Software Code For A Somewhat Complex Thought


To best understand what a CCMDB does, recall the efficiency of mainframe computing, said Jeff Stoddard, president and CEO of AIS Consulting, an IBM Enterprise Systems Management partner based in Los Alamitos, Calif. Before distributed network computing, companies could push the operation efficiency of a mainframe computer right to its ceiling—a practice that gave birth to the old "five nines" notion of IT efficiency, Stoddard said. If stellar levels of mainframe computing efficiency fell, a change made to the mainframe—such as the introduction or modification of an application—was usually to blame, he said.

Identifying performance-degrading changes was key to maintaining a top-notch mainframe, Stoddard said. The same goes for today's distributed network environments, which is where CCMDB comes in, he said.

CCMDB collects as much data about a network as possible so that data can be applied to understanding and tracking down all the repercussions of a change that takes place across a vast distributed and even federated enterprise network, said Mike McCarthy, director of strategy at IBM Tivoli, Austin, Texas.

IBM's CCMDB can even execute customizable network management processes using a workflow engine that takes instructions from IBM Tivoli Process Manager software, McCarthy said.

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Three Process Managers will arrive with CCMDB this month—IBM Tivoli Availability Process Manager, IBM Tivoli Release Process Manager and IBM Tivoli Storage Process Manager. Each Process Manager is gleaned from IBM's own enterprise IT management playbook, McCarthy said.

"[CCMDB is] a repository of critical information about the infrastructure," McCarthy said. "Based on best practices of what we have learned from running data centers, it automates processes."

The problem of change management is real, but not all solution providers are to the point of presenting a solution the scope of CCMDB. Mike Todd, CTO of NorthWind Consulting, an IBM Premier partner in Issaquah, Wash., said in an e-mail, "We have not had a lot of discussions with our customers [about CCMDB]." However, Todd added that he does see "customers looking to reduce the cost of change and improve the visibility of both approved and unapproved change."

CCMDB was first announced by IBM in May 2005, six months before it bought Collation, a private company in Redwood City, Calif., whose product—to a great extent—makes CCMDB possible, McCarthy said. Collation sold application resource mapping software.

What Collation brings to the table is the ability to federate—or remotely and securely link—data from multiple IT management systems that can include systems from third-party vendors, McCarthy said. Doing this improves efficiency because it reduces overlapping IT management processes that may not be in communication with one another, he said. CCMDB helps eliminate redundancy, McCarthy added.

What CCMDB aims to accomplish is very good indeed, Stoddard said. After all, something of a 3-D view of a network helps prevent having to manually draw lines between the event logs of separate devices in order to identify how a change has traveled across it, he said. But unlike a router, which must be in a network for a specific purpose, or a firewall, which must be used to protect the network, a product like CCMDB doesn't have to be deployed for a network to operate properly, Stoddard explained.

Deployed correctly, a CCMDB project could save an organization money by way of improved efficiency, but "most companies don't focus on process, they focus on payback," Stoddard said.

"Who are the folks in an organization who will take advantage of all this [CCMDB] data?" Stoddard asked. "I can't answer that today."