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Network World's Network/Systems Management Newsletter, 03/15/06
Why configuration management is in the news again
By Andi Mann
Configuration management is a discipline for the ages. It is not new, but it certainly has been in the news lately.

Configuresoft recently announced an impressive 47% revenue growth, expanding its customer base by 30% with customers such as Ernst & Young, AAA, Commerce Bank and the U.S. Army and Navy.

Cendura reported good news in January when it announced that Sybase had bought its Cohesion Suite to use in Sybase's data center. CA recently announced Desktop and Server Management r11, the latest release of its configuration management product. And IBM and BMC plan to integrate each other's configuration management databases (CMDB) with their service desk products.

What is driving the resurgence of configuration management? Clearly, manual configuration management causes problems for businesses. EMA estimates that more than 60% of service impact is due to configuration problems. A survey by configuration management vendor mValent found that 60% of IT shops take more than four hours to configure a new application server, and 75% take more than two hours to fix configuration-related problems.

Other significant drivers include:

* The rise of the IT Infrastructure Library and the CMDB - products such as BMC's Atrium and IBM's Configuration Database provide a single view of IT assets across the company, which is essential for comprehensive service desk and service impact initiatives.

* Risk mitigation - problems only really arise due to changes. Configuration management lets enterprises plan changes, identify dependencies, and resolve conflicts. If all else fails, they can also fall back to a known safe environment.

* Security - configuration management can prevent or repair security risks, such as bad administrative settings, unauthorized software, malware and spyware, and out-of-date patches or anti-virus definitions.

* Growing complexity - with thousands of parameters to set, tune and control across the enterprise, configuration management enforces policies and rules to ensure systems have the right settings according to business needs.

* Growth and scalability - as companies grow globally, opening operations in China or India, configuration management solutions can manage systems from thousands of miles away, without the costs of travel or on-site administrators.

* Compliance - configuration management helps to enforce best practices and standards, industry regulations, vendor recommendations, license agreements, and provides reporting and audit controls for laws such as HIPAA and Sarbanes-Oxley.

One example of compliance involves a 2005 court ruling that Microsoft infringed Guatemalan inventor Carlos Armando Amado's patent for transforming Access data to Excel. While Amado can retire with his $8.96 million in damages, Microsoft has "requested" customers with Office Professional 2003, Office XP Professional, and Access 2002 to upgrade as part of the court order. Manual upgrades could cost millions in time and effort, and severely disrupt end users. Configuration management software, however, can automatically identify offending installations and patch them overnight, ensuring compliance with the legal ruling, and with Microsoft's license agreements.

Configuration management software is advancing significantly to meet such challenges. It supports operating systems from z/OS to Palm OS; it comes pre-packaged with "best-practices" templates; it automatically detects and corrects out-of-state configurations; and it manages interdependencies between hardware, operating systems, and applications. It can save money, improve efficiency, and assure compliance. That is why it is in the news again.

Copyright Network World, Inc., 2006

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Last Modified: March 9, 2008