Jan
31

An Executive’s Look Ahead at 4 Configuration Management Tool Trends for 2011



by Sasha Gilenson
   
 

logo_cmcrossroadsOriginally published in CM Crossroads: The Configuration Management Community (Jan 13, 2011).

In 2010, we saw a number of both prominent and subtle trends. These developments will continue to influence and define IT progress for organizations in 2011, particularly in the space of change and configuration management and automation.

 

Prediction #1 Growth of Virtualization and Transition to Cloud Will Require Automated Configuration Control

Implementation of virtualization in production environments and growth of private clouds demands more support for dynamically changing environment architectures and configurations, this will require automated configuration management tools to enhance processes that focus on control components.

 

Today we see a range of organizations from small to Fortune 100-sized applying virtualization to reduce infrastructure costs and streamline operations. Last year a significant shift happened:

  • Virtualization was widely adopted in production environments hosting critical business systems
  • IT started to implement dynamic resource allocation to increase virtualization efficiency (this essentially laid-out the first step towards cloud)

This shift has major impacts towards IT configuration management and IT change management:

  • The Configuration Map becomes increasingly dynamic. This is a result of virtual machines transitioning between hosts and the frequent instance initiation and shutdowns
  • Reduced human involvement in actual deployment and maintenance actions and replacement by automated tools. The automated tools and virtual infrastructure introduce an encapsulation layer limiting visibility into the configuration of a guest system.
  • When an affected system runs in production,  a change failure can  have a major impact on performance and availability.

This situation will demand new requirements for change control and innovative IT configuration mangement tools in 2011.

  • Support of dynamically changing environment architecture and configuration.
  • Automation of configuration management processes with a focus on the control component.
  • The ability to turn sizeable amounts of change and configuration data into actionable information.
  • Tight integration with deployment automation tools

These requirements will trigger a change in vendor strategy resulting in new types of tools for the market. These tools will be an inherent part of virtualization management and cloud platforms developed by more mature vendors, like VMware,  and also will come out of the innovation of smaller vendors.

The new it configuration management tools will feature new approaches:

  • New methods of real time or near real-time application discovery and mapping. This is as opposed to the traditional low frequency scans provided by CMDB platforms.
  • A switch from IT change management and approval workflow support to automatic change monitoring and analysis.
  • IT intelligence will be similar to traditional business intelligence but tailored for IT operational information.
  • Solutions leveraging automation will close the change loop. Currently the change loop has numerous gaps along the change path in traditional service desks, configuration management tools and deployment solutions.

 

Prediction #2 The Rise of DevOps

This emerging IT practice will come into its own and become a dedicated IT discipline which will demand new tools to support this dynamic area.

 

We all heard about DevOps as a set of processes and methodology connecting two areas traditionally separated by a brick wall – development and QA on one side, and operations on the other. Numerous organizations started to implement this approach through a virtual team combining developers, test engineers, release managers, change managers, configuration managers and operations specialists. However last year we observed a new phase when larger organizations started to set up a new role that owns the DevOps practice, rather than leaving it to the virtual team.

Any new practice needs a tool platform to enable its' processes to be efficient. This need grows when a dedicated person is held accountable for the success of any delivery, from the engineering side into the production environment. Such deliveries are complex processes involving multiple stakeholders. Manual management of this process is doomed to fail. Up to now thought leaders in the DevOps movement focused mostly on deployment automation tools, rightfully assuming that they will both simplify change & application deployment and software deployment and implementation processes and drastically enhance the performance of these processes.

However, the challenge is still there. Deployment automation tools are a critical success factor but still not a silver bullet.

We believe that the new role of DevOps owner (or Release Coordinator as some call it) will become more common through 2011, just as the Service Manager role grew over the last 10 years.  As the role grows, a new set of tools will emerge providing a command and control center for DevOps. These will be very different from traditional system management tools in the sense that they will focus on automation, low overhead, and enable the rapid pace of change as well as high volume of release management activities.

