ITAM vs. CMDB —The next generation data center relies on more than just ‘audit data’

What is the difference between an IT Asset Management (ITAM) product and a modern CMDB product like Device42?  What features are you missing if you choose an ITAM product, or conversely a CMDB?  ITAM products provide an inventory of all software and hardware found in the business environment including purchase dates and prices, license details, and serials numbers.  A modern CMDB like Device42 has all that information, and so much more.  The modern CMDB became from the natural evolution of ITAM systems, capturing data and details that go beyond financials. The primary differences are capabilities, detail of data and data gathering methodology, and external usability of the system’s data.

If you have an ITAM solution, and it has been painstakingly loaded with all the relevant data, you are usually in great shape to answer the questions presented at hardware or software audit time. You can reconcile software license counts, write off old or lost hardware, and can likely leverage ITAM data to manage hardware replacement cycles.

If you have a modern CMDB, you have all of the aforementioned data and much more.  A modern CMDB knows about all your physical, virtual, and cloud devices, how they’re networked together, what applications, software, and services are running on each device, their inter-dependencies, and their interrelationships.  Oddly enough, you also probably spent a lot less time getting all that data into the CMDB than you did getting the lesser amount of data into the ITAM system. See the comparison matrix below, which serves to demonstrate some of the larger differences between data found within a modern CMDB & and that in an ITAM solution.

Feature Comparison CMDB ITAM
Licensing Information
Hardware Inventory Information
Software Inventory Information
IP and MAC Address Info
Subnet & Other Network Details
IP Address Management
Application Dependency Information
Continuous Auto Discovery

A modern CMDB continuously auto-discovers changes in your data center, including the details of the underlying networks, and connects that data to determine interdependencies. IP and MAC addresses in use by the hardware systems recorded within them are typically beyond the scope of ITAM systems, which are populated manually. Some can report the number of licenses for a given piece of software owned by the company but very few ITAM systems can tell you which machines actively utilize each software title. Furthermore, while an ITAM system might give you license details, a CMDB will know version information, patch levels and whether or not any software you are running has unpatched security vulnerabilities.

Because a CMDB holds a complete, detailed data set, other systems can integrate with and rely on the CMDB as a “source of truth” about the infrastructure. ITSM systems can pull data on devices their issues reference, while automation tools can, for example, request the next available IP address on a given subnet to auto-deploy new instances. When troubleshooting an issue, an ITAM system’s inventory data provides little value. In contrast, a CMDB dependency map could prove very useful in uncovering possible failures of the system in question. A comparison of some of the benefits this detailed data set provides to the modern CMDB over a typical ITAM system can be seen below.

Benefits CMDB ITAM
Reduced Audit Time
Lifecycle Management
ensures maximum value from hardware.
Efficient Inventory Management
Automatically Up-To-Date
without constant man-hour investment.
Reduced Troubleshooting Times
& Improved MTTR
Ensures Security of Running Software
Driving Automation
allows staff to focus on other, more specialized tasks.

Besides the numerous benefits provided by, and features found in a modern CMDB that are lacked by typical ITAM systems, system design means ITAM system data is always at a risk of going stale if process isn’t manually followed or devices are overlooked and not entered into the system. With the advent of Device42’s modern, continuously discovering CMDB, these shortcomings simply don’t apply.

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