The term CMDB stems from ITIL. In the ITIL context, a CMDB represents the authorized configuration of the significant components of the IT environment. A CMDB helps an organization understand the relationships between these components and track their configuration. The CMDB is a fundamental component of the ITIL framework's Configuration Management process. CMDB implementations often involve federation, the inclusion of data into the CMDB from other sources, such as Asset Management, in such a way that the source of the data retains control of the data. Federation is usually distinguished from ETL (extract, transform, load) solutions in which data is copied into the CMDB.

The CMDB records configuration items (CI) and details about the important attributes and relationships between CIs. Configuration managers usually describe CIs using three configurable attributes:

  • Technical
  • Ownership
  • Relationship

A key success factor in implementing a CMDB is the ability to automatically discover information about the CIs (auto-discovery) and track changes as they happen.

CMDBs contain metadata, and thus the concept overlaps with that of a metadata repository which are both used in running large IT organizations. Configuration management addresses how the data is to be kept up to date, which has historically been a weakness of metadata repositories.

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