Managed Objects Adds 'Facebook' Twist to CMDB

Managed Objects is using social networking techniques to help companies get more use out of their configuration management databases, an emerging class of product used by IT departments to manage a company's IT infrastructure.

CMDBs provide a repository for information about how a company's IT systems are configured, including servers, applications and the dependencies between them. They help companies understand the relationships between the various components so that they can make changes without causing unexpected disruptions.

CMDBs can grow to be very large and complex, however, with hundreds of thousands of configuration items. That can make them hard to use and often limits their adoption to a small core of IT staff.

On Monday, Managed Objects said it will tackle the problem with a Web-based add-on product, called myCMDB, that will allow an organization to slice the configuration data into manageable chunks according to a person's role or geographic location, for example.

"If I'm the facilities manager doing some work on a power source at our New York data center, I just need to look at those 500 or so assets that live in that particular location," said Dustin McNabb, Managed Objects' vice president of marketing.

MyCMDB also adds social networking tools that allow users to build communities where stakeholders can discuss and interact with the CMDB data. The facilities manager could create a group for people at the New York data center, for example, and start a discussion about bringing the power supply offline.

The idea is to make the systems more approachable and extend their use even to non-IT people. "Even in the mature implementations, the number of users for CMDBs has been rather limited," McNabb said. Encouraging more people to use the system should improve the accuracy of the data it contains, he added.

Managed Objects competes with some much larger vendors in the CMDB market, including BMC Software, Hewlett-Packard, CA and IBM. Nevertheless it has one of the better products, in part because it is a "good agnostic vendor," said Ronni Colville, vice president and distinguished analyst with Garner. Its customers include Unilever, Credit Suisse and JPMorgan Chase.

Managed Objects may be the first vendor to add these social networking capabilities to its CMDB, she said, adding that could be a valuable addition as the products evolve.

"When you look at CMDBs today it's all about getting the right data into the CMDB," she said. "Nobody is really focusing in decision support, but in five to seven years the CMDB will evolve to be less about the data it holds and more about the decision and support tools around it."

The first version of myCMDB will work with Managed Objects' own CMDB system, CMDB 360, and with BMC's Atrium CMDB, McNabb said. Subsequent versions will work with other CMDB systems, he said.

Managed Objects will start a limited beta test for myCMDB on July 7 using its own sample data. In August it will invite customers to test the product with their own data, and general availability is scheduled for the end of September, McNabb said. Pricing will start at US$100,000, which includes up to 50,000 items in the repository, he said.

CMDBs emerged as a tool for implementing the ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) best practices for IT management, but their adoption is now outpacing that of ITIL, according to McNabb.

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Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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