Software Configuration Management in Software Engineering

Software Configuration Management in Software Engineering

What is Software Configuration Management?

Software Configuration Management (SCM) is used to maintain control over the various versions of the software. This is done to ensure compliance with requirements, minimize the risk of being sued for copyright infringement or allowing code that could potentially contain a computer virus. SCM involves using an automated tool to manage and communicate changes to your software system. In this blog, I will cover the following concepts in detail:

  • What is Software Configuration Management?
  • Importance of Software Configuration Management
  • Software Configuration Management Example
  • Tasks in Software Configuration Management
  • Roles in SCM Process
  • Software Configuration Management Plan
  • Software Configuration Management Tools

What is Software Configuration Management?

Software Configuration Management in software engineering is the process of controlling changes that are made to the software to maintain existing products. The purpose of any SCM system is to track change in a way that is easy to understand and manage. When changes are made without SCM procedures, it is difficult for anyone to know what has changed, when it was changed, by whom it was changed, or why it was changed. The purpose of SCM is to make change management more systematic and routine.

Configuration management software makes it possible to manage all the versions of a software package in a single repository. This lets project managers keep track of releases and use previous versions if needed. Some organizations have a single SCM solution that can be used throughout the SDLC, whereas, other organizations have different tools specific to each phase of the SDLC.

The configuration management of a project is a key area that developers should focus on. There are various reasons behind the importance but the main two reasons are to control the large set of images for different environments and to run different sets or sets of images in parallel (for testing).

  • To develop and maintain a coordinated approach to configuration management, including the joint application of configuration management techniques and practices across the software life cycle
  • To assure that any new or changed system elements are adequately controlled throughout their life cycles
  • To maintain knowledge, traceability, and transparency of system entities and relationships throughout their life cycles; and of interactions between these entities and their environment, both static and dynamic.

Click Here to Read: Understanding Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC)

Importance of Software Configuration Management

The objective of SCM is to develop a set of procedures for controlling changes to a product, thereby ensuring a consistent approach to quality as well as compliance with applicable organizational standards. The following are a few benefits of Software Configuration Management:

  1. Efficient version control – The version control allows developers to efficiently access and retrieve code from multiple versions of the products in different versions. It also has a roll back feature that can be used if mistakes are made during the development process.
  2. It supports collaboration – The development team can work simultaneously on a single project without interfering with each other because SCM provides an additional layer between developers and source code.
  3. Consistency – The configuration management system implements standard operating procedures that ensure that all developers adhere to a certain set of guidelines while they update the source code. This ensures consistency in the way code is updated across multiple platforms which prevents errors and bugs from creeping into the products.
  4. Risk mitigation – If you have an established deployment procedure, it minimizes risks when there is a need for deploying an upgrade across multiple systems. 

Software Configuration Management Example

Software Configuration Management is about making sure that the software you are writing is consistent and works correctly. It allows you to keep track of all the different parts of your project and make sure they don’t conflict with each other. This may sound like a simple task but as the software project grows there will be more and more files to manage. Maintaining track of all and it can be a very complex task.

The first thing you should do is to create a list of all the files that are related to your project, whether they are source code, image files, documentation, etc. This will help you to keep track of everything. You can then set up a directory structure for your project, making sure that all these files have their own place in it. This will allow you to know where every file belongs and how it relates to others.

You should also try to put these files on some kind of version control system if possible. This way every time you make an update or change something, you can keep track of what you changed and when. This will be useful later on if you need to roll back or go back in time to see what has been changed in the project history.

Click Here to Read: What is DevOps? The Beginner’s Guide

Tasks in Software Configuration Management Process

The purpose of a Software Configuration Management process is to ensure consistency of the configuration items across all levels of the organization and development lifecycle to provide a complete history of the evolution of configuration items. Configuration Management is a process that ensures that each and every change made to a software system, from inception through its development, procurement, installation, modification, and retirement, is controlled and documented. Following are the tasks involved in Software Configuration Management Process

Tasks in Software Configuration Management Process
Software Configuration Management Process

Configuration Identification

The goal of configuration identification is to have a fully documented collection of information that provides the audience with all the necessary details about an item independent of its representation.

