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Controlled Change Management

From: Scott Walters
Subject: Controlled Change Management
Date: Fri, 31 Jan 2003 13:27:53 -0500 (EST)

Hello All,

        For quite some time I have believed that cfengine is the 'right
tool' for managing a diverse collection of computers.  I've only just know
got things going in a development environment, and have things working
from a fuctional point of view.

        I am now to the, "OK, now what" part of implementation.  Besides
architectural and config layout concerns which will only be resolved by
doing, I am very concerned about how to implement cfengine, where
controlling changes is imperative.

        Over the years as a computer professional, I've learned that
reliability is more important than performance.  And to acheive
reliability, you need to have devel, test, and production environments.
The production environment is then only changed when changes have been
applied and validated in the devel and test environment.

        In my small amount of QA experience, I've learned that before you
change something, you need to confirm it currently is working/broken,
change, then reconfirm it is now working/broken.  So audit-change-audit
should be the entire 'change' procedure.

        I'd like to have cfengine be an audit tool that is capable of
change, WHEN I WANT IT TO.  In a true production environment, I can't have
cfgengine constantly massaging systems to keep them running.  If they are
deviating from a norm, I need to be able to determing why, since all
changes should be scheduled.

        I just get the feeling that cfengine is a tool that is being used
in environments where 'getting it to work' is good enough, and there are
not rigid change management policies/procedures in place.

        My first thought is that the modules I write should all be capable
of running in an audit only mode, and a fix (audit-change-audit) mode,
based on a variable defintion.  I realize that cfagent can be directed to
'not copy', 'don't edit', but depending on the audit (he might need to
copy a script to run), some of those things may need to happen.

        A large motivating factor is that I need to know I can install
cfengine on any host, do an audit and not break anything that is currently

        So my question to the group is, how have others implemented and
architected cfengine rollouts where controlling and scheduling change is a

        Also, is their a repository, or plans for a repository of 'useful'
cfengine scripts.  I am thinking initially that CERTs would be a great
place to start, and the idea of going through the last 5 years of CERTs a
little daunting.

Scott Walters

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