Configuration Management

By Subraya Mallya - May 2007 | Topics - Configuration Management

The main goal of Configuration Management is to provide information on the IT infrastructure to all other processes and IT management. Enabling control of the infrastructure by monitoring and maintaining information on all the resources needed to deliver services.

Key Activities

Here are some of the key activities performed as part of Configuration Management

  • Planing the configuration management database ( CMDB )
  • Identification of the Configuration Items, their naming and relationships
  • Control the changes to the Configuration Items
  • Perform Status Accounting
  • Verification and Audit of the configuration settings
  • Reporting and Analyzing the Configuration Management quality and operations

Here are some of the goals that companies implementing Configuration Management should be aiming for

  • Single source of accurate information of Configuration Items (CIs)
  • Relationship and Dependency Mapping between CIs
  • Identifying Financial entitlements and help in planning
  • Visibility into the change lifecycle
  • Ability to perform Impact Analysis and plan future changes
  • Integrating with Incident Management and Problem Management
  • Improve the Release Management process

Each of these CIs come with their own set of attributes, inter-relationships, dependencies.

Discovery and Monitoring
Once the granularity of the CI is determined, the relationship/dependency between them identified,  the ability to automatically discover and continuously monitor them is the key. Once the initial discovery is done and verified, the baseline can be defined. All changes subsequent to that should be change controlled and initiated through a Request For Change (RFC). Any change outside of this is considered a drift. A Configuration drift could be an accidental or incidental or intentional. Identifying them in a timely manner before it has impacted the application or soon after, reduces the risks around business continuity. Continuous Monitoring of the Application Configuration to identify any drift and alert necessary personnel to take actions is one of the key elements of the Configuration Management. Ability to take timely action upon identification of a configuration drift to minimize its impact is critical. The best way to handle a situation like that  is

  • Alert the appropriate personnel to bring the issue to their notice
  • Log an incident to account for the change and any remedial actions to be taken
  • Initiate a Root Cause Analysis and subsequently update the CMDB.
  • Perform a detailed impact analysis to ensure every aspect of the change is considered.
  • Initiate supplementary actions to test, verify the impact of the change or Define and Initiate the back-out strategy
  • Define any additional policies, if any, to prevent such un-authorized changes in future.

Most commercial CMDBs really look at the CIs as a hierarchy of IT infrastructure but a better/alternate way to organize them is to view them from the business process angle. One of the true value propositions of Configuration Management and having the necessarily level of configuration information is the ability to do comprehensive impact analysis,  as part of Change Management processes. Here are some of the obvious benefits of a well defined configuration management strategy.

  1. When you really bring in the business process view of the impact into the mix the ability to do impact analysis and plan the testing effort appropriately, mitigates the risk of any incidents and unscheduled downtime.
  2. Allows companies to plan the release window
  3. Ability to effectively define the back-out strategy.

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