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Database Standard Could Align Configuration Management Information

Everything configured differently? IBM and Microsoft have submitted a draft standard to allow databases to work together as a federated system.

Data centers that follow best practices capture configuration information on their running systems in a configuration management database. But after doing so, they find they have one additional problem -- the configuration databases multiply and end up being unable to talk to each other.

IBM and Microsoft are teaming with other system management vendors to produce an industry standard that will allow configuration management databases to work together as a federated system.

They've published a draft standard for public comment at the Configuration Management Database Federation's Web site.

If the standard is finalized and becomes widely accepted, it would enable a much higher degree of automation in the data center, said Ric Telford, IBM's VP of autonomous computing. "Everybody has some form of configuration management database, but they act as silos. That information can't be federated" into one logical view, he said.

A standard to allow federating such information would be used by help desks to figure out what the issue is behind the latest trouble ticket. With isolated bodies of configuration information, it's hard to align the right data to understand the source of the problem. One thing that configuration management databases do is capture the dependencies of a running system. If an operating system upgrade leads to application failure, a system operator can consult the database and see what the application might have been dependent on that's missing in the new system.

Configuration management databases are considered a best practice by the U.K. government's IT Infrastructure Library, a set of books on information technology best practices. The proposed standard will let different configuration databases turn over results to other management systems or to a central system that can present one logical view of many sources. Other vendors are backing such a standard along with Microsoft and IBM. They include system management vendors BMC, CA, Fujitsu, and Hewlett-Packard. Their joint industry group, the CMDB Federation, was founded in April 2006.

Telford said after public comment and changes to the draft, the group will submit it to a standards body for review and adoption. The standards body has not been decided on yet, he said.

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