises considering investing in a configuration management database may want to read a study released by Forrester Research on July 28 that projects cost savings and ROI involving this product — the implementation of which can be expensive.
In the interest of full disclosure, the study involved 26 enterprise users of one brand of CMDB, the BMC Software Atrium. However, there aren’t that many studies on this topic, so any information on the ROI of CMDBs — even projected — can be valuable to those who may be shopping around.
Other vendors in this field include, in alphabetical order, Altiris, Axios Systems, BladeLogic, CA, Cendura, Centrata, Collation, Configuresoft, FireScope, Hewlett-Packard, IBM Tivoli, LANDesk, Managed Objects, Mercury, Micromuse, Microsoft, mValent, Net Watch Solutions, nLayers, Opsware, Peregrine Systems, Relicore, Tideway Systems, Tripwire and Troux Technologies.
A CMDB is a repository of information related to all the components of an IT system. It is used as a central engine for IT managers to configure and manage a data center or IT system. A whole setup can cost in the mid-to-high six figures or more, depending upon the size of the IT structure and because of all the other components that need to be in place that work with the database.
Although repositories similar to CMDBs have been used by IT departments for years, the term CMDB comes from the ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library), a set of concepts and techniques for managing IT infrastructure, development and operations. In the ITIL context, a CMDB represents the authorized configuration of the significant components of the IT environment.
The key job of a CMDB is to help an organization understand the relationships between these components and track their configuration, leading to optimal performance and better business results.
Not Everybody Impressed with CMDBs
Skeptics say the CMDB concept (a realistic model of an IT infrastructure) cannot be realized in practice and is overrated.
“As with all models, they are a simplification of reality and determining the proper granularity soon becomes a nightmare,” said Fred van de Langenberg, a senior SAP Basis Consultant at T-Systems.
The CMDB is a fundamental component of the ITIL framework’s Configuration Management process. CMDB deployments often involve integration with other systems, such as asset management systems. These integrations use either a real-time, federated design or an ETL (extraction, transformation and loading) solution.
The “Total Economic Impact” study conducted by Forrester was commissioned by BMC and surveyed 26 of its CMDB customers. Forrester used the input from these companies to create a sample composite organization to describe the potential benefits of the BMC Atrium CMDB, and found cost savings and benefits of about $1.2 million over a 36-month period and a lower level of risk when compared with the pre-implementation environment.
CMDB Market Growing Among Mature Enterprises
One customer cited projected savings of $3.6 million in recovered revenue due to improved change processes using the CMDB, Forrester reported.
In the interviews, key benefits of using a CMDB were identified, including providing a service-oriented view of the IT infrastructure; making IT more responsive to business needs; facilitating and accelerating adoption of ITIL standards; and sharing critical IT data across functions.
“As ITIL-and especially ITIL V3-are gaining in popularity as a means to a better and more efficient IT operation, the CMDB, and especially application to infrastructure mapping as part of the CMDB, becomes a key element of any management strategy,” Forrester analyst J.P. Garbani told me.
The market so far was strongly concentrated on two processes from ITIL V2: incident and problem management, and change and configuration management, Garbani said.
“We see now that the whole ITIL implementation is dependent on accurate and precise CMDB information. Significantly, two years ago we saw the CMDB as a foundation that had no value by itself and that should be paired with other management products. This perception has changed and the CMDB has been taking a life and a market of its own,” Garbani said.
“We do see a lot of interest about CMDB, with a number of projects under way, but few actually completed. It seems that the main issues are around application dependency discovery and the population of CMDB.”
Garbani said the CMDB is a fast-growing market, but the concept is more often adopted by enterprises “reaching a certain level of maturity.”
“The CMDB and service management question comes in when enterprises have passed the stages of pure infrastructure and application management,” Garbani said. “It could be correlated to the size of the enterprise. But I would think that it is more correlated to the enterprise dependency on IT; verticals like banking, insurance, financial services which are strongly dependent on IT performance are the leading markets for the CMDB.”
Prior to implementing a CMDB, customers managed their IT with a variety of disparate tools, each of which maintained its own independent data sets and logical views of the IT infrastructure.
After the implementation, customers reported in the study key business benefits that included easier integration of merged assets, support for growth initiatives by allowing revenue and productivity applications to be implemented faster, and improved business continuity and planning for backup sites.
To view the full text of the Forrester study, go here (PDF).