Configuration management (CM) is a process that helps maintain the consistency of software versions and configurations across various environments. It is usually associated with the concept of change control. Configuration management systems help ensure that changes to an application are correctly documented, authorised, tested and deployed in a controlled manner to avoid errors.
This article discusses configuration management, some popular configuration management tools and their importance for your business.
What is configuration management, and why is it important?
A configuration management system can be defined as software tools used to track and control changes in the various stages of the development cycle. It involves identifying each object that requires change, accepting or rejecting it based on pre-defined criteria, recording all changes made through text files called ‘revision history’, which are stored remotely or locally, managing software versioning, etc. The process is iterative and helps maintain consistency across various environments.
Configuration management is essential because it helps maintain consistency across various environments, making it easier to track and control changes. It also helps to manage software versioning, which is vital for ensuring that the correct software versions are being used in different environments.
What is software configuration management?
Software configuration management (SCM) is a software systems engineering process that deals with managing changes to the software, especially large-scale or complex systems. Development organisations use SCMs for identifying and controlling modifications to application source code as well as other digital artefacts associated with it like hardware settings, documentation files etc.
What are the five steps of a software configuration management process?
The main steps involved in the software configuration management process are:
1. Identification of all relevant stakeholders and members associated with the project.
2. Establishing a shared vision among all team members through regular communication, collaboration, etc.
3. Capturing requirements for each system or application using information gathering techniques like interviews, brainstorming sessions, document reviews, etc.
4. Establishing traceability among requirements by cross-referencing them with each other and mapping the same to test cases that can be applied against them.
5. Identifying and defining all project artefacts like software components, hardware settings or documentation files using appropriate tools and techniques, followed by centralised storage of these documents.
Participant in software configuration management process
The stakeholders involved in the configuration management process are:
1. Project Manager
2. Software Developers/Engineers
4. Quality Assurance Specialists
What is system centre configuration management?
System Center Configuration Manager is a product of Microsoft for configuration management of IT infrastructure. SCCM can be used to install or upgrade software, deploy patches and updates, and monitor the hardware inventory on computers connected to your network.
Why is system centre configuration management used?
SCCM is used by companies with many servers, workstations, or mobile devices to manage. It helps simplify the process of software distribution and update multiple systems from a central location, which reduces deployment time significantly.
What do you need Configuration Management for?
The need for configuration management arises when multiple versions of the same software are run in various places or have development teams working simultaneously on different aspects. It also becomes necessary to keep track of all changes made by developers and ensure that each change is documented along with its impact. Configuration Management tools help control access privileges and specify which users can make changes and what kind of modifications they can do.
Benefits of configuration management
It is also essential to understand how configuration management works, its tools, and its importance in your business before you get started with one. For instance, some software requires complete control over who has access to which version of code at any point in time, while others allow users more flexibility.
- Helps to maintain consistency across various environments
- It makes it easier to track and control changes
- Helps to manage software versioning
- Automates tasks related to change management
- Reduces the risk of errors and downtime
- Facilitates collaboration between team members by providing a central repository for all changes
- It makes it easier to roll back changes in the event of errors or unforeseen problems.
What are the pillars of configuration management?
It would be best if you considered some key pillars when implementing configuration management within your organisation. These include:
1. Make sure you’re using an automated system;
2. Keeping things well organised with version control;
3. Utilising automation where possible;
4. Staying up to date on software updates and new releases;
5. Following best practices for your organisation’s specific needs;
6. Keep things organised and structured.
How does software configuration management work in software development?
Configuration management in software development works by having a version control system that allows you to track all changes made to the code and who has been making those changes. This helps reduce the chances of errors and ensures that no sensitive information is shared with anyone who can misuse it.
How does configuration management work for IT?
In the case of IT, configuration management works systematising the processes involved in updating servers, desktops and mobile devices. It ensures that each workstation is updated with all software patches and hardware updates from time to time. This also reduces deployment times for new applications or services by providing an up-to-date environment within your network infrastructure.
What does configuration management consist of?
There are three main components involved in configuration management:
A configuration item is a term used for the software application or system you’re managing.
Change control refers to ensuring that all changes made to configuration items are tracked and recorded. A change could be anything from a new feature addition, bug fix or removal of some functionality, documentation and code, or refactoring.
Configuration management database (CMDB)
CMDB is essentially a record of all the configuration items and their associated properties, relationships between these items, and rules governing how they can be changed. It also includes information on what needs to be done after every software update or release to always be up to date with your system.
How is configuration management used in software development?
Configuration management tools are widely used within the software industry, especially by companies with software development teams working on multiple projects simultaneously. It helps keep all team members up to date with any changes made by other developers and ensures that each change is documented along with its impact, which saves a lot of time.
