“It’s a big undertaking,” says John Long, Technical Strategist at IBM Tivoli’s Technical Strategy Organization. “Companies have to start small and then begin to link in lots of related data that they may already have.” Numerous vendors offer pieces of the puzzle, including traditional systems management vendors (CA, HP, IBM), traditional service desk vendors (Remedy, Peregrine), and smaller, niche companies, including Austin, Texas-based Troux Technologies and London-based Tideway Systems.
Vendors are leading the push to automate pieces of CMDB functionality, including asset discovery and inventory management. “Once you identify an event that spawns an incident, you want your infrastructure to begin reacting to that; there’s an automated workflow that should be there,” IBM’s Long says. “Most customers focus on the human workflow ... but increasingly they’re seeing the need for a more autonomic approach for solving incidents.”
Tim Howes, CTO of Opsware, agrees. “If you try to build a CMDB by hand, you end up with some pretty serious problems in terms of information accuracy. ITIL does a good job of flushing out each of the processes, but it doesn’t define a way to enforce the process, to ensure that the systems and information on which those processes depend are accurate and up to date,” Howes says.
Peregrine Systems Vice President of Product Marketing Craig Macdonald thinks ITIL configuration and change management processes should be built around a single integrated technology platform to avoid ad hoc workflow customization and to enable closed-loop capabilities that would go beyond the ITIL specifications, such as auditing of changes after they’ve been made.
“Change management tends to be very cross-functional in nature, requiring very complex workflows [and] approval processes,” Macdonald says. “When you start requiring customization to the workflows that come out of the box with many vendor products including our own, you’re adding complexity. What companies tried to do in the late ’90s and early 2000s was take out-of-the-box change management solutions and integrate them with other technologies to create a more robust process. But many such implementations failed,” he adds.
Larger vendors worry that ITIL will create a standard framework that would encourage shopping for best of breed vendor components instead of bundled solutions. “ITIL tends to help the smaller guys,” says Opsware’s Howes. “You take away the proprietary advantage that IBM has, all [its] different technologies that implement the processes you need. If you have a standardized process it’s easier to mix and match.”
Some vendors are hoping that the standards authorities who control ITIL -- namely the British Office of Government Commerce -- will get more specific about how to implement it. “We often wonder about how the ITIL standards are going to evolve,” says Mercury Interactive’s Duraiswamy. “Most of it is still at 10,000 feet and above. They leave a lot to interpretation.”