Server provisioning and configuration management is a set of tools focused on managing the configuration life cycle of physical and virtual server environments. Some vendors offer functionality for the entire life cycle of physical servers, or they may offer specific point solutions in a couple of areas or focus solely on virtual servers.
Server repurposing enables servers to be quickly reconfigured to run different software stacks or images. Server repurposing is used to share servers and enable high utilisation through repurposing. It can be used to add capacity and elasticity to an IT service. It can manage physical and virtual servers, switching between them. Gartner advises organisations to consider repurposing for higher asset utilisation and lower costs. It is ideal for enterprises consolidating data centres or implementing disaster recovery sites. For high availability architectures, server repurposing can reduce spare server inventory.
Provisioning has historically focused on bare metal installation of a new physical server, as well as on deploying new applications to a server. This is usually performed with imaging, scripting response files for unattended installations or by leveraging the platform vendor’s utilities, for example Solaris Jumpstart or Linux Kickstart. With virtual servers it begins by provisioning the hypervisor.
Application provisioning and maintenance
This includes a broad set of multiplatform functionality to discover and provision OSs or applications or update configuration settings. These tools can also make ongoing updates, for example patches. Gartner said to get real value from these tools requires a level of standardisation in the software stack.
Configuration modelling and compliance
This enables the discovery of software, hardware and virtual servers, some can discover dependency relationships across servers and applications.
Best practice evaluation criteria
With an increase in the frequency and number of changes to servers and applications, Gartner advises IT organisations to emphasise the standardisation of technologies and processes to improve availability. These tools reduce overall cost to manage and support patching and rapid deployments, and VM policy enforcement, as well as to provide a mechanism to monitor compliance. Evaluation criteria should include technologies that provide active capability (installation and deployment) and ongoing maintenance, as well as auditing and reporting. It should also include the capability to address the unique requirements of virtual servers and VM guests.
When standards have emerged, Gartner recommends organisations implement these tools to automate manual tasks for repeatable, accurate, and auditable configuration change controls. This will help organisations gain efficiencies in moving from a monolithic imaging strategy to a dynamic layered approach to incremental changes.
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