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System Configuration Management: Open Source Software Options

written by: goforitandy•edited by: Eric Stallsworth•updated: 5/26/2011

Free software tools for configuration management? You don't have to pay thousands or even hundreds of dollars to obtain good configuration management tools for your company. There are some great, free tools available that will do the job and are supported by the open source community.

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    Configuration management is the process of managing business requirements and the releases of software associated with those requirements. The configuration management process relies on knowledge of the different phases in the operation of delivering software and associated asset management and approval processes. As for the software process itself, this uses its own tools as such as version control software to keep rack of different branches and rootes of software defined for different purposes or delivery to different companies.

    There are many commercial products available on the market for large projects to conduct software configuration management activities, but these are usually very expensive and not always easy to find for a specific project type. The Open Soure approach provides more flexibility in deciding which tools and techniques are more useful to a specific project, and the tools can be combined for large and small projects alike. The only potential problem is the support for open source products is not as good as it would be for a commercial product, but there are advantages and disadvantages to both.

    Here, we look at various open source products designed for the purpose of managing software configurations management and associated processes.

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    The Bcfg2 software created by the Argonne National Laboratory is excellent for configuration management tasks in terms of every day administrative jobs. By analysing the state of clients the software can appraise completeness of management requirements against delivery. It provides a fair appraisal of effective administration, based on the client's systems of rules. Administrators use the tool to ensure that correct reconciliation is in progress by using the automatic utilities provides, but the system can also cope with manual system adjustments.

    Generally, the tool can be used for complicated change management and deployment tasks. It is also reasonably portable, but is designed for solely unix systems at the moment. It has been successfully run on Linux and different versions of Unix.

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    The OpenNMS Project

    The OpenNMS Project provides a number of different configuration management facilities including management service assurance, provisioning, events and notification. The system automates the discovery of services and this can also be managed manually.

    The company have vast experience in the market as they have been developing the software since 1999, claiming that their software was the world's first alternative configuration management product.

    image Credit: OpenNMS: 

    It offers levels of performance measurement and can be configured to operate in a number of ways to suit specific circumstances. The management solution provides an integrated platform for different aspects of configuration management. For basic configurations, the software can be used via the default setup. It is 100% free software for both business and individuals.

    The system has the capability to monitor a vast number of devices in a single instance of the software execution. It is stated to offer scalability and flexibility for business organizations.

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    Process Maker

    ProcessMaker uses a drag-and-drop interface and buiness analysts use this feature to create effective workflows. The software is reputed to provide a reasonable solution for a low-price.

    It can be classed as the aspect of configuration management known as process management (BPM) software. ProcessMaker is designed for projects of all sizes, to assist in the design, automation and deployment of business processes.

    It can be classed in the category of Systems Oriented Architecture (SOA) software as it can communicate with other systems including services such as document management, Enterprise Resource Planing (ERP) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) applications in addition to numerous other business intelligence applications.

    It is claimed that the overhead of using the software is probably the lightest here is in the industry compared to other different products. One big advantage in favour of the product is it's popularity as it is used in 5 continents with 15 different languages, and in numerous industries across the whole spectrum from private enterprises to government.

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    Configuration Manager

    The configuration manager product is new release to the market, and is designed to alleviate some of the problems associated with configuration management and the builds of in-house websites designed to be a customers first port of call.

    For example, the software tries to prevent re-starts of the application server as this would cause the website to be unavailable for certain lengths of time. It is also important to satisfy service agreements.

    It works by automatically re-allocating thread and connection pools when they start to run low, due to a high number of requests and connections. It also prevents huge log sizes associated with websites and these filling up the hard drive of the machine.

    Therefore, the applications sits in the background and provides the optimum settings to kee a website running smoothly, while clearing out any background garbage which would affect the efficiency of the website. This is effectively configuration management on the fly.

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    This review of tools proves that there is no need to invest heavily in tools designed for software configuration management.The free tools have been developed by universities and organisations recognising the need to provide alternatives to the expensive commercial options.

    Of course, some situations will need to have a specific design for large projects, and open source will not always provide the requirements. However, Open Source is a good place to look for tools, or combinations of tools that may well suffice in the job of software configuration for your enterprise or project. Certainly, some open source tools have clearly been recognised in numerous companies and countries that open source is the way to go, and these have proved to be successful.