6 steps to better infrastructure visibility

  • IT Management
  • Solutions
  • 2023
  • Matt Gowarty
25 July 2023

Infrastructure visibility: woman smiling at her open laptop

Picture this: A critical business service is offline. Instead of panicking, you’re calm yet concerned.

You retrieve data about the service in question and instantly see exactly which infrastructure components or cloud resources the service depends on, as well as their statuses. You quickly engage IT operators to address the issue and notify the line-of-business lead and development team with an estimated time for its resolution.  

This scenario doesn’t have to be an impossible dream. Infrastructure visibility is a reality for numerous enterprises around the world, including many ServiceNow customers. It can be your reality too, without nearly as much time and effort as you might think.

Developing an infrastructure visibility strategy that includes automated discovery, service mapping and observability can give you an up-to-date picture of all your business-critical services and customer-facing applications. When an issue arises, you can quickly drill down to identify the component or code change causing it. Even better, you can anticipate potential disruptions and take action to prevent downtime.  

Let’s explore six steps to help you increase service visibility.

1. Consolidate your CMDB 

For maximum visibility, we recommend designing a consolidated, service-aware configuration management database (CMDB) to capture all critical infrastructure, business services and cloud resources across your organisation.“Service-aware” refers to a single system of record for the infrastructure estate and service management data.

To build your data model, you’ll need a configuration management leadership team of key stakeholders, including IT asset managers, application managers, and staff from incident, process and change management.

2. Prioritise business use cases

When you design your CMDB, the first step should be defining goals based on business use cases rather than populating the database with as many infrastructure components and cloud resources as possible.

Instead of trying to do everything at once, define a well-scoped project. For example, you could start with business service impact analysis, asset management, compliance or configuration management. In our experience, the most efficient approach is to set one or two high-priority goals, execute them and then expand to new goals.


Developing an infrastructure visibility strategy that includes automated discovery and service mapping can give you an up-to-date picture of all your business-critical services.


3. Adopt a phased plan of attack

Once you’ve designed a global CMDB, the next step is to populate it. Because various discovery, observability and monitoring tools can take time, we suggest you adopt a phased approach and develop a strategy for collecting on-premises, virtual and/or cloud data.

Should you use agentless discovery? Do you need agent-based discovery for your deployments? Are you trying to import data from other tools? How will you ensure consistency and accuracy without redundancy when using multiple approaches?

4. Automate infrastructure discovery

Infrastructure discovery is essential to infrastructure and asset management, providing detailed information about components in the IT network and cloud environment. It’s also critical for your CMDB, as it uncovers configuration items (CIs) and their relationships to each other.

Tools designed for infrastructure discovery scout individual applications, microservices, web servers, databases, physical hosts, virtual servers, routers, storage and other components across the IT estate.

We recommend automating this process to populate your CMDB. It’s typically much faster than manually gathering data from spreadsheets or running tools one at a time. You can also collect information about cloud components that make up microservices and APIs.

5. Automate service mapping

Infrastructure discovery tools are not service-aware. Nor do they understand how CIs blend to create a business service. Without a detailed map of each service, it can be difficult to determine the cause of service issues, understand the potential impact of a planned development change, or prioritise issues.

Manually mapping a single business service can take weeks. Moreover, manual service mapping doesn’t work in dynamic environments that change by the minute, such as cloud and microservices-based environments. Even with strict change management, manual service maps become less accurate and valuable over time.

In contrast, automating the creation and maintenance of service maps using intelligence and machine learning can provide at-a-glance visibility into services and their dependencies, and save significant time.

6. Keep your CMDB data up to date

If you choose automated and event-driven infrastructure discovery and service mapping tools, keeping your CMDB data current should be a straightforward and efficient process. Despite that, we recommend assigning a human owner to this process to spot-check updates for accuracy and maintain your automated tools.

Gaining infrastructure visibility can help you reduce downtime and build a strong foundation for service-centric operations management. This will set you up for success in the next phase in the journey to successful AI-powered service operations for 24/7 availability.

Find out more in our ebook: Make self-healing IT infrastructure a reality with AI-powered service operations.

© 2023 ServiceNow, Inc. All rights reserved. ServiceNow, the ServiceNow logo, Now and other ServiceNow marks are trademarks and/or registered trademarks of ServiceNow, Inc. in the United States and/or other countries. Other company names, product names and logos may be trademarks of the respective companies with which they are associated.


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