Do I need both a CMDB and IT Asset Management (ITAM) Solution?

One of the most common questions we hear on webinars is, “do I need to have an IT asset management solution if we have a CMDB?”  The quick answer is yes.  The long answer is there are three main reasons why you need both.

How is a CMDB Designed?

The configuration management database (CMDB) is designed to contain and maintain configuration items (CI’s) about assets.  These CI’s are typically used as part of IT service management and ITIL processes.  It is meant to be a repository that is updated and used by other parts of the ITSM stack – change management, issue resolution, configuration management, etc.

How is an ITAM Solution Designed?

An ITAM solution is designed to proactively find information about assets and devices that are permanently or intermittently attached to the network.  This near-real-time asset repository can be queried and generate reports for use across all parts of the organization.  ITAM solutions typically capture a much broader set of assets and information about them than a CMDB – as the CMDB may not need all the data being obtained by the ITAM.  ITAM solutions will often synchronize a subset of information into CMDB’s to keep them updated with the most current state of assets.  While the CMDB will have additional information that an ITAM solution does not need (business groups, change requests, etc.).

3 reasons you would want both a CDMB and an ITAM solution:

1) Their purposes are fundamentally different.  A CMDB is designed to be the core of an ITSM solution, and you only want to include asset information relevant to those processes and nothing more.  The IT asset management solution is designed to catch a much richer set of information about IT assets, devices, and IoT devices that need to be managed and not reside in a CMDB.  The ITAM solution can proactively synchronize to the CMDB the information relevant to it, but it has its own data set beyond the CMDB’s need.

2) An ITAM solution is designed to go out on the network and discover information proactively. The CMDB is a repository and is updated by other systems but does not reach out to collect data beyond its initial discovery process.  A CMDB is a flat database that provides and receives information but does not actively go and gather relational data so data can become stale and outdated quickly.  More accurate and up-to-date asset information is need by asset managers across an organization and needs an ITAM solution continually reaches out across the network.  Ideally, this solution will capture required the data from assets coming and going on the network without high overhead itself.

3) The people/organizations using each of the respective systems can be very different.  Typically access to the ITSM/CMDB systems is only granted to people inside IT.  Data in the ITAM system will need to be accessed by IT and many other groups, including finance, purchasing, compliance, security, and a host of others.

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