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Do You Need ITAM If You Are Using a CMDB?

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Many organizations are looking at IT asset management (ITAM) solutions to ensure that all IT assets are properly discovered, tracked, secured, and disposed of at the end of the asset’s lifecycle. IT administrators often ask if they can use a configuration management database (CMDB) to meet their ITAM requirements. Administrators are concerned that tracking IT assets in two solutions will require them to duplicate each IT asset record in addition to increasing their workload. Let’s explore these questions in more detail.

Why is it necessary to have two separate solutions to track IT assets?

Change management is an important component for IT service management (ITSM) solutions that follow ITIL best practices. ITIL provides guidance and best practices for handling changes to an IT environment for the purpose of reducing risk associated with IT configuration changes.

ITIL best practices suggest that IT assets providing operational services be documented and tracked using a CMDB. Each asset tracked using a CMDB is called a CI. A CI could be a hardware asset or a software asset, or it could be multiple assets that are combined to provide an IT service.

ITAM is a set of best practices for tracking IT asset inventory. According to Gartner, IT asset management (ITAM) provides an accurate account of technology asset lifecycle costs and risks to maximize the business value of technology strategy, architecture, funding, contractual, and sourcing decisions.

When organizations follow ITAM best practices, they are able to make informed decisions about technology acquisitions. Furthermore, they can avoid unexpected costs and penalties associated with software audits.

The objective for managing a CI is to ensure it is operational. CI properties and processes are designed to ensure minimum impact to the environment when the asset is changed or upgraded.

The objective for managing an IT asset using ITAM best practices is to minimize cost, increase value, and decrease risk. Properties and processes associated with IT assets ensure that assets are properly documented and associated with contracts, warranties, cost centers, and location throughout the asset lifecycle in the organization.

Is it possible to use the CMDB database for IT asset management?

Most CMDB solutions provide extensive customization features, so it would be possible to customize a CMDB with ITAM properties and features; however, it is important to understand that CMDB objectives are much different than ITAM objectives.

Imagine a bus service offered by a local municipality. To maximize efficiency, buses are assigned different routes so that transportation can be provided to the entire city. Each bus route is assigned a number which is displayed on the front of the bus, making it easy for customers to see.

The number assigned to the bus represents a service offered by the local municipality, it does not identify the physical bus. A second number is assigned to each physical bus so that the bus can be identified and tracked throughout its lifecycle.

Because bus route numbers only identify a route, administrators can assign different buses to a route without impacting the bus route number. Therefore, with regards to managing a bus service, it would not make sense to identify a physical bus with the same number used to identify the bus route.

The CMDB tracks IT assets from a service and operational perspective, while ITAM focuses on IT assets from a financial and cost perspective. A CI representing an email service will most likely outlast the lifecycle of the physical server used to provide the email services much like the bus route number will most likely outlast the lifecycle of the physical bus.

It doesn’t make sense to track an IT asset in two separate databases. Is the IT asset being tracked in two places when using a CMDB along with an ITAM solution?

Avoid duplicating IT asset records by choosing a solution that integrates the CMDB with an ITAM solution. Imagine the database that manages the bus route services. That database would track service-related items such as schedules, drivers, and the physical bus assigned to the route. With integration, administrators would simply assign a bus to a bus route using a lookup table that shows available buses.