DevOps technology is taking the world, especially the IT
industry, by storm and helping organizations embark on a new digital revolution. Over
the few years, DevOps has become essential to the software development lifecycle (SDLC)
by enabling organizations to deliver excellence at every step of the way and thrive
successfully in today’s competitive environment. Today, organizations of various
sizes and in numerous industries are relying on and leveraging this technology and its
components to scale new heights of success and deliver unparalleled value and experience
to their customers worldwide rapidly and continuously.
Configuration Management (CM) is one such component of the
DevOps, gaining popularity among software engineers for building quality products
quickly and efficiently. From automating tedious tasks to streamlining software
delivery, Configuration Management has become fundamentally necessary for setting up a
DevOps-driven framework and facilitating speed, accuracy, and efficiency in
In this article, we will unravel the concepts of
Configuration Management to understand the role it plays in the DevOps process as well
as Software Development.
What is Configuration Management?
An increasingly important foundation for building a
successful software product, Configuration Management is a critical system engineering
process that helps organizations establish, monitor, and maintain computer systems,
servers, and software in a desired, consistent state. It has become an efficient way for
organizations to keep track of a software product's performance, functional, and
physical attributes, along with its requirements, design, and operational information
throughout its life.
Introduced in the 1950s by the United States Department of
Defence as a technical management discipline for hardware material items, Configuration
Management is now a form of IT Service Management (ITSM), as defined by ITIL, and is
responsible for ensuring the configuration of system resources, computer systems,
servers, and other software and hardware assets.
To perform such consistent monitoring and maintenance,
Configuration Management involves a high degree of automation that facilitates orderly
management of system information and changes, provides visibility and control of its
performance and functionality, and verifies whether the system performs as intended,
among other benefits.
Primary Components of Configuration Management:
To ensure maximum benefits out of Configuration management
and to meticulously manage critical resources, performance, functional, and physical
attributes of a system and automate mundane maintenance tasks, organizations need to
ensure its accurate implementation. This is made possible by the key components of
Configuration Management, which are:
- Artifact Repository: A critical
component of Configuration Management, Artifact Repository is a database for
storing machine files like binaries, libraries, test data, etc., that are not
necessarily accessed or used.
- Source Code Repository: As
suggested by its name, the Source Code Repository is a database that contains
all versions of code. It stores source code used by the development team, as
well as other relevant components like configuration files, test, build, and
deployment scripts. In short, this component of Configuration Management stores
everything readable by humans, except software binaries, and is further
- Centralized Version Control System (CVCS): Stores source code in a centralized location.
- Distributed Version Control System (DVCS): Stores source code across numerous terminals accessed by
- Database for Configuration Management: This is a database devoted to Configuration
Management that works across different systems and applications and is used to
store and track relevant services, servers, applications, etc., associated with
Importance of Configuration Management:
The constant evolution and advancement in technology have
resulted in the increased complexity of software and applications being developed today.
Each of these software and applications are further composed of components that vary in
both size and complexity. However, managing and maintaining these software systems and
their components is now made possible by Configuration Management.
Configuration management helps teams build a robust and
stable system that automatically tracks and manages updates to configuration data.
Moreover, it prevents teams from making any undocumented changes that may impact
software performance, business operations, and security and enables resources to
function as they must to facilitate success.
Configuration management, hence, is critical for an
organization's success, as it helps track configuration changes to ensure traceability,
prevent data breaches and data leaks, allows for ease of scalability, and reduces the
time to build additional resources.
Process of Configuration Management:
Configuration Management comprises five distinct disciplines
that are used to establish baselines and perform a standard change-management process.
- Planning & Management: It
is a formal document and plan that guides the configuration management program
and includes details like:
- Responsibilities & Resources.
- Training Requirements.
- Administrative meeting guidelines, including
- Baselining Processes.
- Configuration Control & Status
- Naming Conventions.
- Audits and Reviews.
- Subcontractor/Vendor Configuration Management
- Configuration Identification: Helps establish the setting and maintaining baselines,
which further elaborate on the system or subsystem architecture, components, and
any developments. It is an important step of the process, as any changes in the
system during the design, development, testing, and delivery stages are
identified, documented, and tracked based on this aspect of Configuration
Management. It is also used to establish and maintain configuration items
throughout the development lifecycle.
- Configuration Control: This
step of the process is focused on evaluating all the change-requests and
change-proposals as well as their approval and disapproval. From the system's
design and hardware to software and documentation, this step helps teams control
modification throughout the process.
- Configuration Status Accounting: Here, the process involves recording and reporting
configuration item descriptions and all departures from the baseline during the
design and production phases. Moreover, during this stage, if any issue or
problem is suspected necessary verification of baseline configuration and
approved modifications are quickly determined.
