Introduction

Today's IT implementations are increasingly more complex. A single server can contain thousands of configuration elements, including system files, kernel parameters, registry keys, application settings, and firmware switches. Each of these elements may need to meet specific IT business requirements. Since a typical organization may have hundreds or even thousands of servers, the number of configurations to be tracked and managed can reach millions parameters.

Change within an IT environment is a constant and can range from the planned, such as application and operating system upgrades, patch installations, and approved configuration updates, to the unplanned, including accidental system alterations and malicious security breaches. It is often these "unplanned" changes that have the greatest impact on the organization. Leading analyst firms estimate that, on average, more than 60 percent of all critical system and application outages are caused by inappropriate changes.

The costs associated with unplanned and uncontrolled change can impact an organization on many levels. Unplanned and uncontrolled change can lead to a longer time-to-value for new products and services, and can cause inconsistent and unpredictable service. Uncontrolled change can also increase security and compliance risks, opening an infrastructure to malicious attacks and limiting an organization's ability to apply compliance strategies or the principles of good corporate governance. Auditors who discover evidence of uncontrolled change are likely to cite the organization for deficiencies or, in the most severe case, a material weakness.

Finally, uncontrolled change can increase administrative costs as systems fail to provide the level of service expected and IT teams are forced to duplicate efforts and repeat processes in an effort to ensure systems remain functional.

Traditional methods of managing and monitoring configuration settings are impeded by IT staffs that simply do not have time or resources to look at each element of a complex infrastructure individually. This can initially result in systems being deployed into the infrastructure that are not fully configured to a defined standard. Even when deployed properly, over time, the lack of visibility into the environment will result in "configuration drift" - configuration settings that, without staff knowledge, have changed over time until they are far from what they are supposed to be. Configuration drift negatively impacts an enterprise's operational performance and availability, security, and, eventually state of compliance to internal and external standards.

What administrators require therefore is a single, integrated solution that can collect, consolidate, and present in a central interface, the basic configuration and configuration change information related to all the components in the environment. eG Enterprise is such a solution. The optional Configuration Management module offered by this solution employs agent-based and agentless mechanisms to extract critical configuration and change details from each of the managed components in the environment, stores the data so collected in a central repository, and allows administrators to periodically query on the data via a 100%, web-ased, easy-to-use Configuration Management console so that, the following tasks can be performed with elan:

  1. From time-to-time, take stock of the applications, operating systems, devices, software, hardware, and services that are available in the environment;
  2. Quickly access the basic configuration information pertaining to any system/application in the environment;
  3. Accurately identify systems on which critical services have stopped, or on which mandatory software is missing;
  4. Detect unplanned/unauthorized configuration changes with minimal effort;
  5. Assess how a configuration change could have influenced overall performance/health of the system/application;
  6. Run periodic checks to verify whether the entire infrastructure adheres to defined standards or not, and thus isolate deviations; 

Using the Configuration Management capability of eG Enterprise, the following questions can be answered quickly and accurately:

  • Which are the platforms on which a particular application is currently running?
  • What are the applications currently executing on a particular system?
  • Which versions of an operating system are currently available in the target environment? Do any of these operating systems require an upgradation?
  • What is the current configuration of an application?
  • Are all mandatory software (like antivirus software) available and running on all managed systems? Which system does not have such software?
  • Are all services critical to the functioning of your system and applications, up and running?
  • Has the hotfix/patch been applied to all target systems?
  • Do any systems require additional hard disk space? If so, which ones?
  • Do any systems require their RAM size to be increased? If so, which ones?
  • Have all Windows systems been updated with their latest service pack?
  • Which are the systems that are supported by a particular processor family?
  • Which systems in your environment have been assigned static IP addresses, and which ones hold dynamic IP addresses?
  • How many printers has a system been configured with? What is the current status of each printer?
  • Have any configuration changes occurred during the last 24-hours? If so, when exactly, and what are its details? Was this a planned change or an accidental one? Could this configuration change have induced a drop in the performance level of the system/application?
  • Can any difference be noticed in the configuration of two components of the same type? If so, could this difference be the cause for the poor performance of one of the components?
  • Which are the systems that fulfill a specific configuration requirement?

The sections that follow will discuss on how the eG Configuration Management console can be used to swiftly query, view, and analyze configuration information.