With the cloud and its myriad spinoff technologies becoming the staple of everyday IT implementations, the need for faster and more agile deployment of infrastructure and their accompanying operating systems, and software applications, is on the increase.
This trend will surely intensify as digital transformation tightens its hold on human culture in which a minute’s wait is simply a minute too long.
Configuration management has been a reliable methodology for provisioning business technology and is still used by many IT organizations. Having said this, software deployment methods have experienced quite a transformation over the last few years with new arrivals, such as containerized deployments, giving this trusted technology an earnest run for its money.
So, what exactly is configuration management?
Because IT systems never remain static and typically have countless dependencies that make up the entire system, developers have always had a tough time ensuring that new software deployments would go off without a hitch. Even the most elegantly coded piece of software could cause havoc on an entire infrastructure if a minor, yet unnoticed, configuration change occurred between development and deployment stages.
Configuration management provides the needed visibility and granular control of the performance, functions, and physical aspects of IT infrastructure, thereby giving DevOps the ability to standardize and sufficiently document the entire lifecycle of a given platform. This in turn facilitates effective change management, increases system predictability, reduces overall costs and scales the speed and agility of software deployments according to demand.
At its core, configuration management acts as the identifying, controlling, accounting and auditing mechanism that ensures your IT infrastructure behaves in accordance with the changing nature of the software applications that give your business legs.
Does configuration management address the needs of a technology-centered business landscape?
The simple answer is that the rate at which we’re developing new business technology simply demands a higher level of abstraction as a means to circumvent dependencies that hinder agile software development.
While the methodology has its merits, it’s undeniable that it has been surpassed by newer technologies and tools that have taken the baton from it to improve software deployment as a whole. For example, few IT organizations have the time to address cross-platform inconsistencies that require a rebuild of certain components to ensure predictable deployments of the same software across a range varying platforms.
Containerized software development is becoming an entirely new level by allowing DevOps to further isolate applications and their dependencies, making underlying hard- and software mere facilitators of business technology as opposed to barriers.
While configuration management can be effective in handling the automation of servers and deployments, the level of effort and barrier to entry is much higher and places a fair amount of overhead on an already pressured DevOps contingent.
Containers are the natural next step in configuration management
The fact is that both configuration management and containerized development modules can take you to your desired destination. If it’s a matter of getting there quicker with less friction and more smooth sailing, containerized development is your ticket.
One way to put this into context is to think about server configuration and management in the days before virtualization. While deployments of NT4 were far more complex than that of Windows 2008, for example, the latter still required a fair amount of post-installation configuration. Containers are to configuration management what the Hypervisor is to the archaic – and now obsolete – installation CD and maze of installation menu prompts.