5 Keys to Automating Configuration Management for Application Infrastructure

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this out when there’s an application outage or when the application can’t make the transition out of the lab and into production. At mValent we call this “Hack and Hope”-- they hack into text files, make a change and hope that it resolves the problem.  Automation tools instead can be used not only to find the change, but to find only relevant changes, ignoring unimportant differences.

Another key component of change monitoring to be addressed would be the notion of versioning and roll-back.  This is a well understood capability that exists in source code control systems and was applied by Documentum among others to the content management problem.  Now, we should focus on providing versioning and roll-back to the thousands of configuration settings which comprise a J2EE application stack.  Rather than have IT scramble to figure out what has changed when there’s an outage, let’s just re-instate a known working version of all of the configuration settings.  Then, IT can take the analysis and resolution off-line without the pressure to restore service immediately.

3. ‘Release Management’ is an important forward-looking area of a configuration management solution for application infrastructure. Right now, IT teams use a mixture of scripts and manual methods to deploy changes to application infrastructure settings. New solutions look to apply true automation to this process, insuring that configuration changes are modeled, evaluated and approved prior to deployment. Release management also validates that the process applies changes correctly. This also offers automatic deployment of changes to configuration settings and provides ‘out of the box’ templates for deploying new versions of an application server or a complete J2EE application stack.

These tasks currently take days to achieve and are error-prone.  Applying automation reduces cost and time while advancing quality.

4. ‘Audit and Reporting’ in a configuration management solution for application infrastructure refers to a capability report on the application infrastructure at a detailed level.  This would include reporting on change activity—which applications are driving the most change and causing IT execs the most headaches with SLAs.  Currently, this information exists at the server and network level, but less commonly for the applications themselves where change and upheaval is more likely. 

Audit and Reporting also measures how your application infrastructure complies with recommendations, standards or your best practices for how the infrastructure should be configured.  Which assets are in compliance? Which are out of compliance?

Solutions should also measure change activity. Who made the change, Why, When, and so on.  And, it would be appropriate to measure whether changes were made according to your change process or were made outside that process.

5. ‘Integration with your IT environment’ in a configuration management solution for application infrastructure refers to the ability of the solution to fit with the other elements in the IT ecosystem, like your problem and incident management system, your Configuration Management Data Base (CMDB), a source code management system or your corporate LDAP directory.

Ideally the solution will integrate directly with these items and create a ‘closed loop’ environment for managing change to the application infrastructure.  As an example, when a ticket is opened requesting a change to the configuration setting for the web server, the solution should automate the actual change process, include the ticket number in the reason for change and report back to the incident system so that the ticket can be closed.

This eliminates yet another manual process and opportunity for error in IT management.

Benefits & Summary .  The major benefits of a configuration management solution for application infrastructure relate to reducing complexity and promoting compliance for IT.  By transforming today’s manual, error-prone

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