Configuration Management and How Does It Work?

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Written By Nidhi Sharma

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Configuration management can be defined as the process of ensuring that a product's functionality is maintained and its performance quality over its life span by making timely reconfigurations of its internal systems.

This makes configuration management part of systems engineering. This article will explain the process of configuration management and share the six best tools that you can use to accomplish this task.

What is Configuration Management?

Configuration management is a subset of systems engineering that ensures that a product's functionality, performance, and quality are maintained throughout its life. It does this by making timely reconfigurations of its internal systems.

The military, especially the United States Department of Defense in the 1950s, is the source of configuration management. Configuration management, sometimes abbreviated as CM, was created to prolong the shelf life of hardware equipment and not compromise its integrity over time.

The 480 series was a set standard for how the military maintained its technical equipment over the next several decades. The 480 series were eventually consolidated into a single standard, which was slowly transformed into the ANSI–EIA-649 in 1998, the National Consensus Standard for Configuration Management.

The brief history of configuration management reveals that it originated in the technical materials industry and was adopted gradually by the software development sector to maintain software quality throughout its lifecycle.

CM is essential for project management and DevOps because it controls how changes to applications are made over time, the frameworks and models to be followed, and the dependencies.

Organizations such as ISO are often strict in regulating configuration management, depending on where they are located. Enterprises can use existing CM frameworks and models to create CM programs that address and strengthen software integrity.

Configuration management becomes more important as digital transformation speeds up. To keep the technical landscape functional, it is necessary to regularly reconfigure and realign applications, software services, as well as IT infrastructure. This is what configuration management does.

Understanding the Goals of Configuration Management

Configuration management is a way to achieve the above-mentioned general purpose. It addresses the following goals:

Consolidating Projects: An organization may have several software or service projects at once. Configuration management consolidates all the records from these projects in one place, making it easier to manage and maintain them.

Supporting modifications to source code: With configuration management, DevOps engineers as well as infrastructure management teams can access source code to make timely adjustments. It allows for clear visibility and facilitates changes in a well-organized manner.

Keeping records about changes: CM processes ensure a complete record of all changes to an application over time. They also provide information on the reasons for the changes and their impact on performance.

Monitoring integrity and making improvements: Configuration Management establishes a baseline for software's performance throughout its lifetime. As software changes occur, it is important to be able to measure the impact on performance and provide a better user experience.

Maintaining software versions: Sometimes, CM frameworks can support multiple versions of the same software with different configurations. This makes it easier to reconcile configuration changes and roll out multiple changes simultaneously.

Configuration Management Process

Configuration management refers to the process of maintaining computers networks, database, and software in a planned, consistent state. It is important to have a way to track and evaluate any changes to a system during its development, and to determine who made them. This multidisciplinary task involves almost all members of the software development team. The following are key stakeholders in the process of configuration management:

  • Software developers: During production, developers are responsible to create code and implement authorized change requests.
  • The configuration manager: This person is responsible for assigning who is responsible for what during the development process. They make sure everyone follows the established procedure throughout the project's duration.
  • Project manager: It is equally important for the project manager (PM) to perform their function. To ensure that the completion dates are met, the PM establishes the project's timeline and creates reports about the team's progress. The PM also has the essential responsibility of ensuring that all team members adhere to the established criteria for creating, modifying, and testing the program.
  • Auditor: This person is responsible to all reviews and audits, and must ensure that final version is complete and consistent.

Top 6 Configuration Management Software

There are many options available for software configuration management. These technologies are designed to automate often manual tasks, increasing precision, speed, command, and speed.

Reliable configuration management technology will alert you and provide reports if there are any deviations from the baseline. These reports will allow you to identify configuration discrepancies. You can also audit changes by watching script outputs. The following are some of the most efficient configuration management options currently available, including commercial and free ones:

1. CFEngine

The CFEngine configuration management software automates the packaging and deployment of software in the company's operational IT environment. Its primary function is to automate large-scale computer system maintenance, including the management of servers, workstations, and integrated network hardware.

One of the core concepts of CFEngine states that users must make modifications to the computer configuration in a coordinated manner. Instead of explaining the steps required to fix a problem, the CFEngine language gives the desired result.

2. Otter

Inedo's software Otter is an infrastructure automation tool. Otter is a Windows-exclusive software product that uses Infrastructure code (IaC for configuration management). Otter's web-based interface is simple and easy to use. As needed, users can switch between text and code mode. Otter allows users to simulate the configuration, monitor for drift, and schedule updates to maintain consistency.

3. Puppet

IT managers use the open-source Puppet configuration software to identify system components, discover information continuously, and create dependency inventories. It was developed in Ruby, and stores data using a declarative language that is similar to JSON.

It can be scaled to meet the needs of organizations and enterprises of any size. The source code is supported by strong user contributions. Puppet is used mainly for large infrastructures with access to good documentation and community support. It's built on Ruby and uses a domain scripting language that is easily executable on any computer with Ruby support.

4. CHEF Configuration Tool

Chef is a software and data configuration tool for computers. The emphasis is on cloud and virtual machine installation. It's a platform that automates the building and managing of infrastructure. Chef views the infrastructure as a code and the setup machines like a recipe. This ensures that the infrastructure is always up-to-date and compliant. Each recipe is kept in a "cookbook," which is considered a separate work. Chef is a software development solution that makes it easier to create software with fewer bugs and greater service resilience.

5. ConfigHub

ConfigHub allows for the easy management, protection, and delivery of settings across the stack. This tool allows you to store, administer, and distribute software settings for one app or a distributed system. ConfigHub is a leader in dynamic configuration context support. ConfigHub is a leader in the development of host-independent topologies. It isolates app instances from essential configuration data. ConfigHub uses context to remove duplicate files and key values.

6. Salt

Salt is a configuration management and execution management tool that can manage hundreds of thousands of systems and IT assets. It uses Python to store configuration information and execute actions. Salt uses state files to establish a platform and its settings to ensure that it maintains the desired state. To improve the utility's performance, a client-server design was used.


Configuration management has advanced in recent years. Changes can be made remotely with just a few lines code. Configuration management is crucial in maintaining all things digital, from software development to cloud computing IT infrastructure. It is important to choose the best CM platforms and tools available so that you can provide reliable functionality throughout a product's life.

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