Management of Application/Software CIs

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    Recently a fellow POB Admin posed an interesting question concerning Application/Software CIs:
    “Do you only manage the hardware CIs in POB?  I am looking for ideas on how other companies are managing application/software CIs.  Is it best practice to use the vendor name, or application name or something generic.  Also, how do you handle applications that have multiple modules?”
    This question (or variations of it) has probably been asked by many POB Admins and there are probably just as many different answers.  Below was my answer, feel free to chime in on the subject.

    Anonymous POB Admin,

    Excellent question and I’ll do my best to answer it (but it’s not a short answer).  Like usual with me, what seems like a simple question requires some background of the thought process and extrapolating that out to your situation. 
    At Anthelio we ask 2 questions to determine if something belongs in the CMDB (requires a CI)
    1.      Is it in the environment?
    2.      Does it need to be managed (Change Order, Problem, Incident, etc.)?
    If the answer is “yes” to both questions, it is entered into the CMDB.
    Let’s lay out an example; Client Name is “XYZ”, I’ll use “ADP” as an example vendor and the HR software will be “Workforce Now”
    1.      Is it in the environment? Yes
    2.      Does it need to be managed? Yes
    Okay, we’ve determined that this software needs a CI. Since this application has multiple modules, we need to decide if each module needs a CI.  How do we decide?  If one module fails, is the entire application unavailable, or just that module?  Can each module be managed separately or does a patch to one module require the entire application to be taken off-line?  Does each module reside on the same server or are they spread out across multiple devices?  The answers to these types of questions will help you determine just how granular you need to get.  For the sake of our discussion, let’s say a failure of one module does not impact the others, the modules can be managed independently of the others, and modules are installed on separate servers.  With this knowledge, we decide to make CIs for each module. 
    CI Type
    At Anthelio we have setup specific CI Types to track things such as Procurement spending and other things.  In our environment, the “Workforce Now” application would be categorized as “43231500 – Business Function Specific Software” (the 8-digit number is a whole other discussion and I can go through that with you if you like).
    I have setup the Item section to help keep track of the Vendor and software title.  In this example I would create an Item called “ADP Workforce Now (all versions)”.  This would allow me to quickly pull a list of all CIs in the CMDB that match this Item regardless of Status, Location, Organization, etc.
    Here’s where the rubber meets the road (and where I actually answer your question).  Naming convention can be a HUGE deal depending on your environment.  At Anthelio we have multiple clients that use the same software, but in their own environment using a different license and many times a different version (not everybody updates at the same time).  This being the case, I had to come up with a way of naming software/application CIs that would make it easy for the users/analysts to search for (and find) the correct CI and attach it to the case.  I can think of few things worse than “Client A” having an unavailable application and the case is assigned to the wrong support team because “Client B”’s CI was attached to the case.  Anyway, here’s what I came up with…
    ·        %Client_Acronym% %Software_Name% v%Major_Version_Number%.x – %Module_Name% (%Software_Acronym%)
    o   Kinda scary to look at that, right? So let’s see how it really looks in the real world…
    ·         XYZ ADP Workforce Now v2.x – Self Service Portal (SSP)
    o   Oh Jeez, why is there an “x” in there?  There’s a reason for that… naming the CI like this makes it viable for the entire life cycle of that major version (2.x).  The same CI can be used for all minor patches and upgrades (v2.3, 2.5682, etc.). Create a new CI when a major release version is introduced to the environment (v3.x).

    So what do we have when we put it all together?

    CI Type:  43231500 – Business Function Specific Software
    Item:  ADP Workforce Now (all versions)
    CI #1:  XYZ ADP Workforce Now v2.x – Self Service Portal (SSP)
    CI #2:  XYZ ADP Workforce Now v2.x – Time Clock

    The CMDB isn’t just a list of assets, it’s also the relationships between those assets.  With software or applications you certainly want a CI in the CMDB but just as important is establishing the relationship with the server it is installed on.  We (Anthelio) setup the app as a “child” to the server.  If you manage each module separately, or if they are installed on different servers, you may want to create a CI for each module (as shown in the example above) and then create the relationship to the appropriate server.  Just to add to the complexity, you could create a CI for the main application and a CI for each module; then make the module a “child” to the main app CI and to the server(s) it is installed on.  Remember, the more granular you go, the more management is required; the upside is that you have a better understanding of how things are connected, especially in a Disaster Recovery situation.
    Hope this helps.

    As is often the case, ideas and the ways to approach different obstacles are based on previous experience.  The approach to the management of Application/Software CIs described above is based on several things including, but not limited to, the environments Anthelio supports, the process of searching for CIs, the needs of several different departments, and the need to accurately document and maintain the CMDB.  Your needs will certainly be different, but I hope that seeing one way of attacking a common problem will help you determine the best way to achieve the results you are looking for. 


    Excellent insight, thank you for posting.


    Sounds pretty close to the way we are naming Items and CIs at AFB/DFC. YAY!!

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