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ITIL service asset and configuration management

IT departments face numerous challenges in providing dependable services that support a company's business goals. Solving most of them requires a good Configuration Management strategy: without knowing what is in your environment, you cannot hope to control it, maintain it, or improve it.

Due to a growing interest in adopting best practices across IT departments, particularly according to standards such as the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), many organizations are now deciding to implement a CMS. They realize there is a business value in having a single source of reference for their organization's decision support that provides a logical model of the IT infrastructure to identify, manage, and verify all configuration items (CIs) in the environment.

In ITIL version 3, the process that supports data management of CIs and IT assets for information and knowledge to enable service management decisions is referred to as Service Asset and Configuration Management (SACM). SACM encompasses the Asset Management and Configuration Management processes, managing service assets to support the other Service Management processes.

Purpose of SACM

According to the ITIL Service Transition manual, the purpose of Service Asset and Configuration Management (SACM) is to:

  • Identify, control, record, report, audit, and verify service assets and configuration items, including versions, baselines, constituent components, their attributes, and relationships.
  • Account for, manage, and protect the integrity of service assets and configuration items (and, where appropriate, those of its customers) through the service lifecycle by ensuring that only authorized components are used and only authorized changes are made.
  • Protect the integrity of service assets and configuration items (and, where appropriate, those of its customers) through the service lifecycle.
  • Ensure the integrity of the assets and configurations required to control the services and IT infrastructure by establishing and maintaining an accurate and complete Configuration Management System (CMS).

Goals of SACM

According to the ITIL Service Transition manual, Service Asset and Configuration Management (SACM) pursues the following goals:

  • Support the business and customer's control objectives and requirements.
  • Support efficient and effective Service Management processes by providing accurate configuration information to enable people to make decisions at the right time (for example, to authorize change and releases, resolve incidents and problems faster).
  • Minimize the number of quality and compliance issues caused by improper configuration of services and assets.
  • Optimize the service assets, IT configurations, capabilities and resources.

Benefits of SACM

Achieving the goals of Service Asset and Configuration Management (SACM) can benefit your organization in significant, measurable ways related to control, integration, and decision support.

Control benefits of SACM

Verifying and correcting configuration records gives you a greater degree of control over your infrastructure. For example, by controlling the versions of configuration items, you reduce the complexity of your environment, and in turn your support costs. Items that disappear or that appear without being paid for are noticed, helping you control assets and avoid legal issues. Exercising greater control over your environment also means that you can increase overall security.

 Integration benefits of SACM

When processes such as Incident Management, Problem Management, Change Management, and Release and Deployment Management are based on a current record of your configuration, they can be integrated, as shown in the following figure. This reduces administrative costs and errors. For example, you might integrate Incident Management and Change Management processes in the following ways:

  • When resolving an incident requires a change, the Incident Management application can automatically create that change request.
  • An Incident or Problem Management application can use a service model to identify previous changes that might have caused a failure.

Integrating all configuration-related IT processes can reduce the number of staff needed to administer your environment, saving you money.

 Some of the ITIL processes integrated by the CMS

Decision support benefits of SACM

Your IT managers benefit from having accurate configuration information mapped to your Service Management processes. Making decisions is easier when you have complete and accurate data, resulting in better resource and performance estimates. You can commit to service levels more confidently, and your risk management improves, reducing unplanned downtime.

Data is the key to SACM

Whatever Service Asset and Configuration Management (SACM) processes you implement, their effectiveness depends on the data that they use.

Configuration data must be accurate, which means it must be updated frequently. Configurations are constantly changing, so last week's correct data could be obsolete this week. This could result in a purchase of ten servers when you need only five, or, worse, the installation of a security patch that causes a system to fail.

Configuration data must also be available to all your IT processes, because even the most accurate data is useless if you cannot access it. For example, if the network topology data provided by your discovery application is not accessible to your Change Management application, you cannot intelligently plan a network redesign.

The solution that enables you to maintain accurate configuration data that is shared by multiple IT processes is a CMDB, preferably one that is frequently updated by an automated discovery tool.

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