The major configuration management software vendors have delivered a specification to help their products share information more easily.

Industry watchers say the new draft spec could let multiple configuration management databases share data between each other and other related products, such as inventory tools and service desk systems.

Companies such as BMC, CA, HP and IBM have spent the past few years pitching their respective CMDB tools. As members of the CMDB Federation working group, however, these management heavyweights, along with Fujitsu and Microsoft, have drafted a specification designed to provide standard ways for data sharing. So far it remains unclear with which standards body the specification will land for further development.

"The CMDBf has not finalised which standards body the specification will be presented to for standards consideration. There are several organisations that are possible, but it is premature to speculate which standards body the working group will approach," says Marvin Waschke, CA senior technology strategist and an author of the draft specification.

According to the organisation's web site, the CMDBf Public Interim Draft version 0.95 defines how federated CMDBs and other management data repositories, or MDRs, can share data. Specifically the draft "defines query and registration web services" for interactions between a federating CMDB and an MDR. It is based on HTTP, SOAP, WSDL, XML Schema and Web Services Interoperability (WS-I).

Federated CMDBs let customers collect data from multiple sources without having to store all the data in a single database. Federated configuration data can reside in multiple sources and one centralised data source knows where data related to specific assets resides. That way, IT managers don't become overwhelmed with the maintenance of one large data repository, industry watchers say.

"It tackles data access across multiple brands in a feasible and pragmatic way," says Dennis Drogseth, a vice president with research firm Enterprise Management Associates. "It doesn't tackle data reconciliation or normalisation issues, which are tougher, but you have to walk before you can run. It's a very good step forward, not a giant step, but a good one."

The draft specification would, for instance, enable a federating CMDB to access data from a "participating MDR using the query service" in the spec, the CMDBf said in a press release. The query service of the spec can also be used by clients looking to extract data from other CMDBs, enabling a hierarchy of CMDBs. MDRs can also use the specification to export data to an MDR that has implemented the registration service, the press release says.