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Design guidelines for assets & configuration items

Get the most out of CMDB and EAM initiatives

Fabian Klose, Roman Bauer & Matthias Scholze - July 24, 2020
Versio.io is a software solution that saves data from third party applications and datasources as assets or configuration items. The original third party data needs optimization to ease further processing by improving readability, relevance and automization.
By building data importers our Versio.io team has learned valuable lessons about optimizing data that we translated into design guidelines for you. In Versio.io we use the JSON object as internal data format. All design recommendations are based on optimizing the JSON objects for the individual assets and CIs accordingly.

Overview design rules

§1 Normalizing attribute values

§1 Normalizing attribute values
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§1 Normalizing attribute values

Attribute values should be saved in standardized base unit format for easier readability and better post processing. Here it can also be helpful if the base unit is noted in the attribute name. The Versio.io user interface offers a beautify function to convert base units back into a human readable format.

All attributes with base unit values should be converted to these units.

  • Time data: convert to coordinated universal time (UTC) in milliseconds
  • Data volume: convert to bytes
  • Distance: convert to millimeter or meter (dependent on use case)
  • Weight: convert to gram or kilogram (dependent on use case)

The following example shows how to transform the JSON object from the original data source format to a data format optimized for Versio.io:
# Data format of the original data source
	{
		"myDate": "Fri, 08-11-19, 3:47 PM",
		"myVolume": "4 GB",
		"myDistance": "42,195 km"
	}
# Optimized data format for Versio.io
	{
		"myDateUtc":  1573224441820,
		"myVolumeBytes": 4294967296,
		"myDistanceMeter": 42195
	}

§2 Enrich & splitt attribute values

§2 Enrich & splitt attribute values
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§2 Enrich & splitt attribute values

Single attributes with more than one information need to be split into multiple attributes. Every attribute value should contain exactly one piece of information.

Data evaluation is easier with each piece of information matched to one attribute. This is helpful for Inventory Analysis and the definition of verification rules in Governance & Compliance.

Importers can also enrich data by adding attributes that are obvious according to other attributes.

The following example shows how the JSON object from the original data source can be enriched and optimized for Versio.io:
# Data format of the original data source
	{
    	"osInfo": "Ubuntu 18.04.06 OS-Kernel 4.5.4"
	}
# Optimized data format for Versio.io
	{
		"osType": "Linux", // enrichment
		"osName": "Ubuntu",
		"osVersion": "18.04.06",
		"kernelVersion": "4.5.3"
	}

§3 Define a display name attribute

§3 Define a display name attribute
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§3 Define a display name attribute

In Versio.io you can select the displayed name of an asset or configuration item. It is displayed as the title of a single instance and in any specified reference or listing in the web interface. This makes it easier for the user to understand which instance it is.

Sometimes there is no suitable attribute from the original data source for the display name. In this case it is useful to add a new attribute in the importer, in which a meaningful short name is created from several other attributes.

The following example shows how the JSON object from the original data source can be optimized for Versio.io:
# Data format of the original data source
	{
		"firstName": "John",
		"lastName": "Doe"
	}
# Optimized data format for Versio.io
	{
		"displayName": "John Doe",
		"firstName": "John",
		"lastName": "Doe"
	}

§4 Mask security relevant or high volume attribute values

§4 Mask security relevant or high volume attribute values
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§4 Mask security relevant or high volume attribute values

Security-relevant attribute values (e.g. passwords, tokens) should be masked by conversion to hash values when imported into Versio.io. This prevents the security relevant values from being viewed and prevents misuse. However, the conversion into the hash value still allows the change of the value to be recognized.

We use the same procedure to store attribute values in Versio.io that are unreadable for humans and are of high volume. This reduces the volume of data to be stored and makes it easier to display in the user interface.

