Tech Corner

A quick guide to Software Configuration Management (SCM)

Engati Team
.
May 2
.
5-7 mins

Table of contents

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Software Configuration Management

What is Software Configuration Management?

Software Configuration Management (SCM) is a discipline of Software Engineering that provides a better process for handling, organizing, and controlling the changes in requirements, codes, teams, and other elements in the software project development life cycle. Whenever software is built, there is always scope for improvement, as the improvements add to the final product and bring change to the overall functionality.

Software engineers make required changes/modify or update any existing solution or create a new solution for a problem to enhance the product. Requirements keep on changing on a daily basis as and when the unit testing is performed and so they need to keep on upgrading the systems based on the current requirements and needs to meet desired outputs.

Changes needed to be analyzed before they are made to the existing system, recorded before they are implemented, reported to have details of before and after, and controlled in a manner that will improve quality and reduce error as the entire system remains at stake. This is where the need for System Configuration Management comes in to handle nuances and bring the appropriate changes to the software.

It is crucial to control the changes because if the changes are not checked legitimately then they may wind up undermining well-run programming. In this way, SCM is an essential piece of all project management activities. And the primary goal of SCM is to increase productivity with minimal mistakes. SCM is part of the cross-disciplinary field of configuration management and it can accurately determine who made which revision, so it's easier for the team to coordinate with each other and work with accountability. 

Why do we need Software Configuration Management?

Source: Guru99

1. Software Configuration Management primarily focuses on tracking and managing changes in the software development process and enhances the productivity of the software application with minimal error.

2. In some cases, the team might be spread across the branches, authors are involved in a software config project, and the team is geographically distributed and works concurrently. CSM enables the team to track individual contributions and modifications with project workflow status and also keeps every member's code in an update loop. 

3. CSM provides a smooth workflow inside the development process and acts as a communication platform with team members to develop a better quality of the product.

4. Other than code and programming, changes in user requirements, policy, budget, and schedule need to be accommodated. Software Configuration Management covers these non-technical areas to ease the development process.

5. Software should be able to run on various machines and Operating Systems without fail or before reaching the client. CSM makes sure that the final product is well analyzed and impeccable.

How does Software Configuration Management work? / 5 steps of an SCM plan.

Configuration management in software development works by composing scripts and code that automate particular tasks to successfully configure all parts of a system together. Configuration management tools track, change and manage the configuration items; update information about the system, and use it to determine details, variables, and operations essential for the system to function at any given moment.

It has multiple steps to complete software configuration management; that is as follows. 

1. Planning and Identification

Planning and identification is the first step in the SCM process. Software engineers plan for the development of the software project and identify the items within the scope of things that need to be worked upon. The team generally conducts meetings and brainstorming sessions to mark the basic guidelines and framework of the project. 

The team also works on figuring out how the project will proceed, identifying the deadline and exit criteria. This stage also includes identifying each computer software configuration item in the process and grouping basic details of why, when, and what changes will be made and who will be in charge of making them.

2. Version Control Process or Baselines

Version control or baselines ensures the continuous integrity of the product by identifying an accepted version of the software and indicating the different versions of development/configuration. This baseline is designated at a specific time in the SCM process and can only be altered through a formal procedure to achieve the desired goal. The aim of this step is to control the alteration and modification done to the product. 

The point of this step is to control the changes being made to the product. As the project evolves with changes, new baselines are established, resulting in several versions of the software and upgradation. This step also focuses on developing a way to track the hierarchy of different versions of the software and developing a standardized label scheme for all products, revisions, and files so that everyone is on the same page.

3. Change Control Process

The change control process is extremely important as it ensures that the changes made to the product are consistent with the rest of the project. This step helps in keeping the controls in place and quality assurance of the software. It takes care of the approval and release of new baselines as and when needed for new updates and alterations. 

Under this step, the team puts up the requests to change configurations and seeks approval from the software configuration management. The most common types of requests that are served during this process include controlling ad-hoc changes requested by the client and checking the merit of the change request by examining the overall impact they will have on the project. 

4. Configuration Auditing Process

The next step is to ensure the project is developing according to the plan by testing and verifying the software according to the predetermined baselines. It involves looking at release notes and related documentation for each change to ensure the software meets all functional requirements for a smooth launch. Configuration status accounting notes each version released during the process, assessing what is new in each version that is new and why the changes were necessary. 

5. Review and Status Reporting Process

The final step is a technical review of the application workflow, process, configuration items and change requests, etc; to generate the status report for every phase of the software development life cycle process. The team conducts multiple reviews of the application to verify its integrity and also put together essential accompanying documentation. This step also works on bridging the gap between planning and identification. Post-review, everything around the products gets reported and documented for future/later use. 

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of SCM?

There are several tools available to facilitate the software configuration management process. The objective of these tools is to automate manual tasks and allow accuracy, speed, and control. 

Advantages

  1. Configuration management allows all aspects of an existing system to adapt to new update specifications in a coordinated manner that doesn't interrupt program functions and upgrades it to the latest version. 
  2. SCM tools work as a commutation tool and can provide alerts and reports if there are any deviations from the agreed-upon baseline. 
  3. SCM provides proper monitoring and auditing of the software development product and helps to enhance the software development life-cycle process.

Disadvantages

  1. Not feasible for small-scale industries and projects to adapt software configuration management tools and the process to an extensive level.
  2. The SCM process requires fast and highly configured hardware for the development stages, which may come in as a shortcoming for some business setups.
  3. In fact, the team working on the SCM process needs to have full knowledge of the software configuration management tools to avoid delays and mistakes.

Automated Tools for Software Configuration Management?

IT managers and system engineers can deploy their internal protocols for configuration management or use third-party configuration management software that is available for integration with the existing system. Following are some popular tools for software configuration management. 

1. TeamCity

TeamCity is one of the most comprehensive free configuration management systems available which comes with 100 possible build configurations. It also provides multi-server support and can work on test automation, and bug tracking. and implementation tools.

2. SolarWinds

The SolarWinds Server Configuration Monitor analyzes modifications made to a program and identifies unauthorized behavior or changes that are not harmful. It identifies discrepancies between multiple configurations to facilitate troubleshooting and provides a checklist of system information that can be used for improvement.

3. Rudder

Ruder takes care of asset management and configuration management, an open-source tool for managing system audits and configuring systems across organizations using predetermined policies. 

4. Juju

Juju works on the Go programming language, essential for providing 

configuration capabilities for systems scaling in size, capacity, and operations. Juju can also be used for deploying new systems and configuring them based on the existing architecture of the system.

5. Chef

The chef identifies the essential routines for maintaining and updating a system or program using the Ruby script. Chef can execute multiple tasks including testing, adaptation to new platforms, and risk identification as a program develops.

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