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How to select the best CMDB discovery technique

How to select the best CMDB discovery technique

Table of Contents

The Configuration Management Database (CMDB) is a key part of your IT infrastructure, but it can be difficult to manage. If you don’t have the right methods and tools in place, your CMDB will be incomplete and inaccurate. 

Having an accurate CMDB is essential for effective IT management and efficient troubleshooting when problems arise. CMDB discovery can help you build a robust CMDB with minimal effort.

What is CMDB discovery?

The Configuration Management Database (CMDB) discovery process is all about identifying the hardware and software IT infrastructure components. The CMDB is populated with items referred to as configuration items or CIs. These items have descriptive information associated with them, for example their name, IP address, and version number. 

When you’re working with CMDB asset discovery, it’s important to know that there are many automated techniques for collecting this data.

In recent years, there have been significant advances in these techniques to the point that manual entry is considered a last resort. The automated discovery techniques used in this process enable organizations to capture thousands of CIs from remote targets in minutes or hours instead of weeks or months.

Read: Understanding dependencies between configuration items

Types of CMDB discovery techniques

Enterprise IT systems contain a large number of hardware and software components that have different lifespans and connections, especially with regard to virtual machines, storage volumes, public cloud services, and containers. CMDB discovery techniques are used to identify and track these components.

The major CMDB discovery techniques include:

Type of CMDB discovery Description
Domain Name Service (DNS)A method of identifying the domain name associated with a given IP address by using the IP address as a starting point is known as a reverse DNS lookup. If you want to discover the name of an IP endpoint, a reverse DNS lookup can help.
Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP)SNMP is a protocol used to manage network devices and their corresponding management information base (MIB).
Secure Shell (SSH)SSH is a secure way to collect information about the hardware, software and network resources of your Linux or Unix systems. It can be used to remotely log into a remote server, collect inventory details like CPU, memory and disk space, and return that information to your CMDB.
Ping sweepThe ping utility sends an Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP) echo request message to a host on the network and waits for an ICMP reply from it. This is useful for determining whether hosts are active on a network, but it does not provide information about the operating system or software versions running on the host.
Network Mapper (NMAP)NMAP can be used to find potential vulnerabilities in your network, as well as providing information about other hosts on the network, such as their hostname, operating system details, and MAC address.
Application Programming Interfaces (API)APIs make it easy for systems to exchange information.API discovery involves using an API to retrieve information about an object by making calls to it. The API call returns an XML file that contains information about the object. This type of CMDB discovery is often used for applications that are hosted on virtual machines or containers.
Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI)WMI is a Microsoft Windows service that allows you to interact with the operating system. You can use WMI to query the list of installed software, retrieve hardware information, or even perform remote tasks on your computer.
AgentsIn addition to the standard discovery capabilities, agents can be installed on various OS types that can help collect inventory information that is not available remotely. Agents can also be installed manually or automatically and can run in the background or interactively.
Packet CapturePacket capture can be used to troubleshoot network issues, monitor network traffic, and analyze security threats. It records and analyzes the contents of IP packets transferred across a network. 
NetflowNetflow is a network traffic analysis tool that provides details about how much bandwidth each application used, which IP addresses were involved in a communication, and so on.

Read: How to optimize your CMDB with application dependency mapping

How to select the best CMDB discovery technique

CMDB discovery is the process of identifying and tracking all the devices in your network. It’s important because it allows you to know what you have, how they’re connected, and how they’re used.

Selecting the best CMDB discovery technique involves:

1. Identify your current configuration management capabilities

Before selecting a discovery technique, you should know the following:

  • The type of device being discovered (e.g., server, application or network)
  • The type of change data being collected (e.g., configuration, inventory or state)
  • The type of configuration data being collected (e.g., static vs dynamic)

Once you’ve identified these characteristics and how they apply to your environment, it will be much easier for you to determine which technique is best suited for success in your CMDB project.

2. Build and update your CMDB with automation

The best way to build a robust CMDB is through automation. Automation can be done with a CMDB tool, scripts and other tools, or a combination of both.

If you’re using a commercial product for discovery and updating your CMDB data, it’s likely that this product will have some sort of automation functionality built in. This could be something as simple as triggering an alert when new software is installed on one of your machines or automatically generating reports based on the information collected during discovery runs.

If you’re not using any kind of commercial solution, then building your own scripts could help automate some aspects of building out your infrastructure inventory over time without requiring constant manual intervention from IT staff members who may not have enough time in their day already.

3. Monitor your infrastructure and collect change data

To build an effective CMDB, you must monitor your infrastructure. This includes monitoring systems and services that are critical to the performance of your business. You should also collect change data about these systems and services so that you can use it in building a CMDB.

4. Manage network devices with network auto discovery tools

Network auto discovery tools can help you manage your network devices.The tools will help you build a CMDB by identifying and remediating configuration problems, so that you know what’s happening in the field, where it happens and how to fix it.

The tools can also allow for software updates and patches to be applied automatically when needed, saving time for administrators who would otherwise have to manually apply them on each device individually before they go into service again. The latter scenario is especially common with large organizations where resources are scarce—but even small ones may fall prey if they’re not careful.

5. Follow discovery processes for most common types of devices

Once you have determined the type of device, follow the discovery process for that type. For example, if you are trying to discover a server, do the following:

  • Determine if the device is connected to your network (or not). If so, then proceed with step 2; otherwise skip ahead.
  • Find out if it has an IP address and operating system installed on it using SNMP and WMI respectively.

6. Use software asset management tools to optimize your CMDB

Software asset management tools can be used to optimize your CMDB by helping you keep track of the software versions and licenses that are used on your networks. This will allow you to easily identify which systems have been updated, which ones are outdated, and which ones need licensing.

You can also use these tools to monitor how many licenses have been purchased in comparison with how many are actually being used. This information is critical because it allows you to see if there are any unused or unlicensed resources on any given network or computer system (e.g., computers).

Build a robust CMDB with Virima

Auto discovery is the most efficient method, but it can only be used in environments that have been well-planned and designed. Manual discovery requires more time and effort than auto discovery, but it gives you more flexibility to customize your process based on your organization’s specific needs.

These tools will help you manage your network devices and software assets more efficiently, helping you identify potential problems before they become issues. They also provide valuable information about your infrastructure so that you can make decisions based on facts rather than guesswork or hearsay.

CMDB discovery is a process that can be very complicated, especially if you are trying to work with multiple cloud platforms and legacy systems.That’s why Virima CMDB gives you the tools you need to make sure your entire infrastructure is healthy, connected, and optimized for your business goals.

At Virima, we believe that a CMDB should be more than just a repository for your data. It should be your guide to managing and understanding your assets, their relationships and interdependencies.

Virima CMDB tool leverages machine-learned relationship and interdependency mapping provided by Virima Visual Impact Display (ViVID). ViVID not only provides a clear visual representation of every asset’s relationships, but when linked to Virima ITSM or supported third-party platforms and NIST’s National Vulnerability Database (NVD), Virima CMDB becomes your go-to place for change planning, incident response, and vulnerability remediation prioritization.

Virima IT Discovery helps you address these challenges by automating CMDB data discovery and maintenance tasks. You can leverage Virima Discovery to populate and maintain your database with accurate data. You can create granular business rules that automate the promotion of CI updates and other CMDB maintenance tasks. And finally, our product provides automatic two-way synching to leading ITSM platforms like ServiceNow, Jira, Cherwell, and more.Find out more about ViVID, Virima CMDB and Discovery by scheduling a demo now!

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