Searching for the Source(s) of Truth in Holistic Automation

9 minute read

The Source of Truth (SoT) concept has become a cornerstone for achieving holistic automation in the ever-evolving IT and network management landscape. As organizations strive to streamline operations, ensure compliance, and enhance security, the quest for an accurate, reliable, and comprehensive SoT becomes paramount. This blog post delves into identifying and establishing a robust SoT and its implications for holistic automation. And you may be shocked to know: It’ll likely not be a Single Source of Truth (SSoT).

Why a Source of Truth is Crucial

Consistency and Accuracy

Automation relies on precise and consistent data. An SoT ensures that all automated workflows work from the same dataset, reducing the risk of errors caused by discrepancies or outdated information.

Enhanced Security

With a centralized SoT, security policies and configurations are uniformly applied across the entire network. This reduces vulnerabilities and ensures compliance with regulatory standards.


Automation scripts and tools can quickly access the SoT to retrieve necessary data, speeding up processes and reducing manual intervention.


Maintaining accurate configurations and policies across a more extensive infrastructure becomes challenging as organizations grow. An SoT provides a scalable solution to manage this complexity.

Challenges in Establishing a Source of Truth

Networking Teams

  • Narrow Focus: Networking teams typically have a focused scope, concentrating primarily on network configurations, devices, and connectivity.
  • Single Source of Truth: They often rely on a single SoT, a specific system, server, or database dedicated to network configurations. Tools like Nautobot or NetBox are commonly chosen because they are highly effective for networking.
  • Fragmentation: This narrow focus can lead to silos where the networking SoT doesn’t integrate well with other systems or teams’ SoTs.

Systems Teams

  • Expands Upon Networking Team: Systems teams build on the data and configurations managed by the networking teams.
  • Falls Short: Despite their broader scope, systems teams often fail to integrate fully with application and networking layers.
  • Yet Another Solution: They might implement their own SoT solutions, leading to multiple, disconnected sources of truth within the organization.

Application Teams

  • Don’t Care About Anything Upstream: Application teams typically focus on ensuring their applications run smoothly, often disregarding the underlying infrastructure and network configurations.
  • Just Want Their Service To Run (Somewhere): Their primary concern is the availability and performance of their services, regardless of where or how they are hosted.

The Result: No Good End-To-End Solution(s)

The lack of a unified Source of Truth across networking, systems, and application teams results in:

  • Fragmented data and configurations.
  • Inefficiencies and increased risk of errors.
  • Challenges in achieving holistic automation and seamless operations.

The Role of a Configuration Management Database (CMDB)

Importance of CMDB as a Source of Truth

  • Centralized Asset Management: A CMDB provides a single source for all asset-related information, including hardware, software, network components, and their relationships.
  • Enhanced Change Management: Before changes are implemented, the CMDB can be used to assess the impact on other systems and services, reducing the risk of unintended consequences.
  • Improved Incident and Problem Management: When issues arise, the CMDB can help identify the root cause by tracing the relationships and dependencies between different CIs.
  • Regulatory Compliance: A CMDB helps organizations maintain compliance with industry regulations by providing detailed documentation of assets and their configurations.
  • Data Accuracy and Integrity: Modern CMDBs can integrate with discovery tools to automatically update records, ensuring the information remains current and accurate.

Challenges with CMDB Implementation

  • Discovery Process Issues: The CMDB might have incomplete or inaccurate data if the discovery processes are not correctly implemented or configured.
  • Maintenance: Ensuring the CMDB is kept up-to-date with changes in the IT environment requires continuous effort and automation.
  • Integration with Other Systems: Integrating the CMDB with other IT systems and tools is crucial for a unified SoT but can be technically challenging.

Identify Multiple Sources of Truth

Greater Flexibility

  • Adaptability: Different teams and systems within an organization may have unique requirements and data needs. Identifying multiple SoTs allows for tailored solutions catering to specific contexts while maintaining coherence.
  • Scalability: A multi-source approach can easily scale as the organization grows, accommodating new systems and teams without overhauling the existing SoT infrastructure.

Leverage Existing Data to Benefit the Business

  • Cost Efficiency: Utilizing existing data sources reduces the need for significant investments in new systems. It maximizes the value of current data assets.
  • Speed to Value: Integrating and leveraging current data sources can accelerate the implementation of automation solutions, providing quicker returns on investment.

More Actionable Data

  • Comprehensive Insights: Aggregating data from multiple SoTs offers a holistic view of the environment, enabling more informed decision-making.
  • Enhanced Analytics: Diverse data sources provide richer datasets for analytics, leading to more accurate predictions and actionable insights.

Automation Effectiveness

API-First Approach

  • Interoperability: Adopting an API-first strategy ensures that different systems and SoTs can communicate seamlessly, facilitating data exchange and integration.
  • Future-Proofing: APIs provide a flexible framework that can adapt to new technologies and changing business needs, ensuring the longevity and relevance of automation solutions.

Data Federation and Transformation

  • Unified View: Data federation techniques aggregate data from various SoTs into a coherent view. This unified perspective is crucial for effective management and decision-making.
  • Data Quality: Transformation processes standardize and cleanse data from different sources, ensuring consistency, accuracy, and reliability.

Unified View

  • End-to-End Visibility: A unified view allows for comprehensive monitoring and management of the entire IT landscape, from networking and systems to applications.
  • Streamlined Operations: Centralized visibility and control streamline operations, reduce complexity, and improve efficiency across the organization.

