Keeping up with new requirements and changes for networks can be a daunting task. But the process of network change and configuration management (NCCM), an organization-wide standardized method to implementing both self-motivated, internal change, such as upgrades and troubleshooting; as well as external change, such as government regulations on data, can greatly ease your burden (especially when you have to accomplish all this with no down time).
I read a very comprehensive story recently that laid out all the elements of NCCM, and I’d like to share them with you here.
There’s a variety of NCCM tools on the market. Some focus on one element of change and configuration management, such as monitoring or archiving, while others offer an overall solution. Most contain the following features:
- Mapping: Offers mapping of components, configurations and functions of the network and systems.
- Database (CMDB): A complete, searchable archive of every component configuration and all changes. This database tracks network usage, applications and service delivery, operating systems and more.
- Documentation: Offers ways to maintain configuration templates or a standardized approach to all network and systems changes.
- Monitoring: Offers the ability to monitor the network for the effects of change on performance, as well as for unplanned change. Monitoring can also help you comply with regulations, especially on components that have automatic configuration and self-healing mechanisms.
- Reporting: Databases and monitoring tools create user-friendly reports. It’s preferable to access them via Web interface and view them in multiple formats.
- Interoperability: Look for tools that work across network components and software platforms from multiple vendors to gather data.
The Importance of Policy
While NCCM tools are helpful, companies should create and enforce change and configuration management policies that are mandated. In other words, every IT technician should be required to check and update databases with every change and be aware of compliance regulations.
Be smart and create a change advisory board (CAB) to set internal change policy as well as track external regulatory updates. Make sure that members come from various parts of your IT ecosystem, as well as other business units that can provide input on business processes and services.
Resources You Can Use
Remember, you don’t have to face systematic change management tasks on your own. There are plenty of resources out there to guide and instruct you.
For IT managers that require managing changes across several networks, in 2009 the Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF) created the CMDB Federation Specification (CDMBf). Vendors following the specification will create tools to make it possible for organizations to integrate CMDB data across multiple products and tool sets.
Another important tool is the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL), a globally recognized set of policies and procedures for managing IT systems and services. Think of ITIL as a library of industry best practices that offers standardized approaches to everything from cabling infrastructure to computer installation and service management.
You can use ITIL policies to more easily understand the relationships between the change and network performance.
I encourage you to read more about NCCM for practical tips and advice.