Ruben MeierRuben Meier HP uCMDB 7.0 Base Implementation Training

10/20/2008 by Ruben Meier

In beteo‘s projects, HP´s Universal CMDB is often used as configuration management database in the context of Application Lifecycle Management projects. I had the opportunity to get more general uCMDB knowledge at a HP training course in Helsinki.

CMDBs (Configuration Management Databases) are used more and more consistently in enterprises in order to map and survey the increasingly complex system landscapes. In fact, uCMDB is an infrastructure library. uCMDB (Universal CMDB) is the name for the HP´s CMDB implementation, which clearly focuses on the capability of mapping large business environments.

The training was a five-day course held at Oracle´s Training Center. The participants came from Finland, Poland, England and Switzerland.

Training Topics

The course started with a survey about how to use a CMDB. Step-by-step, we were led through (almost) all menus of uCMDB, including many explanations and useful exercises. The following topics were discussed in detail.

CMDB

The basic element of a CMDB is the so-called CI (Configuration Item), which describes the properties of any hardware, software as well as business process. Each CI is an instance of a CIT (Configuration Item Type), comparable to an object in object-oriented programming, which is an instance of a class.

On the basis of the defined inheritances and interdependencies, the system and business landscape of an enterprise can be designed. Every single CI can be dependent on other CIs. This enables systems to be described very flexibly. Thus, using a CMDB, it is also possible to define systems according to the ITIL-Standard.

Main Components of uCMDB

One of the main components of uCMDB is the administration interface enabling not only to define program settings and user rights, but also to manage and control the actual configuration management database.

The other basic component is the view of the configuration management database.  It allows IT managers to continuously have an overview of the present configuration.

The training focused on the administration interface. The trainer explained how to create CIs and CITs, how to define interdependencies and inheritances, and how to implement “views” to be accessed by the user. Additionally, we learned much about reporting and statistics.

uCMDB Functions

The most important and powerful modules of uCMDB are the automatic search function enabling the search for system landscape changes by means of “discovery”, the “impact analysis” and the distributed storage of the CMDB via a centralized administration, the so-called “Federated” data model.

The complete CI administration and configuration of all views of subsets of the CMDB are implemented graphically, using the so-called TQL (Topology Query Language).

Beispiel Topology Query Language (TQL)

Universe Manager

The Universe Manager maps all CIs. It allows CMDB administrators to manage the actual CMDB data. This includes entering and changing the CIs as well as the relationships between them.

Care needs to be taken when deleting CIs. The 7.0 version of UCMDB removes them completely from the database.  There is no undo function, although all CI changes are stored in a history database.

View Manager

This is where views of subsets from the CMDB are defined. The views can be accessed by the CMDB users. So for example, you can create a “view” showing all computers in a defined network that use an obsolete firewall. This view can then be presented to the person in charge of the network administration.

For defining the views, TQL is used here as well.

Discovery

Discovery works with discovery probes which assume tasks to explore the landscape via discovery gateways, the tasks being defined in the principal CMDB server. A major challenge when “scanning” server and network components is security. Reading the component properties requires a connection which must not be impaired by any subnets or firewalls. This means that the uCMDB must know the necessary administration passwords in order to be able to discover system details.

Reading the properties can be as detailed as you like. In case you find that support by the standard version of uCMDB is missing, just write your own Jython scripts which then discovers the required system properties.

If a certain service is not found by discovery, its entry will eventually be removed from the database. The period after which this will happen can be defined by each CIT, and also for each CI individually.

Impact Analysis

UCMDB offers useful mapping and analysis of system failures. Defining potential problems in advance enables the analysis of system failures even for remote systems, connected via large number of nodes.

Federated Database

Federated Database enables distribution of a potentially large UCMDB database to a number of physical systems. So different business headquarters can have their own databases administered via the centralized UCMDB installation. This enables faster database queries, still allowing the users to work with real-time data, as the central server knows where to find them.

However, a CIT can be stored in one database only. If more than one database is holding CIs, inherited classes will not be found.

Use of UCMDB in Application Change Management?

Basically, UCMDB is able to store all kinds of properties of all kinds of systems. Nevertheless it is not a trivial task to use the UCMDB together with application lifecycle management (ALM) for managing software components and versions. UCMDB is not predominantly designed to cover this environment, at least such market positioning seems not primarily aimed at by HP.

In combination with HP Business Availability Center (HP BAC), UCMDB allows a monitoring system to be implemented. In cooperation with uCMDB´s impact analysis function it will be able to record and describe all system failures in detail and enable evaluations, all in real-time. Another application would be exploring web services in combination with HP SOA Center.

UCMDB offers interfaces to easily integrate with external tools. But the extent, to which this is reasonable, depends on how much data the CMDB can handle without its performance being reduced.  Suitable “views” enable its contents to be represented in the most simple way.

Additionally, the discovery of configuration files allows you to get a lot of information about the customization of selected software components. On this basis, problems concerning version updates can be recognized in advance, discussed and avoided through analyses. This is particularly true for updates of SAP modules.

Summary

The training course has clearly demonstrated the power of the uCMDB, in spite and because of its actually simple structure. Particularly, the five days offered an introduction into uCMDB´s functionalities without considering all details that might get important when the product is used in large enterprises and institutions. The very pleasant GUI of the uCMDB allows the user to get familiar with the product within a rather short time.

The uCMDB offers an API allowing the entire application to be controlled from outside. However, it can be a major effort to employ the product in a useful way. At present, HP sells this product mainly as an infrastructure library although its functionality comprises much more than that.

Unfortunately, the course did not really offer an insight into the usefulness of uCMDB in the context of application lifecycle management and quality management. By providing more articles about such practical use of UCMDB, we are going to address this gap soon.

The training material was still based on UCMDB 7.0, although UCMDB 7.5 was already available. The reason given for this was that the only difference between the two versions regards the wizard leading through discovery configuration. However, working with the newest version would have been even more motivating.

In general, the course allowed me to complete my knowledge of UCMDB and get a more profound idea of some fields that were partly new to me. It was very helpful, even if I still have some open-end questions which could not be answered by the course.

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2 Responses

  • 1
    Sarbjeet Johal:

    Does ucmdb has a connector for database for integration. Let’s say a discovery tool stages the data in a relational database. Can ucmdb pich data from that database (much like BMC Atrium CMDB)?

  • 2
    Julie Brock:

    Our company is currently considering uCMDB and I was curious if anyone has any recent experience with the product that they can share or suggestions for where I can look for this info? We also have the CMDB product and are interested in integrating the two in order to gain the benefit of auto-discovery, integrate CMDB with uCMDB for SM7 Change Control and have PPM use the federated db as well.