Irrational exuberance in the IT industry: CMDB is going nuts
Everybody is piling into the CMDB frenzy now, including dodgy journos and madly re-inventing software companies... and this blog. ITIL may not be a fad but the IT Skeptic thinks CMDB now is one.
I can't believe someone from Gartner said this:
Companies — with the exception of BMC Software, which has been in the market for a few years — began offering commercial CMDB solutions only about six months ago, said Ronni Colville, a vice president at IT research firm Gartner
They may speculate wildly, they may pump up markets, but normally Gartner have their facts pretty straight. I suspect this was a mis-quote. The same article goes on to say
Organizations can invest in CMDB software from companies such as IBM, BMC, Hewlett-Packard, CA or Managed Objects to get started.
which either means that all those others have piled into the market in the last few months or the reporter has a little to learn about both CMDB and facts checking. But it fits the pattern: everyone is sniffing around CMDB, even those who know very little about it. The very title of the article suggests someone who hasn't a firm grasp:
A prescription for preventing service outages
Configuration management databases can alert managers to dangerous interactions
and this one later on
CMDBs are like the software that alerts pharmacists to dangerous drug interactions.
and, like, you know, no way.
Some would have us believe this is because the advent of virtualisation is the tipping point driving everyone to discover CMDB. That draws a long bow. If there is any tipping point it is of course the take-off of ITIL in the USA, but even more I think the CMDB hype wave has reached critical mass and is now exploding. The vendor/analyst machine is well experienced in whipping up these frenzies.
I had hoped we got wise to their games after Y2K but IT seems hopelessly vulnerable to promises of silver-bullet technology solutions to process problems. To create solutions, think of people, process and technology in equal parts and in that order. Read the blog entry predicting top data centre trends for 2007 and the associated 10 top stories for 2006 for a beautiful example of technology-centric thinking. Remember my crude linguistic test for process orientation or technology orientation: do they talk about verbs/actions or nouns/things? ITIL is mentioned only in the context of metrics; disaster recovery is fixed by tape transport; big iron; liquid cooling; site selection etc etc etc
So IT gets more complex and unstable every day and the solution is not to look at how we do things and the quality and culture of the people doing them. Oh no, it is to introduce yet more technology: federating, synchronising, reconciling, singing, dancing CMDB.
The vendors are piling in. The established ones are spending millions to re-invent, graft on or acquire anything that can be labelled a CMDB. CMDB startups sprout like mushrooms.
For a moment there I thought there was hope when the first article mentioned above asked "What comes first — setting up a CMDB tool or defining processes for configuration management?". But look at the answers!
“A lot of people get enamored with starting with the tool first,” Lithgo said, adding that “it’s a big mistake.” [Good! Good!] Irvine said he agreed that people can easily misuse the tool. “A CMDB is thought of as something technical when in many ways it shouldn’t be,” he said. [great!] “It should be treated as more of a services-based project that identifies first and foremost all the services you want to map in the CMDB.” [Nooooooo we're back to things! What about the Configuration Management processes?? Shouldn't we start with them first??]
A service-oriented approach is the way to proceed, said Andy Atencio, manager of information and technology for Greenwood Village, Colo. The city will be using a hosted CMDB to supplement its ITIL best practices. [So service-oriented means paying for someone elses CMDB-thing instead of having your own thing] If a technology component isn’t directly connected to the provision of a specific IT service or business process, it doesn’t warrant being tracked in the CMDB, Atencio said. “You have to be smart because otherwise you are tracking everything,” he said. [Things] Other experts offer similar advice. “The big key is process first, and let the tool serve the process,” Lithgo said. [ooh yeah, looking good...] “Historically, IT organizations have been about heroics, secret knowledge and the select few. That’s hard to give up,” he said. But all secrets about how things work must be shared via the CMDB [oh no, we're back to processes as things to be stored!!] if the organization expects to achieve repeatable processes and replace anecdotes [Things] from the IT trenches with tangible metrics [Things] , he added.
Is it just me? Am I being over-sensitive? or are the vast majority of IT people incapable of thinking in terms of process and people as well as stuff/things/artifacts/technology?
[Deep breath] Aaaanyways, they seem to get us all worked up over things like CMDB in ways they can't over far more useful concepts like ITIL (though they tried). ITIL is showing steady growth commensurate with sensible adoption. CMDB is going nuts. Irrational exuberance ends in lost money.