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System configuration management – Software Engineering

Last Updated : 30 Jan, 2024
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Whenever software is built, there is always scope for improvement and those improvements bring picture changes. Changes may be required to modify or update any existing solution or to create a new solution for a problem. Requirements keep on changing daily so we need to keep on upgrading our systems based on the current requirements and needs to meet desired outputs. Changes should 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. This is where the need for System Configuration Management comes. System Configuration Management (SCM) is an arrangement of exercises that controls change by recognizing the items for change, setting up connections between those things, making/characterizing instruments for overseeing diverse variants, controlling the changes being executed in the current framework, inspecting and revealing/reporting on the changes made. It is essential to control the changes because if the changes are not checked legitimately then they may wind up undermining a well-run programming. In this way, SCM is a fundamental piece of all project management activities.

Processes involved in SCM – Configuration management provides a disciplined environment for smooth control of work products. It involves the following activities:

  1. Identification and Establishment – Identifying the configuration items from products that compose baselines at given points in time (a baseline is a set of mutually consistent Configuration Items, which has been formally reviewed and agreed upon, and serves as the basis of further development). Establishing relationships among items, creating a mechanism to manage multiple levels of control and procedure for the change management system.
  2. Version control – Creating versions/specifications of the existing product to build new products with the help of the SCM system. A description of the version is given below: Suppose after some changes, the version of the configuration object changes from 1.0 to 1.1. Minor corrections and changes result in versions 1.1.1 and 1.1.2, which is followed by a major update that is object 1.2. The development of object 1.0 continues through 1.3 and 1.4, but finally, a noteworthy change to the object results in a new evolutionary path, version 2.0. Both versions are currently supported.
  3. Change control – Controlling changes to Configuration items (CI). The change control process is explained in Figure below: A change request (CR) is submitted and evaluated to assess technical merit, potential side effects, the overall impact on other configuration objects and system functions, and the projected cost of the change. The results of the evaluation are presented as a change report, which is used by a change control board (CCB) —a person or group who makes a final decision on the status and priority of the change. An engineering change Request (ECR) is generated for each approved change. Also, CCB notifies the developer in case the change is rejected with proper reason. The ECR describes the change to be made, the constraints that must be respected, and the criteria for review and audit. The object to be changed is “checked out” of the project database, the change is made, and then the object is tested again. The object is then “checked in” to the database and appropriate version control mechanisms are used to create the next version of the software.
  4. Configuration auditing – A software configuration audit complements the formal technical review of the process and product. It focuses on the technical correctness of the configuration object that has been modified. The audit confirms the completeness, correctness, and consistency of items in the SCM system and tracks action items from the audit to closure.
  5. Reporting – Providing accurate status and current configuration data to developers, testers, end users, customers, and stakeholders through admin guides, user guides, FAQs, Release notes, Memos, Installation Guide, Configuration guides, etc.

System Configuration Management (SCM) is a software engineering practice that focuses on managing the configuration of software systems and ensuring that software components are properly controlled, tracked, and stored. It is a critical aspect of software development, as it helps to ensure that changes made to a software system are properly coordinated and that the system is always in a known and stable state.

SCM involves a set of processes and tools that help to manage the different components of a software system, including source code, documentation, and other assets. It enables teams to track changes made to the software system, identify when and why changes were made, and manage the integration of these changes into the final product.

Importance of Software Configuration Management

  1. Effective Bug Tracking: Linking code modifications to issues that have been reported, makes bug tracking more effective.
  2. Continuous Deployment and Integration: SCM combines with continuous processes to automate deployment and testing, resulting in more dependable and timely software delivery.
  3. Risk management: SCM lowers the chance of introducing critical flaws by assisting in the early detection and correction of problems.
  4. Support for Big Projects: Source Code Control (SCM) offers an orderly method to handle code modifications for big projects, fostering a well-organized development process.
  5. Reproducibility: By recording precise versions of code, libraries, and dependencies, source code versioning (SCM) makes builds repeatable.
  6. Parallel Development: SCM facilitates parallel development by enabling several developers to collaborate on various branches at once.

Why need for System configuration management?

  1. Replicability: Software version control (SCM) makes ensures that a software system can be replicated at any stage of its development. This is necessary for testing, debugging, and upholding consistent environments in production, testing, and development.
  2. Identification of Configuration: Source code, documentation, and executable files are examples of configuration elements that SCM helps in locating and labeling. The management of a system’s constituent parts and their interactions depend on this identification.
  3. Effective Process of Development: By automating monotonous processes like managing dependencies, merging changes, and resolving disputes, SCM simplifies the development process. Error risk is decreased and efficiency is increased because of this automation.

Key objectives of SCM

  1. Control the evolution of software systems: SCM helps to ensure that changes to a software system are properly planned, tested, and integrated into the final product.
  2. Enable collaboration and coordination: SCM helps teams to collaborate and coordinate their work, ensuring that changes are properly integrated and that everyone is working from the same version of the software system.
  3. Provide version control: SCM provides version control for software systems, enabling teams to manage and track different versions of the system and to revert to earlier versions if necessary.
  4. Facilitate replication and distribution: SCM helps to ensure that software systems can be easily replicated and distributed to other environments, such as test, production, and customer sites.
  5. SCM is a critical component of software development, and effective SCM practices can help to improve the quality and reliability of software systems, as well as increase efficiency and reduce the risk of errors.

The main advantages of SCM

  1. Improved productivity and efficiency by reducing the time and effort required to manage software changes.
  2. Reduced risk of errors and defects by ensuring that all changes were properly tested and validated.
  3. Increased collaboration and communication among team members by providing a central repository for software artifacts.
  4. Improved quality and stability of software systems by ensuring that all changes are properly controlled and managed.

The main disadvantages of SCM

  1. Increased complexity and overhead, particularly in large software systems.
  2. Difficulty in managing dependencies and ensuring that all changes are properly integrated.
  3. Potential for conflicts and delays, particularly in large development teams with multiple contributors.

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