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Baby Steps Toward CMDB Federation

CMDB interoperability is one small step closer to reality with today's release of a draft specification for CMDB federation. The specification, produced by the CMDB Federation Working Group, describes mechanisms for CMDBs and other data repositories to share information about physical and logical assets, known as Configuration Items (CIs).

At present, vendors' CMDBs integrate most easily with components from the same management suite. This is useful for increasing vendor revenue, but not so good for reducing complexity and streamlining service management. Integration with 3rd-party products is possible, but it requires professional services and/or a host of adapters, SDKs and APIs.

The new specification starts the industry down the path of widespread interoperability. This is essential for enterprises to enjoy the full value of a CMDB (or multiple CMDBs) because they must gather and share data with a variety of systems, such as service desks, asset management systems and help desk products.

However, much work still needs to be done before IT can expect to enjoy "seamless integration" among heterogeneous CMDBs and data repositories.

First, the working group has yet to choose a standards body over which to hand the specification. Working group members have done proof-of-concept testing, but any initial product support for the spec will be pre-standard. Further delays in federation standards also leave customers exposed to vendor lock-in.

Second, the specification only addresses the query mechanism among CMDBs and data repositories. This is an important component, but it leaves other essential issues, such as well-defined data models to describe the details of a CI, unaddressed.

On a positive note, the specification employs several well-defined standards for the query function, including XML, SOAP and WSDL (Web Services Description Language).

The specification is open for public comment. Fire away.

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A configuration management database is a critical system for understanding your assets' relationships. As we show, creating an effective CMDB takes careful planning and a well-designed pilot project.