Introduction of Systems Configuration Management for Central Services

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Just to clarify on some concerns which have been raised with regard to the introduction of Systems Configuration Management in Systems and Operations. Be aware that Systems Configuration Management is more related to the practise of Systems Administration rather than the ITIL Process adopted by the University and implemented in TopDesk, although they are related. The former is a technical solution whilst the latter more of a business solution.

It is felt in SysOps that we need to provide a more standardised and maintained OS platform for future deployments. We have chosen to make use of a Configuration Management system tool called Bcfg2 and are investigating a deployment methodology to assist in the management of the 100s of Unix/Linux systems we have now and the growth and adoption of systems in the future. This will cover centrally managed hosts and we are not at this time recommending this for use in Zones. We recognise that more specialist tools may be necessary there. We are, however, anticipating that we will need to address the management or adoption of Zone based services in the future.

There is some separation between areas of management of configuration items which fall into discrete categories:

  1. Package management (deployment of software artefacts and patching).
  2. Configuration management (files, directories, services, etc)
  3. Application deployment and Release Management.

Sysops will want to be involved in systems level management for 1 and 2 and sometimes 3 where appropriate. Systems level is defined as Operating System platform upto and including the language layer. For example, up to and including a Python interpreter or Apache web server. Services are expected to live at the Application layer (3 above) and it is expected that Service Managers may have their own tools to manage and perform release management.

SysOps hope to work with Service Managers and Developers to integrate these tools to get the most out of them. The Configuration Management tools are not in place to make life more difficult and we are actively promoting collaboration and involvement in developing the tools and methodology. It’s also worth mentioning that it will take a long time to hone these tools to a way of working which suits our environment. So we are not expecting to be able to simply deploy this system in a short space of time, it will need to grow and be formed as we work. It took almost 5 years to get to a stage with ILRT systems where the entire stack was automated and we are still working to improve processes.

It is natural to feel threatened or see this as an inhibitor to our current way of working. It’s very common in most organisations adopting a Configuration Management system to experience a degree of social unease. Remember these tools are here primarily to improve the quality of the service we provide, but also to make our lives easier. If you have any concerns with the introduction of this system please come to talk to us about it. We really want to get you involved from the beginning. There is a learning curve and we understand there is a change in mind set and way of working which can be difficult, but, the rewards are great. The day of realisation of how powerful a system like this can be, is a good one!

I am keen to provide more support to colleagues who are willing to make the transition and propose to offer training in the new year on Bcfg2, our Configuration Management tool. I will have a think about how I can best do this.  If anyone who is interested please get in touch.