Where does configuration management apply?
Configuration management applies to every business regardless of size or industry. Some organisations have more complex needs than others, but no matter what those are, having a configuration management system in place provides businesses with the ability to efficiently manage their entire software development lifecycle from start to finish without wasting time and money on duplicated efforts or errors that could lead to loss of data or other problems.
Configuration management applies to many systems, but most of the time, you’ll be concerned with these:
2. Hardware and servers
3. Operating systems
4. Middleware software
Configuration management does help ensure that the status of all these components is known, which in turn keeps things running smoothly from start to finish without wasting time or money on duplicated efforts or errors that could lead to loss of data or other problems.
What are some of the popular configuration management tools?
IT and security teams can use several configuration management tools to keep projects organised, help with software development, and ensure that everything runs smoothly. Some popular tools are:
- IBM UrbanCode Deploy
- Microsoft Operations Management Suite
- CollabNet Subversion
- IBM Rational Clear Case
- Perforce Helix
- Microsoft Visual Studio Team System (VSTS)
Puppet is one of the open-source configuration management tools that configure and manages both physical and virtual devices and software applications across your entire environment from the data centre to cloud infrastructure.
Chef is a cloud-based SaaS product for configuration management and automation of various IT processes from application deployment to infrastructure provisioning. It can be used along with Amazon Web Services (AWS) or on-premise using the virtual machine available in the AWS marketplace.
SaltStack is also an open-source configuration management tool that works well with AWS cloud services. It can be used for application continuous delivery automation, production provisioning, etc., and the usual IT process automation mentioned above.
Ansible is an open-source configuration management and automation tool. It is simple to install and does not require agents or additional software on the remote machines being managed, making it a great option for small teams who work with few technologies.
IBM UrbanCode Deploy
IBM UrbanCode is a cloud-based software release automation tool to manage the entire application delivery process. It provides an end-to-end solution for configuration management, deployment and change management of various systems in your organisation.
SpiraTeam is a proprietary software configuration management tool that supports requirements traceability, release planning etc. It also provides an option to use the SaaS version for managing your entire application lifecycle from requirement gathering through delivery and support.
Microsoft Operations Management Suite
Microsoft Operations Management Suite is a cloud-based software configuration management tool that provides an end-to-end solution for managing your entire application’s lifecycle, from requirement gathering to continuous delivery and support. It supports popular Microsoft technologies like .NET, SharePoint and SQL server etc.
CollabNet Subversion is a proprietary software configuration management tool that supports requirements traceability, release planning etc. It also provides an option to use the SaaS version for managing your entire application’s lifecycle from requirement gathering through delivery and support.
IBM Rational Clear Case
IBM Rational Clear Case helps manage changes in software configurations throughout its development lifecycle. It provides a single, unified application for managing changes across all software artefacts, including requirements, designs and code, enabling you to identify the impact of every change leading to cost savings and improved continuous delivery speed.
Perforce Helix is a proprietary configuration management tool that supports version control with both command line and GUI interfaces making it easier to use. It also provides a trial version of the entire product for a 30-day evaluation period before buying it.
Microsoft Visual Studio Team System (VSTS)
Microsoft Visual Studio Team System is an on-premise software configuration management tool. VSTS helps you manage your application’s lifecycle from requirement gathering through delivery and support, using familiar Microsoft tools like MS Visual Studio, MS Team Foundation Server etc.
Benefits of configuration management tools
Configuration management tools help organisations stay organised by keeping track of team members and their roles, what applications they work on together, and the software needed to run them. Having a configuration management system in place also makes it easier for businesses to keep things reliable since version control helps ensure that errors can be quickly identified and fixed if there are any problems with an application or implementation. In addition, having a configuration management system in place reduces the amount of time and money businesses need to spend on software development by making it easier for teams to work collaboratively without stepping on each other’s toes or duplicating efforts; additionally, keeping things organised all under one roof makes it easy to keep track of costs and risks.
Risks of not using configuration management tools
With no configuration management system in place, businesses risk losing track of team members and their roles and what software they work on. This can lead to bottlenecks when implementing new changes since teams are not all aware of who is working on what or where applications have been implemented. Without version control, it becomes more difficult to track and identify errors in software, which can lead to a loss of time and money invested into product development. Not having a configuration management system also increases the risk of duplicated efforts when trying to implement new changes or fix existing ones; additionally, without version control, it becomes difficult for businesses to keep track of what’s been done before, such as who worked on what applications and when.
Configuration management tools provide organisations with the ability to keep their teams organised, software version-controlled, and in one place; additionally, they make it easier for businesses to implement changes within an organisation while reducing costs by making it more efficient for teams to collaborate without stepping on each other’s toes or duplicating efforts. Configuration management tools also help businesses maintain a reliable workflow by making it easier for teams to track and identify software errors and reduce the risk of duplicated efforts.
