The Configuration Management System: Outdated Relic or Nexus of Change?

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Does old technology come to mind when you think of CMS?Does old technology come to mind when you think of CMS?Think of all of the IT buzzwords you've heard in the last few years and tell me which of the following doesn't belong on that list: Agile, DevOps, Hybrid IT, public cloud, containers, shift left, AIOps, CMDB. Based on the title of this blog, it's not hard to guess that the Configuration Management System (historically more commonly known as the Configuration Management Data base or CMDB) is likely the odd technology out of that list. If you've been paying attention to technological trends and analyst/media coverage in the last few years, then you're likely aware that CMS/CMDB has fallen out of the spotlight as a cutting edge technology for some time. 


But what has changed? Can some vendors' CMS no longer keep up with business at the speed of DevOps? Has the belief that configuration management is no longer needed in public cloud infrastructures spread across the industry? Have IT professionals become discouraged by the promise of the CMS as a true single source of truth for their departments given all of the integration and security challenges? Has CMS lost popularity as other methodologies have begun competing with ITIL?  Or is CMS simply no longer the "shiny object" technology that it once was given all of the other innovation that has developed around it? I'd argue that any de-emphasis of CMS in recent years could be attributed to "all of the above." 

Dennis Droegseth, an analyst at Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) and longtime industry thought leader on CMS/CMDB (here's his book on the subject) sought to take a fresh look at CMS and how it fits into a modern IT organiztion in the midst of many of the digital transformations mentioned above. Click here to read his report. 

Droegseth effectively argues that in spite of these new technologies and practices, the CMS is more critical than ever and is the bedrock for digital transformation within these organizations. He says that it is not an outdated technology that can be pushed to the wayside in the midst of cloud, containers, and DevOps. Some of his key insights are below:


Organizations need to think of CMS supporting the entire IT organization, not just ITSM
One of the original use cases of the CMS was to support incident, problem, and change management underneath a service desk. This is a perfectly valid use case, but represents only a small fraction of what the CMS can and should be used for. Below is a figure of of an EMA survey of executives and their CMS use: the CMS is as much a tool for security and financial optimization as it is for change management! When organizations realize that the CMS is much more than a component of their service desk and is instead the dynamic foundation for all of their IT operations, they will hopefully invest in the technology and teams required to manage it accordingly. 

CMS and Private/Public Cloud Work Together Hand-in-Hand

As previously mentioned, there is a misconception that configuration management is no longer required in public cloud environments. The fact is, CMS is as essential to cloud as it is to on-premises environments, both for migration and monitoring. CMS is a method of discovering and storing information of what is in your environment, but ultimately CMS helps create processes and workflows for your organization follow. These processes need to be standardized and followed regardless of an on-premises or cloud environment. 

"One of the reasons we went forward with the CMDB was investment in cloud lifecycle management and cloud automation. The CMDB was at the core of that." -- IT Director at a US-Based Research Investment Firm (interviewed by EMA)

 In their research on CMS usage in cloud environments, EMA identified the following areas that will be aided by usage of tying together your CMS with your cloud environment: 

  • Improve management of security and compliance issues
  • Help manage change more cohesively across internal/external resources
  • Integrate cloud providers more effectively into best practice management initiatives
  • Optimize internal/traditional infrastructure vis-à-vis cloud-based resources
  • Ensure that cloud providers are charging appropriately for their services

Put your CMS at the core of your Digital Transformation

While it was previously mentioned that the CMS needs to be thought of as being utilized outside of just ITSM, EMA research indicates that to be truly successful in digital transformation, the CMS needs to remain at the core of your new processes and technologies. It also needs to be involved in the world of DevOps, SecOps, and financial optimization. In EMA research on CMS usage:

  • Eighty percent of respondents across IT viewed ITSM support for agile/DevOps initiatives as either “extremely positive” or “very positive,” including actively provisioning preproduction environments via a CMDB/CMS.
  • Sixty-one percent of respondents involved in SecOps initiatives were leveraging a CMDB/CMS or discovery and dependency mapping to help promote data sharing between operations and security professionals. Moreover, there was a strong correlation between SecOps success and CMDB/CMS and/or discovery and dependency mapping investments.
  • Respondents who were using a CMDB/CMS in support of optimizing IT for financial performance were significantly more successful than those who were not.

Droegseth's CMS report states that "EMA’s research data underscores the fact that the contextual value of CMDB/CMS and discovery and dependency mapping investments across a wide range of strategic IT initiatives cannot be underestimated. The trick, of course, is to invest in a solution set that measures up to the dynamic requirements of cloud, agile, and digital transformation. "

So there you have it! I encourage you to read the full EMA report on CMS if your current CMS tool or version has been "gathering dust" in the garage, and upgrade its full potential as the nexus of change in the midst of your organizations digital transformation. And if you need a CMS that can deliver on the dynamic needs of cloud and agile, I encourage you to start a free trial of the Micro Focus CMS!

How the CMS should be thought of in your organization: sleek, modern, and the focal point of the environment!How the CMS should be thought of in your organization: sleek, modern, and the focal point of the environment!


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