What’s the Difference Between a CMDB & IT Asset Management?

Understanding the relationship and differences between a CMDB and the disciplines of IT Asset Management is critical to the success of both concepts. In this blog, we’ll explain: 

  •         What is a CMDB?
  •         What is a CMDB used for?
  •         What is the difference between a CMDB and ITAM?
  •         How can you transform your CMDB with ITAM and Software Asset Management

What is a CMDB?

The goal of a Configuration Management Database (CMDB) is to create a centralized source of information that an organization can use to run efficient IT Service Management (ITSM) processes. 

A CMDB within a Service Management solution such as ServiceNow for example, is a database of ‘Configuration Items’ or ‘CI’s. These are data on the IT infrastructure being managed; discovered IT hardware and software information. 

What is a CMDB Used For?

The purpose of a CMDB is to provide solid information upon which a business can make safe decisions and support IT Service Management. A CMDB should provide insight into how IT assets are configured and how they relate to one another. 

What is the Difference Between a CMDB and IT Asset Management? 

Aside from the fact that a CMDB is a database and IT Asset Management is a business process, there is common confusion over the seemingly overlapping purposes of both of these concepts. And yet, purpose really is where the differences lie. 

The purpose behind a CMDB is to centralize information on an organization’s infrastructure. This information is used to empower IT Service Management processes and decision-making. The CMDB is held within a Service Management (ITSM) solution, such as ServiceNow. 

IT Asset Management (ITAM) is the process of managing and optimizing the lifecycle of IT’s hardware and software investments, to optimize value from these assets and protect the business from risks. 

So, ITAM requires a solid understanding of a business’s IT infrastructure, as that infrastructure is comprised of the ‘business assets’ being managed. Does this mean that ITAM processes should rely on information from a CMDB? 

The answer is a resounding ‘no’. The problem with using a CMDB for IT Asset Management is that CMDB’s are not designed to capture the depth and detail required to manage hardware and particularly, software. 

CMDBs sit within IT Service Management (ITSM) tools. When ITSM tools have network discovery and inventory capabilities, the purpose behind these features is to collect high-level data for a CMDB. This means that dedicated ITAM and especially Software Asset Management (SAM) solutions are required alongside Service Desks, to meet this more nuanced need. Without accuracy and complete data, businesses run the risk of incurring severe financial penalties if software costs are left uncontrolled. 

This means that the ‘single source of the truth’ within a CMDB is not actually the only source of information on a business’s infrastructure, nor is it the full truth. CMDBs lack the depth and detail of IT asset inventory collected by an enterprise-level SAM solution by default. 

ITSM solutions typically lack the ability to discover and ‘see’ assets across platforms. Data are often duplicated and unclear.  

On the other hand, enterprise-level ITAM & SAM platforms like Certero, can not only provide visibility of your infrastructure everywhere, they can also automate complex processes like intelligent Software Recognition. This enriches raw data into meaningful business intelligence, to be used in fast and effective decision-making. 

Certero recently surveyed visitors to the Service Desk & IT Support Show (SITS) 2023 in London, about their challenges with their CMDBs. Here’s what Service Desk leaders stated were their most significant challenges: 

1.         Too much time spent manipulating spreadsheets (56%) 

2.         Stale/Out of date data being added to the CMDB (44%) 

3.         Incomplete coverage of IT estate (34%) 

4.         Current solution is not suitable for software licensing (24%) 

5.         Duplicate records added to the CMDB (12%) 

As ITAM and SAM platforms like Certero are designed to provide clarity on this data, it’s possible to eliminate these issues at the source; the underlying inventory data. 

How to Solve CMDB vs ITAM Challenges 

The good news for any ITSM leaders debating this problem is that the solution is actually very simple. The best way to create a live, accurate, and intelligent ‘single source of the truth’ is to use ITAM/SAM data to populate Configuration Items (CI’s) within your CMDB. 

This is effective as enterprise-level ITAM & SAM platforms like Certero, can maintain a live view of your IT infrastructure. Multi-platform discovery and inventory and the intelligent enrichment of data is core functionality to be able to manage software licensing. So, why not use these advantages?  

Automated Software Recognition will enable you to clearly see precisely what software is out there, instead of dealing with incomplete data that requires manual manipulation to be valuable. 

This approach is the best of both worlds. The CMDB typically contains a fraction of the information held within Certero and can be updated easily on a daily basis. So, Service Management teams have a supercharged CMDB, plus the ability to easily drill down into data within Certero whenever needed. 

This also means that ITAM lifecycle management and Software Asset Management can be performed optimally, using the best tools for the job. 

5 Ways ITAM & SAM Tools Can Transform Your CMDB

Creating and managing a CMDB can be fraught with challenges, with common difficulties in acquiring data, ambiguous results, and gaps in visibility. Not to mention a degree of subjectivity as to what the CMDB concept is actually for… 

There are already tools out there that can be easily leveraged, not just to solve this Achilles’ heel of ITSM solutions, but also transform the way that you ‘see’ and manage your infrastructure, everywhere. 

Here are the top 5 benefits of leveraging ITAM & SAM tools to populate your CMDB: 

1. Complete CMDB Data 

Unlike Service Desk solutions, ITAM and SAM tools’ primary function is to provide 100% visibility of your IT infrastructure.  

This is critical to control the costs and risks around software licensing, across all platforms and environments, regardless of whether devices reside on your network, or out in the field.  

Therefore, exporting data from your ITAM / SAM tool to populate Configuration Items can offer a far more robust solution than simply relying on an ITSM inventory alone. 

2. Depth & Detail 

ITAM and SAM tools like Certero, aren’t designed for a singular purpose. So, when discovering and inventorying your IT infrastructure, Certero finds everything with an IP address. This means all hardware, network devices, and software everywhere are visible. Certero then retrieves all the information available on those assets.  

When Certero data is used to populate CI’s within a CMDB, only a very small subset of what’s available in Certero is used. The rest of the depth and detail is there in Certero, available as and when you require it. 

At a business level, this means that you don’t have to be able to foresee the reasons why you’d need the information in order to attain it – the answers are just there for you when required. 

3. Security and Software Recognition 

A key component of Software Asset Management is automating the process of identifying what discovered software really is, in terms of versions, editions, and commercially licensed products. This intelligence is also critical to being able to identify software across your estate with known security vulnerabilities. 

4. A Single Source of the Truth CMDB 

Populating your CMDB with information from an ITAM / SAM solution means that it is already a consolidated and cleansed data source. This eliminates the age-old problem of having to understand and resolve information from multiple sources that give you multiple, conflicting versions of the truth.  

5. The Best Tools for the Job 

Simply, ITSM tools aren’t the best ITAM / SAM solutions out there and ITAM and SAM tools aren’t ITSM solutions. Therefore, understanding the best direction for intelligence to travel between the two, solves the CMDB challenge without having to compromise your ability to stay secure or manage your software licensing risks and costs. 

Also, the scope of solutions like Certero to manage assets from desktop to datacenter, mobile to SaaS, and cloud, can dramatically reduce the number of disparate toolsets needed to manage your IT assets everywhere. 

If you’d like to see how a Certero ITAM/SAM integration with your Service Management CMDB would work, Contact Certero today or alternatively follow us for more news and updates.

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