Asset and Configuration Management Basics

This post is at the request of a customer trying to make sense of Asset Management and Configuration Management. I’ve covered these topics before (search in this blog and you’ll find them) but this post will assume no prior knowledge or experience.

Let’s get started with some definitions – in my own words.

Asset Management: This is where you maintain a list of assets for housekeeping and accounting purposes. Typically the assets are computers, monitors, printers and so on. When I say maintain a list I mean just that – a list, one after the other, usually classified in ways that are helpful to you.

Configuration Management: This is where you try to create a map (or diagram) that shows how building blocks (Configuration Items, [CI or Items for short]) combine together to deliver services to users. If you take a system that our customer might be familiar (such as Serio) it might show, at the risk of showing my age, something like this:

SerioServer running on a computer Zephod, with a dependency to a SQLServer instance running on a computer called Gargleblaster. A web server instance also running on computer Zephod, with a dependancy to the SerioServer instance

.. and so on . I can count 5 Items in the above description, and these would all be linked together (possibly as a System, if you are so minded). The terms used for such data is Configuration Management Data Base (or CMDB for short).

Hopefully the definitions are clear. I’ll leave the issue of why we might do either of these until later.

Now you might be thinking ‘Configuration Management sounds more useful and advanced, I’d better go for that’. My response to that is: not necessarily. It depends entirely on your situation, your maturity in terms of IT Service Management, and what your goals are. We’ve got a ‘golden rule’ at Serio about data, and it’s this:

Don’t store data you can’t verify or keep up to date.

So there is your first challenge. Regardless of what you do, you need to address the issue of keeping your Asset register or CMDB up to date. The golden rule sounds simple and obvious (and it is) but it’s surprising the number of people who create data stores with no regard to its future integrity.

Generally speaking, keeping the Asset register up to date is easier. You make sure all new equipment must have an approved number on it (usually by setting up a protocol with your purchasing or goods-in department) and allocating the number allows you to book it in. When Assets are scrapped you have a similar protocol, and delete from the register.

In the real world however, you will find that people still find ways to introduce Assets you are not aware of – like going down to the local computer store and using an expense account credit card.

Creating an Asset register is tiresome, but usually straightforward. Simply walk around your office putting tags on things, recording their details as you go (easy if your got 250 computers, not so easy if you’ve got 25000).

I’ll continue this topic in future posts.