What is the Difference Between CMDB and Asset Management?

As originally posted in IT Toolbox, Mark Gaydos, Chief Marketing Officer at Nlyte Software, dispels the confusion between a CMDB and ITAM. Our industry is full of acronyms and these two terms are often misused. Their similar traits reside in the fact that each one is a repository of valuable information, used to improve business services.  However, it’s the type of information and what that data is used for, which makes each one unique.

This is a “must-read” for anyone looking to draw the line between CMBD and ITAM solutions. Because each coincides to properly track contracts, devices and help ensure IT assets are better protected, but one is a pure business play and the other more valuable to IT-related endeavors.

Do you know the difference?

Read this blog to see if you’re correct or to learn how different they really are.

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There is a wealth of valuable data, neatly contained in system warehouses, with labels such as Configuration Management Database (CMDB) and Information Technology Asset Management (ITAM). These are not redundant repositories. Each system holds individual “truths” with a usefulness that is specific to business-related endeavors or IT services. Knowing the differences between the two will ease business processes as well as support the IT infrastructure with an added level of security. Each has a home in any mid to large size organization.

CMDB and ITAM-Dependance or Mutually Exclusive?

When it comes to managing IT assets, there's no shortage of solution acronyms available.  Perhaps the ones that cause the most confusion are Configuration Management Database (CMDB) and Information Technology Asset Management (ITAM). Both solutions provide visibility into IT assets to help organizations better optimize and manage business services. So, what is the difference between one acronym and the other?

One of the biggest differences resides in the fact that the CMDB data warehouse contains information typically only applicable to IT needs. Whereas the ITAM solution contains information valuable to many other departments within a company. Each holds individual and similar values to an organization, it all depends on what the particular needs are and what information is permanent to making valuable decisions. You just need to decide what repository to dip your ladle into.

The Difference Between CMBD and ITAM

A CMDB is a repository for managing and maintaining Configuration Items (CIs). Think of CI's as items that are used as part of an Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), with an added value for IT Service Management (ITSM) needs—just to bring a few more acronyms into play. Information in the CMDB database is typically only important for IT needs and contains a good deal of change and configuration management details, e.g., CIs. It helps to think of the CI as an architecture that must be constantly maintained in order to be a valuable contributor to IT services. Its value resides within the core of an ITSM solution and only includes assets relevant to that solution's needs. It's a flat database that receives information but does not actively gather relational hardware or software data—placing the information in danger of being outdated quickly if not maintained regularly.

On the other hand, ITAM is more valuable as an overall business service, as it contains information on devices connected to the network and is valuable to non-IT-related departments. Think of the ITAM solution as an IT repository of real-time network-connected asset details, ready to be quarried into reports for finance, legal, compliance, and many other business stakeholders. It is also important to note that an ITAM solution can synchronize relevant information with CMBDs, but maintains its own separate data repository for business-related needs. ITAM solutions also avoid the danger of containing stale data because they continually reach out across the network to automatically gather the most recent information.

People and Processes

If organizations are struggling over which solution provides the greatest value, the answer is actually obtained by asking a question: Who is looking for what type of information? If you're in finance, human resources, legal or even IT security, you have a need for continuous, real-time information that can be obtained through an ITAM solution, pinging every device connected to the network. By contrast, if you need IP information (laptops) and application dependency details, then a CMDB is what you're looking for.

The two solutions are not mutually exclusive and bring their own individual value to different parts of the organization. The common features between them are licensing data, hardware inventory details and software information. But the CMDB solution takes it one step further by adding subnet as well as RESTful API detail—stuff that makes the business stakeholder's eyes glaze over.

Create a Clear Strategy

Most modern business services start out as best IT practices, and an organization's reliance on relevant data to make decisions has never been greater. Companies need a clear strategy to collect and organize data for tactical purposes—both the CMDB and ITAM solutions are applicable allies for service strategies.

It also helps to adopt the realization that everything in an organization has its own individual life-cycle and this includes IT assets as well as employees. Both areas are understandably intertwined and dependent on one another to complete assigned tasks. There are many tools available to guide each one of them to enhance output and value. The data from CMDB and ITAM solutions have become just as important to making informed business decisions as SAP or Salesforce reports. Both solutions should coincide to properly track contracts, devices and help ensure IT assets are better protected from disruptive internal and external influences.

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