The following example shows how the JSON object from the original data source can be optimized for Versio.io:
# Data format of the original data source
	{
		"password": "MySecretPassword",
		"rawNumericList": [10,45,23,67,98, ...] # a really long series of values that are not readable by humans
	}
# Optimized data format for Versio.io
	{
		"passwordHash": "952729c61cab7e01e4b5f5ba7b95830d2075f74b",
		"rawNumericListHash": "77c6211491dd37154e42004266f7a6c6b12b4e48"
	}

§5 Delete inappropriate attributes

There are attributes that generate changes in Versio.io based on continuously changing attribute values. If these changes are irrelevant or if you want to avoid a high number of changes, these attributes should be removed or adjusted accordingly.
In addition, there are attributes that do not provide any relevant information. These should be removed.
The following example shows how the JSON object from the original data source can be optimized for Versio.io:
# Data format of the original data source
	{
		"actualTime": "Fri, 08-11-19, 3:47 PM", # changed continuously
		"dynamicMeasure": 10,  # changed continuously
		"constantAttribute": "CONSTANT-VALUE" # constant for every instance and change
		"otherAttribute": "myValue"
	}
# Optimized data format for Versio.io
	{
		"dynamicMeasureLevel": "ok", # level defined by treshold
		"otherAttribute": "myValue"
	}

§6 Divide and combine data instances

§6 Divide and combine data instances
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§6 Divide and combine data instances

When importing data, instances from a data source can be split and combined to structure or condense the information in Versio.io more meaningfully.

The word "divide" refers to splitting one asset or configuration item into several instances. For example, you can split information about a database schema into a database instance and its table instances.

The word "combine" is the opposite. When importing, you create an instance in Versio.io where the attributes are based on several instances from different data sources. For example, you can create a host in which the attribute values from different monitoring products are combined into one configuration item.

The figure on the right shows an example of a database schema that has been separated into the database and the associated tables in Versio.io. This more fine-grained structure facilitates detail recognition and processing.

The following example shows how the JSON object from the original data source can be optimized for Versio.io:
# Data instances from different data sources
	#  Dynatrace
	{
		"host": "prod-qdocker",
		"cpuCores": 4,
		....
	}
	# Check_MK
	{
		"host": "prod-qdocker",
		"maxRAM": "4 GB",
		....
	}
	
# Optimized data instance for Versio.io
	{
		"host": "prod-qdocker",
		"cpuCores": 4,
		"maxRAM": "4 GB",
		....
	}		

§7 Avoid JSON objects in arrays

This policy is based on a purely technical reason. Comparison functions of JSON objects cannot distinguish whether objects within arrays have changed or only their order within the array. Since detecting changes is the core of versio.io, this should be avoided if possible.
A corresponding transformation of the array and the contained JSON objects is in most cases easily possible and ensures a clean detection of changes.
The following example shows how the JSON object from the original data source can be optimized for Versio.io:
# Data format of the original data source
	{
		"managementZones": [
			{
			"id": "6a98d7bc-abb9-44f8-ae6a-73e68e71812a",
			"name": "MyName-1",
			"description": "MyDescription-1"
			}
		]	
	}
# Optimized data format for Versio.io
	{
		"managementZones": {
			"6a98d7bc-abb9-44f8-ae6a-73e68e71812a": {
				"name": "MyName-1",
				"description": "MyDescription-1"
			}
		}	
	}

§8 Extend Asset & CI to include relationships among each other and create a topology

§8 Extend Asset & CI to include relationships among each other and create a topology
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§8 Extend Asset & CI to include relationships among each other and create a topology

The mapping of relationships between assets or configuration items during the import process in Versio.io strongly increases the information quality and the possibilities for downstream processing.

We highly recommend that each time you import data, you check to what extent it can be related to the existing data in Versio.io.

It has proven to be good practice to extend the original JSON data object in the following form (see also the example below):

  • 'relation': create a separate root attribute within a JSON object to store all relations
  • '<entity-name>': create an attribute with the name of the entity and put it under 'relation'
  • ['<instance-id>']: create all relations in the form of IDs in an array of the respective entity attribute

The following example shows how the JSON object from the original data source can be optimized for Versio.io:
# Data format of the original data source
	{
		"myAttribute": "myValue"
	}
		
# Optimized data instance for Versio.io
	{
		"myAttribute": "myValue",
		"relation": {
			"host": ["HOST-EFF871BC6C2DAA1E", "HOST-BC6C2DAA1EFEF871"]
		}
	}


Keywords

Design guideline

 

Configuration item

 

Asset

 

Configuration managaement database

 

CMDB

 

Enterprise asset management

 

EAM

 

Normalizing

 

Enrichment

 

Splitting

 

Relations

 

Topology

 

Mask data

 

Divide

 

Combine

 

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