What are the challenges in creating configuration management?
While it’s easy to get started with a configuration management tool, some challenges may arise during implementation. Some of these include:
- Users not following best practices by making changes outside of the system;
- Difficulty in implementing automation for processes involving manual work;
- Problems with duplicated efforts when trying to implement changes;
- Challenges in finding and identifying errors.
How do we avoid these challenges?
- Monitoring and enforcing configuration management best practices;
- Ensuring that all changes to the system are tracked and approved (e.g., by requiring managers’ approvals before making any updates);
- Automating complex processes involving manual work;
- Users can easily find and identify errors in the system.
Best practices for configuration management tools
Every organisation has different needs and requirements depending on what they need to manage within the system. However, some best practices can be used as general guidelines for any configuration management software or tool:
1. Back up your data regularly, just in case something goes wrong during the process! Make sure you always have a backup of your current system before making any updates or adding new configurations. This will help you avoid losing any data if something goes wrong.
2. Utilise automation to speed up processes and reduce manual workloads! Automation makes it easy for teams to implement changes without doing things manually, which can be time-consuming and highly tedious.
3. Keep your system well organised with version control using software configuration management tools! Keeping things organised all in one place makes it easy to track changes and avoid problems with duplicate efforts when trying to implement updates. Additionally, this will help you find errors and vulnerabilities faster because the system is well structured.
4. Use best practices for your organisation’s specific needs! Every organisation has different requirements depending on what they need within the system. Make sure you know your requirements and follow the best practices accordingly to avoid any difficulties.
5. Keep up with updates! It’s necessary to always stay on top of software configuration management tools available for teams, as new ones come out every day that provide more features than before. This will ensure you’re taking advantage of the latest and greatest software configuration management tools.
6. Remember to keep things organised! Keeping your system well structured will help avoid problems with version control, duplicate efforts or any other challenges that may arise during implementation. Ensure everything is held in place for easy access and troubleshooting when necessary.
7. Utilise automation wherever possible to avoid manual work and reduce the risk of errors! Automation makes it easy for teams to implement changes without doing things manually, which can be time-consuming and highly tedious.
How much does configuration management cost?
The cost of configuration management software and tools varies depending on the features included. The more advanced a tool is, it will be pretty expensive to use or implement into an organisation’s workflow. However, there are free options available that may not provide as many features but can still be helpful for teams who want to get started with configuration management.
What is the future of configuration management?
When it comes to the future of configuration management, there are several things teams can expect. Some organisations have already started implementing software configuration management tools into their workflow, and they’ve seen many benefits through this process. As time goes on, more organisations will follow suit in hopes that these benefits will continue! Here are some critical points for what’s to come:
1. More choice when it comes to options!
As organisations continue implementing software configuration management, the number of tools available will only increase. This means teams can expect more choices than ever before regarding what type of features they want to use and how much automation should be implemented – making things easier for everyone involved.
2. More updates and bug fixes!
Because software configuration management tools are being developed faster, organisations can expect to have more updates made available for them as time goes on. These will help fix bugs or malware issues, so teams don’t need to worry about things going wrong in their workflow.
3. More security features!
Cyber security will continue to be a top priority for software configuration management tools as technology advances. This means that new features and updates will come out more regularly with this goal in mind.
4. More self-service options!
Self-service is already being seen as an option within some organisations today, which helps provide teams with the ability to make changes to their configuration management system. This provides flexibility and ensures teams don’t need to wait around for someone else if they want something changed or added!
5. More automation options are available!
Automation will continue to be an essential feature within software configuration management tools, which means you’ll likely see this option made available in the future. This allows teams to work a little more efficiently and avoid doing things manually, which can be highly time-consuming!
6. More notifications when it comes to updates!
Organisations will have better visibility into their configuration management software as new features are added or bugs fixed through the earlier updates. If anything is found that needs attention, teams will be able to see this right away and can take any necessary actions!
7. More ways for organisations to get involved with configuration management!
As more people become interested in software configuration management, new opportunities may arise for those who want to help make their organisation’s workflow more efficient. This could come through education or training on software configuration management for those who are interested.
8. More support when it comes to new features!
As configuration management software continues to be developed, organisations will have more access to help if they run into any problems with these updates. Whether through email communication or other forms of support, teams can rest assured knowing someone is there to help!
Shahrukh, is a passionate cyber security analyst and researcher who loves to write technical blogs on different cyber security topics. He holds a Masters degree in Information Security, an OSCP and has a strong technical skillset in offensive security.