- Configuration Verification & Audit: Finally, an independent review of hardware and
software is conducted to ensure compliance with established performance
requirements, standards, and functional, allocated, and product baselines. It
ensures the functional and performance attributes of a configuration item and
whether it is installed as per the design requirements.
Configuration Management in DevOps:
Configuration Management is an essential aspect of DevOps, as
it supports this collaborative and rapid software development technology holistically
and offers teams the confidence to move quickly with their changes, enabling them to
automate, provision, configure, and manage the infrastructure. It is an automated
process for managing all configurations of the pre-production and production
environment. Moreover, like DevOps, Configuration Management also spans across the
operational and development activities and is crucial for the success of DevOps
Configuration management is, in short, imperative in DevOps,
as it supports continuous integration and ensures the system's proper control,
traceability, accuracy, consistency, efficiency, versioning, and change
Elements of Configuration Management in DevOps:
The role of Configuration Management in DevOps is extremely
important and extends from just automating processes to empowering software engineers to
request and provision needed resources on-demand and removing the potential
organizational dependency bottleneck. However, for it to function properly, teams ought
to ensure its accurate implementation.
Therefore, here are the key elements of Configuration
Management implementation in DevOps:
- Configuration Identification: Involves gathering information and aggregating and
compiling configuration data from different application environments,
development, staging, and production to be organized into data files and
identify the configuration of the environment to be maintained.
- Baseline: A baseline can be
established, by reviewing and committing the configuration of a functioning
production environment, once the configuration data is organized to operate the
dependent software without any issues or error.
- Configuration Control: After
the baseline is established, the team prepares a mechanism, known as
configuration control to track, control, and regulate changes to the
configuration. This helps avoid system issues and prevents the integrations and
existing infrastructure from destabilizing. Configuration Control can also be
automated with the help of various version control
- Configuration Audit: Finally,
the system is reviewed through configuration audits to ensure it complies with
regulations and validations. These audits are performed at regular intervals to
identify issues or changes that bypass the control mechanism and prevent the
quality, performance, and functionality of the system.
Deliverables of Successful Configuration Management:
If configurations in DevOps are implemented successfully and
managed adequately they will deliver two prominent outcomes, which are:
- Infrastructure as Code (IaC):
It is the concept of managing the necessary environment, with resources required
for DevOps operations, with code or script and automatically preparing it for
deployment and testing activities. This code is then pushed to the version
control system and used to define this environment.
- Configuration as Code (CaC): It
is a code or script that standardizes configurations within a given resource,
like a server or network. These standardized configurations are then applied
during the deployment phase and ensure infrastructure configuration is suitable
for the application. Here, the code is pushed to a version control system as
part of the software deployment pipeline, which ensures the configuration of the
relevant infrastructure and prepares it for software development and
Configuration Management Best Practices:
The implementation of Configuration management is fraught
with risks and can lead to disruption of application availability, data loss, failures,
etc. To ensure the system functions as per requirement and your assets are highly
available and configured optimally, it is important to adopt Configuration Management
best practices, as they will allow you to manage risks effectively and deliver quality
and consistency to end-users.
These best practices include:
- Tracking Changes: Make sure to
track any/all changes concerning system provisioning and configuration
management, as it will enable you to monitor changes that resulted due to an
asset change. This will further make it easy for the team to roll back unwanted
changes or revert to an earlier configuration if needed.
- Ensure Early Testing: By
implementing early and often testing, teams can identify bugs and other
potentially harmful regressions early during configuration management and ensure
better and secured software release.
- Performance Testing: By
performing performance testing, the DevOps teams can monitor and verify the
performance and functionality of the system after the latest
- Early & Often Integration: Apart from frequent testing, perform early and often
integration to ensure the compliance and compatibility of new features and
changes with the rest of the environment.
- Configuration Control: Make
sure to implement configuration control for the evaluation of all
change-requests and change-proposals, as well as their subsequent approval or
disapproval. This helps control modification to the system's design, hardware,
firmware, software, and documentation.
- Configuration Management Database: Specified by ITIL as a CM best practice, Configuration
Management System (CMS), as it is commonly known Configuration Management Database
(CMBD) helps track Configuration Items (CIs) such as storage, racks, software
licenses, etc. and the dependencies between them. It further helps perform functions
like root cause analysis, change management, impact analysis, current state
assessment for the future state strategy development.
Now that we understand the concept of Configuration
Management, let us move on to cover its advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages of Configuration Management:
A practice gaining momentum across software engineering,
Configuration Management has become essential for managing every part of the business,
from the designing workflow to product, service, and solution deliverables. It helps
establish a structured and effective methodology for documenting, validating, releasing,
and changing business requirements. Other prominent benefits that make this DevOps
practice popular among software engineers are listed below:
- Uses a defined configuration
process to increase efficiency.
