What is Configuration Management?
By Tom Collins, Community Contributor - March 9, 2023
Configuration management (CM) is a process of ensuring product quality. In the technical field, it’s an IT management process to track and monitor the configuration or settings of an IT system. This tracking is essential to follow up on the modification of the configuration in your system. Here, the IT system consists of several assets like- software, hardware, networks, servers, etc. The basic goal is to keep the system in its expected state without flaws. The CM in software development requires version control and CI/CD pipelines.
Why do we need configuration management?
Here are some reasons why you need configuration management:
- It supports tracking the changes in your system. Thus it brings down the risk of system outages and cyber-security issues like data breaches and leakages.
- Configuration management and version control together solve the problem of unexpected breakages due to configuration changes. How? They provide visibility to those modifications. The version control system can track the changes that permit the development team to review them. Also, it enables ‘undo’ functionalities for configuration that creates barriers for breakages.
- It helps to improve the user experience through quick detection and solution for improper configurations. Thus it decreases the negative reviews of products.
- Reduce the cost of your technology asset by eliminating configuration redundancy because it keeps detailed knowledge of all the configuration elements. In this way, it also saves valuable time and effort.
- You can control your process by implying definitions and policies of identification, updates, status monitoring, and auditing.
- You can replicate an environment precisely with the help of configuration management. In this way, the production and test environment remain the same. Thus it reduces performance issues.
Working process of configuration management
Following is a detailed overview of the working process of configuration management –
- Identification: This is the first step of configuration management. You have to gather information from several applications, environments, development, and staging for all elements and services. Sensitive data like passwords and keys should be identified and securely encrypted, and stored in a safe place. It organizes configuration info within files, and those files would be a trustworthy source of data. The configuration management databases (CMDBs) give a good result for this purpose.
- Baseline: After organizing the configuration data, you need to establish the baseline. The baseline of configuration helps to work software without any error. This aims for a centralized modification of baseline configuration. You have to set a baseline after reviewing and committing to the design of the running production environment.
- Version control: It’s the third step performed after the baseline configuration. In this step, your organization should put the project within a version control system like Git. Then you need to add configuration data files within the repository, including the changes. These changes will automatically adapt to the original environment. But be careful that you shouldn’t include any security data like passwords and keys to the repository.
- Auditing: The configuration will be visible after adding the configuration data within a version control system. Again, it enables collaboration like pull request workflow so developers can review and edit codes. Ultimately, it will help to process an audit that checks whether the software meets requirement specifications. The team must accept any changes in the configuration after reviewing them.
Configuration management in DevOps, CI/CD, and Agile
Before you understand configuration management in DevOps, CI/CD and Agile, find the difference between CI and CD, Agile and DevOps
DevOps configuration management promotes the speed, accuracy, and efficiency of the system. It saves developers’ time and automates maintenance tasks. A successful DevOps configuration has two results- Infrastructure-as-a-code (IaaC) and Configuration-as-a-code (CaaC).
IaaC brings up the code that automates the preparation of the environment for development and testing tasks. Later you have to put the code in the version control system as usual.
CaaC states the configuration of servers, networks, data files, hardware, and other computing resources. As for IaaC, you have to put the code again in the version control system for CaaC. This will help to run the software as predicted.
Read More: What is DevOps Configuration management
The CI/CD configuration management records the details of a distinct infrastructure. Later, it will help to identify the changes made in the setting. With the aid of the CI/CD pipeline, you will get several environments for testing and staging your product before release.
You need to replicate the pre-production environment for the pipeline and testing. Then you can accelerate the CI/CD configuration by storing the data in a structured format like- XML or YAML file. Again, it will be easy to set your pipeline for refreshing the environment between deployments, if you use an IaaC approach.
Agile configuration management has several features like updating production SSL certificates, adding new DB endpoints, password changes, and API keys for new third-party integration. The important thing is that agile necessities automation for the CM. Thus development in agile becomes faster than traditional manual processes. It removes the bottlenecks and gives time to focus on more growth.
Tools for Configuration management
- Ansible: It’s the leader in the market of CM tools. Currently, it has a 24.5% share of the market. It’s an open-source system to automate IT infrastructures and environments. It’s written in Python, which makes it easy to learn. There are playbooks-YAML-based configuration files in Ansible. They support comments, and anchors to refer to other items.
- HashiCorp Terraform: It has a 20.27% market share just after Ansible. It mainly focuses on server authorization rather than configuration. It makes all the servers synced regularly to eliminate the configuration drifts.
- Puppet: It uses a Master-agent architecture to store resources in an expected state. It uses Ruby domain-specific languages for CM. You can run Puppet multiple times and make changes to your system’s state until you can’t match it with the desired state. This is called the Idempotence principle.
Apart from these three, there are other CM tools in the market. They are- Chef, Salt Stack, Git, etc.
Future Scope of Configuration Management
Successful configuration management aims to identify all code, easily retrieve all configuration items, good configuration audit, desired state, accumulation of change requests without any regression, and more. The CM tools support changes and improvements in the CM environment. In the future, the CM will include tools like Kubernetes, Docker, Habitat, etc. These tools will capture the market from virtual machine-based deployment.
Configuration Management on Real Device Cloud with BrowserStack
BrowserStack helps you in configuration management with its real device cloud. There you can perform both manual and automation testing. But we discussed earlier that automation is the best solution for CM. For executing automation tests on real devices, you can prefer App Automate and Automate for Mobile and Web Apps respectively. They have features like Cloud Selenium grid, CI/CD integrations, test management, and report abilities.
Configuration management is necessary for extensive software systems. Without the CM your system may be compromised with unexpected outages, implementation failure, and lack productivity, reliability, and scalability. So learn more about this technique with BrowserStack. It has 3000+ real devices and browsers for testing your web and apps in real user conditions from home.