Configuration Management: The Secret Weapon of Efficient Development Teams
Tracking changes and documenting modifications within applications ensures enterprises can remain flexible in implementation.
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Savvy business leaders are always on the hunt for new ways to streamline their organization – the people, processes, and tools used to make the day to day happen. At a micro and macro level, IT teams are always striving for this, but with the constant evolution of technology, it can be daunting.
Is Configuration Management the Key to Efficiency?
Originally created by the military in the 1950s, configuration management is the practice of ensuring that all software and hardware assets which a company owns are known and tracked at all times – this includes tracking any future changes to these assets. It’s similar to a technology asset inventory, but it’s always on and always up to date.
Traditionally, this cataloging was done manually, however, as the technology industry changed with the arrival of DevOps, cloud computing and automation tools, configuration management changed as well.
Companies implementing configuration management today experience a range of time-saving and stress-reducing benefits, including:
Asset and code tracking in situations of disaster or loss
Test environments mimicking production, drastically reducing the chances of experiencing an outage
Making provisioning a non-event to enable easy scaling
Extended software lifecycle of product and assets
Faster onboarding of new team members and easier team collaboration
But How Does This Really Work?
A developer implementing a feature will commonly manually install a few bits of software and deploy code. If things are sloppy, this developer probably makes the team and manager aware of the intention to come back later and clean it up, noting that it’s simply a demonstration and will be rewritten soon.
But often, the deadline gets closer, and the task of going back through and rewriting the installation steps as a script gets pushed lower and lower in priority. Before you know it, enough time has passed, and a new developer is assigned to the project. Most likely, this developer won’t even try to touch the configuration of the server out of fear of what could go wrong.
This is exactly what configuration management helps you avoid. You can’t afford to be left in the dark as a result of developers setting up software without proper documentation or traceability. Configuration management ensures you know what services you’re running, the state of those services and their history, and the purpose of the changes.
Does Development Need Configuration Management?
Configuration management in, various forms, should be an integral part of development cycles as the desire to make changes to software faster collides with the need to provide stability.
The software pipeline itself is a form of configuration management. Software pipelines are the steps – or value stream – that are usually automated, taking code from commit to production. Pipelines usually involve steps such as linting code, unit testing code, integration testing code, and creating artifacts. When we build software with tools like Docker, we codify our build instructions into our Dockerfile, which is to better understand the dependencies of our artifacts.
Tools that enable continuous integration and delivery also act as a form of configuration management by providing visibility into the steps required to set up and configure a given software artifact.
Getting Started With Configuration Management
There is a good chance that various forms of configuration management already exist within your infrastructure as part of the tools and processes that teams use. However, to truly leverage the power of efficiency that comes from configuration management, it is good to reevaluate and back it into future work. As a starting point:
- Audit your software/hardware – Make sure you know what software you currently have, the state of this software, and the setup and run instructions for it.
- Perform a tools assessment – Do an assessment of what tools exist on the market for configuration management. Identify which tools could help you solve some of your configuration management problems.
- Learn about best practices – Successfully implementing configuration management isn’t a one-and-done task. It takes time and work to continually ensure that all new software is appropriately audited and tracked. You might want to look into some different key concepts, such as IaC and build-and-release pipelines.
There are many ways to implement configuration management, and there are lots of different tools and processes. When it comes to strategy, be sure to take your time assessing options and understanding how you want your configuration management processes to work.
It will all be worth it in the end, though. Get your configuration management right and your teams will be safer, more productive and faster to make changes.
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