 

Prediction #3 The Evolution of Alternative Software Delivery Models for IT Management Tools

New delivery technologies like SaaS will enable the growth of new solution providers for traditionally complex enterprise-grade operations.

 For IT management the last decade was dominated by "The Big Four," consolidating the enterprise tools market – IBM, HP, CA and BMC.  These vendors provided extensive and complex management platforms enabling ITIL driven processes, built from the point of view of workflow enforcement. The solutions required significant amount of effort and time, particularly, professional services, to implement them. Inevitably, larger organizations adopted these solutions more willingly, while medium and small IT shops stuck to manual or in-house automated operations.

As significant IT spending still remains with traditional large enterprises, a few changes have happened.

  1. Large IT organizations found themselves saturated with 'The Big Four' tools. The last few years were spent implementing what was acquired previously and realizing the long awaited value.
  2. A new generation of large technology rich companies have emerged –such as Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Amazon etc. The focus of these companies have changed from traditional IT control driven management to automation, enabling greater speed and flexibility. Growing maturity of open source solutions has further influenced the fate of enterprise management software.

At the same time, a technology evolution created a platform for alternative software delivery models – with SaaS being one of the most prominent examples. Vendors like NewRelic, ServiceNow and others can provide a viable alternative for the more expensive and complex enterprise tools.

Now consider these observations in the change and configuration management solution space (which is one of the most mature and crowded markets that still does not solve key challenges faced by IT). Many newcomers to this space will leverage the new delivery models and change the approach to managing software. Newcomers can offer simple, easily accessible, low overhead automated solutions appealing to administrators and operations specialists. These solutions will enable existing practices, while making them much more efficient,   instead of re-engineering the IT organization and its' processes. You will see the success of these solutions coming from wide grassroots adoption where large vendors are struggling.

 

Prediction #4 Demand for New Configuration and Control Tools at the Granular Level

The growing complexity of enterprise technology platforms will mean organizations have to deal with IT environments that are constantly becoming harder to control and manage, due to a growing complexity of their configuration, since it is designed for greater flexibility across the emerging platform landscape.

 

There is a growth in complexity across a variety of enterprise technology platforms. For example, last year Microsoft launched the new IIS version 7.0. While the new IIS brought a lot of powerful capabilities it also introduced a major redesign of the server configuration mechanism. The complexity of the new configuration architecture is underscored by the numerous videos produced just to explain how to configure the server, dominating the new IIS product pages on Microsoft's web site.

One of the key drivers is a constant demand for more powerful functionality and greater flexibility, in order to compete with emerging open source platforms. A consequence of this growing complexity is that traditional configuration management tools fail to deliver required levels of granularity when mapping and controlling an environment configuration.

There was a generation of tools such as ConfigureSoft, Cendura, mValent and others that recognized this need a while back. However those tools were acquired and then remained limited to the server and infrastructure level, expanding towards compliance and policy management. You can expect to see a new set of tools to appear in 2011 that will address the operational challenges of complex configuration control at the granular level.

In 2011, IT practices and technologies will be evolving at breakneck speeds. This means a lot of exciting trends will be reaching  the level of adoption. That guarantees a change in paradigm, architecture and delivery models of IT management and automation tools. All these changes mean you can expect to see a profound impact to Change and Configuration Management.

 

About Sasha Gilenson

Chief Executive Officer, co-founder

Sasha Gilenson enjoyed a long and successful career at Mercury Interactive (acquired by HP), having led the company's QA organization, participating in establishing Mercury's Software as a Service (SaaS), as well as leading a Business Unit in Europe and Asia.

Sasha played a key role in the development of Mercury's worldwide Business Technology Optimization (BTO) strategy and drove field operations of the Wireless Business Unit, all while taking on the duties as the Mercury's top "guru" in quality processes and IT practices domain. In this capacity, Sasha has advised numerous Fortune 500 companies on technology and process optimization, and in turn, acquired a comprehensive and rare knowledge of the market and industry practices.

Sasha holds an M.Sc. in Computer Science from Latvian University and MBA from London Business School.
   
 

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Written by Sasha Gilenson.

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