A Guide To Configuration Management Database (CMDB) Tools

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 4 June 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Configuration management is the process that allows the establishment and maintenance of a system throughout its lifecycle. Configuration management database (CMDB) tools are the programs and applications that engineers use to analyse, store and track information about a system's performance. If a career in systems engineering sounds interesting to you or you work closely with systems engineers, you may want to learn about CMDB software tools. In this article, we define configuration management, explain its importance, discuss what configuration management database tools are, list 12 popular tools and discuss how to choose the most effective one.

Related: What Does A Systems Engineer Do? (With Career Advice)

What are CMDB tools?

CMDB tools are applications and software programs that support configuration management. These tools can help track and store configuration data and records within a data warehouse. This data can include a wide range of information about a system and typically includes a history of changes and a record of interdependencies between items.

Read more: All You Need To Know About Data Warehouse Architecture

What is configuration management?

Configuration management is a means of monitoring and understanding the status of a complex system. It involves tracking the system's attributes, including performance, design, operational information and physical requirements. Each system has a standard configuration management process for monitoring and managing a system accurately throughout its lifecycle. When making changes to any aspect of a system, analysts test and evaluate them carefully to evaluate their impact on the overall system. Configuration management has a wide range of applications across industries, such as defence, civil engineering, industrial engineering and information technology.

Why is configuration management important?

Through configuration management, you can verify that a system is performing properly. Configuration management is important in maintaining the control of a system and can help with performance improvement, maintenance and risk mitigation. It also helps identify defects in a system, which can significantly reduce costs and increase the system's lifespan. Configuration management can be critically important in scenarios involving systems upon which lives or assets depend, such as hospital and defence systems.

12 Popular CMDB tools

Configuration management involves vast amounts of data, which requires storage, organisation and analysis. Data warehouses, also known as CMDBs, store the information used for the configuration management of systems. Various tools can help sort, organise and analyse the data. Here are some of the most popular tools:

1. Device42

Device42 is a cloud-focused tool that allows you to manage, identify and verify the information within a database. It features visualisations to enable data analysis. Device42 is compatible with a variety of software and provides reports in multiple different formats.

2. BMC Helix CMDB

BMC Helix CMDB is a platform that can consolidate data from different sources. It features a high level of scalability and is adaptable to a wide range of settings and networks. You can create a variety of models and simulations and a wide range of visualisations. Although BMC Helix can provide a quality user experience, it is a relatively complicated tool. An inexperienced or non-technical user may experience difficulty when using the platform, and training is typically required to take full advantage of all BMC Helix's features.

3. GLPI

GLPI is a suite that incorporates an array of change management tools. In addition to configuration management, it is useful for a variety of other functions, including inventory and asset management. GLPI is web-based and open-source, so it may be a good option if you are looking for a free configuration management database tool.

Read more: What Is Asset Management? (With Career Options)

4. iTop by Combodo

The iTop by Combodo platform provides a centralised repository to accommodate system information from multiple teams and sources. It is an open-source platform, so the basic version is free to use, but it also offers paid subscription options with additional features. iTop's design focuses on collaboration and works with shared network infrastructures. It can be a good option for larger organisations or for shared projects.

5. i-doit

i-doit is another example of an open-source platform for configuration management. It uses relationship models to provide a visualisation of data. Like iTop by Combodo, you can upgrade to a paid version with additional features. The free version still offers a good range of benefits, including IT documentation and basic editing features.

6. Micro Focus Universal CMDB

Micro Focus Universal CMDB is a database with a wide range of built-in tools. It is capable of visualisation, mapping and tracking data and configuration changes. Its design supports hybrid IT environments, and it features machine learning for continuous software improvement. With its many features, Micro Focus Universal CMDB is a complex tool, meaning that it is typically best suited for teams that include technical individuals.

7. Insight for Jira

Insight for Jira is an asset management tool with CMDB capabilities. It provides structured data representations and can source data from multiple locations. It can be an excellent option for configuration management for organisations already using Jira. Insight does not include auto-discovery unless you purchase additional software, which can be important for streamlining operations.

8. ServiceNow CMDB

ServiceNow is a CMDB platform that incorporates multiple components into a single system. It provides visualisation, increased control and cloud computing. It is useful for managing workflows and enabling enterprise operations. ServiceNow offers a less complex user experience, meaning it can be a good option for organisations or teams with fewer technical employees.

9. IBM Tivoli CMDB

IBM Tivoli CMDB is a database capable of collecting configuration data from multiple sources at once. It collects, stores and shares information to support system monitoring and decision-making. One of its more unique features is its ability to share information across related software products. IBM Tivoli is typically a good option for configuration management for companies that use IBM products.

10. SolarWinds Service Desk CMDB

SolarWinds is a tool that provides the ability to analyse changes and track relationships. It has an analytical ability that can predict what kind of impact certain changes may have. SolarWinds has a significant number of employee-focused features, making it a good option for companies looking for a holistic solution for configuration management or for human resource-focused projects.

11. Enterprise View

Enterprise View is a CMDB platform by Micro Focus that can facilitate system changes and visualise configuration management data. It offers flexibility between on-premise and cloud storage and is highly scalable. It features machine learning capabilities that can help with industry-standard compliance and change management. Enterprise View provides auto-discovery, performance monitoring and configuration management, making it a popular choice for a variety of teams. Unlike some of the other CMDB options, which are open-source and free to use, Enterprise View is a paid platform.

12. Freshservice

Freshservice is a configuration management database tool featuring multiple modules that provide a range of applications and features. It provides auto-discovery and is useful for facilitating change management and IT asset management. Freshservice focuses on workflow automation and backs up its offerings with customer support.

How to choose a CMDB tool

Taking the time to evaluate which tool best suits your needs is important, as each one provides different features and capabilities. Carefully choosing the correct configuration management database tool can save you time and money. You can follow these steps to choose the tool that is best for your system and situation:

1. Evaluate your requirements

Determine what your configuration management requirements are and what you expect from a tool or platform. Consider whether your data comes from multiple sources, the ability and knowledge of your team members and what software you want to integrate with your CMDB solution. Compare your requirements to the features that different CMDB products offer.

2. Consider your budget

Your budget can have a significant impact on what tool you ultimately decide to use. There are a number of open-source options, so if your budget is low, you may want to consider one of them. If you are trying to save money, consider whether the free or low-cost options offer sufficient performance for your purposes. It is also important to consider that using more expensive software that meets your requirements can save you money by preventing costly fixes afterwards.

3. Discuss your choice with all team members and consider feedback

After identifying your ideal CMDB tool based on your requirements and budget, it can be a good idea to discuss your choice with your team members. In particular, it is important to ensure that the team members working most closely with the database are comfortable using the platform that you select. For example, if the platform uses a particular programming language, it is best to ensure that technical members of your team are familiar with that language. If there are any significant concerns, it may be necessary to reconsider which tool to adopt.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are associated with Indeed.

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