Server Farming

Jan 20 2009   6:24AM GMT

Will Facebook-style features increase value and accuracy in CMDBs?

Matt Stansberry Matt Stansberry Profile: Matt Stansberry

The value of a configuration management database (CMDB) is proportionally dependent on the level of involvement from the IT staff using the tool. Two of the biggest challenges of a successful CMDB implementation are propagating the configuration items and keeping the thing up to date.

If data center managers could get employees to spend as much time updating server configurations as they do updating their Facebook status, the accuracy and immediacy of the tool would be a huge boon.

This is the concept behind Novell’s myCMDB, a software layer interfacing between the CMDB and the users that purports to bring social networking aspects to CMDB data use. Today Novell announced the rebranded myCMDB, from Novell’s acquisition of Managed Objects in October 2008.

The tool is designed for companies that have homegrown CMDBs, built by users on MySQL or Sybase, but will also work on CMDB offerings from HP, BMC and IBM. According to Peter O’Neill, Research Vice President at Forrester, around half of the existing CMDBs in production are homegrown, and “limited in their reporting and visibility outside of the team that created it.”

Web 2.0, you know: Wikipedia, Facebook, del.icio.us and us!
During my conversation with Siki Giunta, former CEO of managed objects and Richard Whitehead, director of marketing for data center solutions with Novell, they spent a lot of our briefing comparing the product to Facebook and Wikipedia.

“Incorporating Web 2.0 in the myCMDB design allows a CMDB to propagate faster, drives more adoption and improves the quality of the data,” Giunta said. “Wikipedia is a huge database, contributed by the end user, federated by news sources. A CMDB is created by people, federated by HelpDesk. Why do people go to Wikipedia? They feel that they can contribute.”

Giunta said myCMDB uses inboxes, RSS feeds, and the atmosphere and look and feel of Facebook. It also features “Google-like” search, and for social bookmarking, myCMDB took a page from del.icio.us. “When you’re navigating this data, it’s easy to lose your place.”

Are these just marketing buzzwords, or are there real “Web 2.0” attributes to this product?

“Sure, there are functional comparisons to be made,” said Michael Coté, an analyst with Redmonk. “The emphasis on including people’s profiles and activity streams is the most relevant. They’re also trying to pull the community and sharing aspects you’d expect to see in consumer apps. These collaborative IT management features, like being able to share different reports or views in myCMDB, are pulled from the Web 2.0 world.”

O’Neill agreed. “The release does provide CMDB insight and reporting in a very modern mode (“Web 2.0” being the metaphor for that) – much more than any other provider,” he said. “This new style is being increasingly adopted, and preferred in businesses. One of the reasons for the adoption of software-as-a-service solutions is their modern user interface.”

But the question remains, is an updated Facebook-like user interface (UI) enough to encourage employees to spend more time on the CMDB, thereby utilizing it more and also keeping it up to date and useful?

“Definitely. The IT management space has a chronic case of terrible UI syndrome. I often consider a fresh, well done UI that matches current trends in UI and usability a self standing feature on its own,” Coté said. “While myCMDB has a nice looking UI, the thing that will make the difference with it is getting users to interact with the system and build up the ‘content’ in it.”

Giunta said this may be the only way to get the next generation of IT administrators to interact with systems management tools in the future. “In the IT operations side, if you keep maintaining old consoles, all the kids will go to work on the application side of the house and we’ll end up with only old people in the data centers,” she said.

2  Comments on this Post

 
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  • Leah Rosin
    What I want to know, is in THIS economy, where cuts are being made right and left to staff etc. What business is going to buy a social networking product for CMDB? Sure CMDB management is a good idea, but is the convenience of this product worth the price... especially now?
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  • Matt Stansberry
    The fact that you posted this to [A href="http://twitter.com/LeahRosin"]your Twitter account [/A]should be proof enough of the concept. If you want a tool to be worth anything, people need to use it.
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