- Reduces risk of unpredictable
system failures and data breaches by offering perfect visibility and tracking
changes in the test environments.
- As it offers detailed
knowledge of all the configuration elements, it prevents unnecessary duplication of
technological assets, which promotes cost reduction.
- Offers businesses greater
agility and faster problem resolution.
- Rapidly detects and corrects
improper configurations, which enhances the system and process
- Establishes and enforces
formalized policies and procedures for various actions like asset detection,
audition, change implementation, status monitoring, and more, which helps teams
achieve greater control over relevant workflows.
- Offers efficient change
management that reduces the risk of product incompatibility or
- Configuration management
allows faster and easy restoration and recall of assets if a process failure
Disadvantages of Configuration Management:
Though Configuration Management has been tremendously
rewarding for organizations yet, it has certain implementation challenges associated
with it that make businesses apprehensive about its adoption and implementation. These,
though, do not outpower the configuration management advantages are still worth
considering. Therefore, here are the disadvantages of Configuration Management:
- Requires adequate resources,
with complete knowledge of software configuration management tools.
- Need a highly configured
system for the development stages.
- Requires building on top of
established and reliable asset and inventory management processes to ensure quality
data for input and update of CI data, which can again be challenging.
- The initial design needs
regular revisits for the expansion and contraction of scope and business
Configuration Management Tools:
Whether it is establishing and enforcing version control and
change tracking in CI/CD with build automation and source code management or the
evolution and automation of the systems administration role for automating
infrastructure management and deployment in DevOps, Configuration Management relies on
various automated tools to perform the necessary function.
But, how is using configuration management tools beneficial
A proper configuration management tool will offer various
- Help prioritize
- Automate tedious tasks, system
identification, patches, and updates.
- Will classify and manage
systems by groups and subgroups for improved testing and auditing.
- Modify base configurations
- Help identify outdated,
poor-performing, and non-compliant configurations.
- Access and apply prescriptive
- Roll out new settings to all
Popular Configuration Management Tools:
From DevOps to CI/CD, configuration management, as mentioned
earlier, automates workflows to reduce manual efforts in the deployment of code changes
to a live software system.
Therefore, here is a list of some prominent Configuration
- Ansible: An open-source, simple software provisioning,
configuration management, and application-deployment tool that enables
infrastructure as code and makes applications and systems easier to deploy and
- Chef: A configuration management technology, Chef is used for
automating the infrastructure provisioning and streamlining the task of
configuration and managing the company's server.
The most powerful configuration management tool that
defines and enforces configurations across operating systems, middleware, and
applications in a programmatic way. It is a model-driven solution that requires
limited programming knowledge.
A free and open-source distributed version control system, Git is designed to handle
and track code changes. It offers a holistic, reliable, and versatile version
control by adding configuration management data alongside code in a Git
- Terraform: An open-source configuration management platform by
HashiCorp, Terraform, leverages IaC to provision and manage clusters, cloud
infrastructure, or services. It supports Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure,
and other cloud platforms and allows teams to safely and predictably create, change,
and improve infrastructure.
- SaltStack: Python-based, open-source software, SaltStack helps
perform event-driven IT automation, remote task execution, and configuration
management and helps create a reusable configuration template, called a state to
describe everything required to put system components or applications into a known
- AWS OpsWorks: It is a prominent configuration management service offered
by Amazon that helps teams configure and operate applications in a cloud enterprise
by using Puppet or Chef.
Configuration Management Vs. Change Management:
Configuration Management and Change Management are two
commonly misconstrued terms, often used interchangeably. Though interconnected, the two
are vastly different from each other. Therefore, here is a comparison of the two,
highlighting their differences.
It is a subset of the overall project
Process for managing the people side of
change to achieve the required business outcome.
Identifies and documents the functional and
physical characteristics of a system.
Deals with identification, impact analysis,
documentation, and approval or disapproval of change requests.
Focuses on the configurable items like the
product, services, servers, etc.
Focuses on managing the changes that affect
the configurable items and system.
It leads to changes that are specific to the
It leads to many changes that can impact the
Supports the audit of products, results, or
components to verify requirement conformance.
Incorporates organizational tools to help
teams make successful transitions, resulting in the adoption and
realization of change.
With the frequently changing IT spectrum, customer demands,
and the introduction of new assets, Configuration Management will continue to grow as
organizations will always have numerous assets to manage, monitor, and control. As one
of the drivers for agile and quality software product delivery, along with techniques
like version control, containerization, etc., Configuration Management will help
organizations build a consistent workflow that offers unparalleled rewards.
Hence, we can conclude, the future of Configuration
management will be extremely promising, with plenty of innovations, improvements, and