Real-World Example: Networking Teams and Nautobot/NetBox

A typical scenario in many organizations is the networking team selecting tools like Nautobot or NetBox as their Source of Truth for network configurations. These tools are highly effective for networking, providing detailed and reliable data on network devices, configurations, and topologies. However, this choice can lead to silos because networking teams might not consider how their SoT integrates with the SoTs of systems or application teams.

For instance, while Nautobot or NetBox excels at managing network configurations, systems teams might require additional data on server configurations, virtual machines, and storage systems. Similarly, application teams may focus on ensuring their services run smoothly without delving into the underlying infrastructure managed by the networking teams. This disconnect creates a fragmented landscape, making holistic automation challenging.

Adopting an integrative approach that includes APIs and data federation techniques is crucial to bridge this gap. This will ensure that data from tools like Nautobot or NetBox can seamlessly integrate with other SoTs across the organization. This unified approach enhances visibility and management and drives more effective and efficient automation processes.

Leveraging Source Control as a Source of Truth

Many organizations and teams leverage source control systems, like Git, as their Source of Truth for configurations and infrastructure as code. This approach centralizes version control, collaboration, and auditing. However, using source control as an SoT at scale presents challenges:

Complexity Management

As the number of repositories, branches, and contributors grows, consistency and preventing configuration drift becomes more challenging.


Ensuring seamless integration between source control and operational systems requires robust CI/CD pipelines and automation tools.

Real-Time Updates

Source control systems are excellent for tracking changes over time but may lag in providing real-time state information compared to specialized configuration management databases (CMDBs).

Dynamic Source of Truth: Ensuring Accuracy

Having a dynamic Source of Truth is the ideal scenario for many organizations. A dynamic SoT continuously updates to reflect the current state of the infrastructure, providing real-time data for automation and decision-making. However, ensuring the accuracy of a dynamic SoT presents unique challenges:

Seeding the Dynamic SoT

  • Initial Data Load: To seed the dynamic system, begin with a reliable, static SoT. This could be an existing CMDB or a well-maintained source control repository.
  • Validation: Thoroughly validate and cleanse the initial data to ensure accuracy before it becomes the basis for dynamic updates.

Continuous Verification

  • Automated Audits: Implement automated audits to regularly verify the data in the dynamic SoT against actual system states. Tools like Ansible or Terraform can assist in reconciling discrepancies.
  • Anomaly Detection: Use machine learning and anomaly detection techniques to identify and alert on data inconsistencies.

Source Redundancy

  • Multiple Data Sources: Leverage various data sources to cross-verify information. For example, both network monitoring tools and CMDBs can be used to validate network configurations.
  • Fallback Mechanisms: Establish fallback mechanisms to revert to the last known good state in case of data corruption or significant discrepancies.

Governance and Policies

  • Data Governance: Establish clear policies defining how data is added, updated, and validated within the dynamic SoT.
  • Role-Based Access Control: Implement role-based access control to ensure only authorized personnel can change the SoT.

Leveraging ServiceNow as a Source of Truth

Some organizations and teams prefer ServiceNow as their Source of Truth due to its comprehensive IT service management (ITSM), asset management, and workflow automation capabilities. ServiceNow can serve as an effective SoT, but it also comes with its own set of challenges and benefits:

Comprehensive Asset Management

  • Single Repository: ServiceNow can centralize information about IT assets, incidents, changes, and configurations in a single repository, providing a holistic


  • Integration Capabilities: ServiceNow’s robust integration capabilities enable it to connect with other systems and sources, ensuring that data is consolidated and synchronized across the IT landscape.

Workflow Automation

  • Streamlined Processes: ServiceNow can automate workflows for incident management, change management, and other ITSM processes, ensuring that data in the SoT is continuously updated and accurate.
  • Approval Workflows: Implementing approval workflows ensures that changes to the SoT are reviewed and authorized, maintaining data integrity.

Real-Time Updates and Accuracy

  • Event-Driven Updates: ServiceNow can be configured to update its records based on real-time events and monitoring data, ensuring that the SoT reflects the current state of the infrastructure.
  • Periodic Audits: Regular audits and reconciliation processes can be automated within ServiceNow to verify data accuracy and detect discrepancies.

Challenges with ServiceNow Discovery

  • Implementation Issues: Many teams rely on ServiceNow’s discovery processes to populate and maintain their SoT. However, these processes are only sometimes implemented correctly, leading to incomplete or inaccurate data.
  • Complex Environments: In complex IT environments, ensuring that the discovery processes accurately reflect the state of all assets and configurations can be challenging. Misconfigurations or missed assets can result in an unreliable SoT.
  • Customization Needs: ServiceNow discovery processes may require significant customization to fit an organization’s specific needs, adding to their complexity and potential for errors.

Opsmill Infrahub and Its Potential

It will be interesting to see how Opsmill Infrahub manages sources of truth in holistic automation. Although I have yet to have the time to investigate it, it looks promising and could offer new ways to streamline and integrate SoTs across diverse environments.


Establishing a flexible, integrated Source of Truth is pivotal for achieving holistic automation. Organizations can enhance their automation effectiveness by identifying multiple SoTs, leveraging existing data, adopting an API-first approach, driving actionable insights, and achieving greater business success. Embrace this recommended approach to navigate modern IT environments’ complexities and unlock holistic automation’s full potential.

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