Configuration Management Solutions in 2017

Armin Roeseler, CIO, DirectBuy
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Whether you’re the head of your IT department or a dedicated boss trying to make a sound business decision, knowing where configuration management is headed is crucial to choosing the right tools and understanding how effective your organization is at ensuring your work products are where they need to be throughout their life cycle.

There’s no need to get overly technical here–some tools on the market are more efficient, powerful, and user-friendly than others. But the CM landscape is uncharacteristically complex, and is ever-changing. Depending on your business’s size, needs, and priorities, there are multiple open source tools that would get the job done masterfully in 2017.

To continuously improve your processes, choose tools that provide the metrics and reports necessary to track and implement changes quickly. And don’t invest in a CM tool and expect your day-to-day to improve if your processes are sub-par. Tools work beautifully at following your protocol–poor processes can’t be fixed by simply utilizing tools.

CM Products for Small Businesses

For small businesses with few services and an intimate IT department, these configuration management products are my top picks for 2017.

  ​When you’re heading up the IT department of an enterprise business you need a tool that is exhaustive, forward thinking, and provides consistency for the future 

• Codenvy
o This CM solution is one of the most popular and reputable products on the market today.
o Make developer workspaces instant–this tool provides the ability to leverage pre-built environments that support most languages and stacks.
o Based on Eclipse Che, Codenvy is an open source project available as white label, SaaS, and on-premises.
o This product supports Java, PHP, Python, JS, and Android.

• TeamCity
o The unique approach to integration with TeamCity has boosted its reputation as an “intelligent CI server.”
o TeamCity allows you to extend the capabilities of your servers. Simply harness community-developed plugins.
o The web-based dashboard gives you a quick overview of your project status.
o Once it’s running, configuration for projects is straightforward. It’s one of the easiest-to-use tools.

CM Products for Mid-Sized Businesses

Mid market businesses that are searching for practical solutions to ensure that their configurations are in a trusted and known state should turn to these products to stay on track in 2017.

• Ansible
o A direct and intuitive tool to automate infrastructure and apps, Ansible is one of the most popular CM tools on G2 Crowd Build a strong foundation for DevOps with a solution that refrains from becoming overly complex.
o You don’t need to have any client on the nodes you’re managing with Ansible–every process is completed through SSH. Debugging and plugin development is a breeze.
o The syntax is simple, and compared to competitors Ansible is one of the easiest tools to get up and running quickly.

• Chef  
o Chef empowers you to turn infrastructure into code so you can fully automate how you deploy, build, and manage infrastructure.
o Transform your infrastructure so it’s as repeatable and testable as application code.
o The scripting and setup of recipes is quite extensive. Save a lot of time by keeping your server up around the clock.
o Take advantage of a suite of features, including the Chef Management console, Client Reporting, and Chef Analytics.

CM Products for Large-Scale Businesses

When you’re heading up the IT department of an enterprise business you need a tool that is exhaustive, forward thinking, and provides consistency for the future. As you build and expand, invest in one of these CM products.

• Apache Maven  
o By examining a project object model (POM), this tool can effectively manage any project’s reporting, build, and documentation with only a central piece of information.
o Considered the industry standard in handling Java application consistency.
o This tool is specifically optimized for web projects that deploy to a servlet container, but you can extend its use to other projects by utilizing plugins.
o One of the most powerful and extensive CM tools, Apache Maven can handle extremely large projects without a problem.

• AccuRev
o The stream-based architecture of AccuRev allows you to address complex distributed and parallel development environments.
o With AccuRev you can improve your asset reuse, and accelerate your asset development process across the board.
o The merging code for revision control when going between versions and updating your workspace is incredibly simple.
o AccuRev visually represents where all of your code branches originate from, so you can maintain a concise picture of the relationship between branches while you work.

Best Practices

There are plenty of top-rate automated CM tools for your business to choose from in addition to those featured here. As we continue into 2017, it’s important to determine what requirements in a CM tool are most important for your team. Be sure to follow these steps to guarantee you pick the right CM tool.

• Make a list of your system architecture requirements and your environment-specific requirements. Eliminate certain tools based on this list, and also factor the price range, features, and potential license fees of each option.

• Once you have a few top tools in mind, schedule an onsite demonstration so you can view how the tool actually behaves and examine its ease of use.

• Remember that possible maintenance is always something to be considered before choosing a tool. Don’t sign a contract with a vendor before you set performance metrics, tasks, and schedules. Get all of the details down in writing.

If you’ve effectively communicated your needs, properly conducted your research, and implementing correct CM processes, any of these CM tools will prove invaluable in the year to come.

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