Activities during this process are given below:

  • The identification of configuration items is essential in configuration management. The identification of each object stored in the repository will allow you to prevent conflicts between multiple versions of the same file.
  • The configuration management process starts with individual objects. That’s the basic level. After the individual objects are grouped, they form an aggregate object. When necessary, information is added to the aggregate object. 
  • Every object has its properties, actions, and interrelationships with other objects, which help define it. Maintaining a framework for configuration management is necessary. This includes checking the updates and changes of the system and more.

Baseline

A baseline is an overall picture of the code at a certain point in time. Baselines are usually created manually, or by some kind of auto-build or continuous integration system. The purpose of a baseline is to have an unchanging reference point that can be easily identified if it has been changed so that you can know what was different between the old version and the new version.

Activities during this process are given below:

  • Provide programmers with the means to construct various versions of an application
  • Software configuration management is all about ensuring that the different versions of work products are easily accessed.
  • The functional baseline is a comparison between what was originally specified and what was built.
  • Baselines are widely used in software configuration management but are infrequently used in product development management. They include functional, developmental, and product baselines.

Change Control

The Change Control process allows you to compare your software’s current version with a standard version. The configuration can be source code, object code, test cases, documentation, or any other software artifacts. The change control process ensures that changes that have been approved are implemented in a controlled manner. 

Activities during this process are given below:

  • We use a repository to control how software is changed. Changes are committed to a repository.
  • The subject of this request will be reviewed by the program’s administrators based on its technical merits and possible side effects concerning other elements of the program.

Configuration Status Accounting

Change control is the process of ensuring that all changes to a software system adhere to some set of rules and procedures to ensure the quality and consistency of the product.

Activities during this process are given below:

  • To help ensure stability and reduce the risk of software bugs, changes are committed to the repository only after a developer has thoroughly tested the change.
  • The request will be evaluated on several criteria, including the technical merit of your proposal and its impact on other configuration objects.
  • Its purpose is to manage changes and make configuration items available to developers over the course of a software program’s lifecycle.

Configuration Audits and Reviews

This task is just an analysis of the software to decide whether it is suitable with the defined configuration management plan. Configuration audits can be conducted by internal or external auditors, by customers or contractors, or by the project team members themselves.

  • Maintains a record of all the changes made to a baseline so the information can be used to create future baselines or revert back to an older baseline.
  • Keep track of change requests
  • Complete list of the changes made since the last baseline.
  • Track progress to the next baseline

Click Here to Read: Git Tutorial: Everything you need to know

Roles in SCM Process

  • Configuration Manager: He/she is the leader who is Accountable for specifying configuration items. CM assures the team pursues the SCM process. CM requires approval or denies change requests.
  • Developer: The developer requires to revise the code as per usual development actions or modification requests. He is liable for sustaining the configuration of code. The developer should inspect the changes and fixes conflicts
  • Auditor: The auditor is accountable for software configuration management audits and checks. He needs to confirm the consistency and fullness of software release.
  • Project manager: Confirm that the software is developed within a time and budget. PM tracks the progress of the team and identifies problems in the SCM method. He also creates reports about the progress of the project an software.
  • User: The end-user ot customer must understand the essential SCM terms to assure he has the most recent version of the software

Software Configuration Management Plan

Software Configuration Management Plan
Software Configuration Management Plan

The goal of the software configuration management plan is to keep control over the product and track the modification of all software documentation and the system itself.

It Addresses the following activities:

  • Identify all of the components that make up a system.
  • Define versioning policy including Change Control Board(CCB), changes, release cycles, and migration plans.
  • Identify system components and define how changes to each component will be handled. 
  • Define the process of creating, testing, and releasing software products / versions to the production environment.
  • Assess the typical change rate for each component and determine how often it should be evaluated for changes.
  • Specify who will get notified whenever there is a change in software.
  • Specify if there are any dependencies in software components and how these dependencies will be managed
  • Determine procedures for making changes and performing upgrades.
  • Determine procedures for backing out changes that have been made by mistake.

Software Configuration Management Tools

The majority of open source tools are available for free. For those who don’t know what a configuration management tool is I’ll give a quick introduction. A software configuration management tool is a piece of software that a team of developers uses to manage the versions of files that they are working on. It is typically used to track changes in source code, documentation, and computer binaries.

In practice, SCM tools are used for:

  • Version Control: Tracking and controlling changes to the source code over time.
  • Change Management: Automatically capturing metadata about each change.
  • Build Management: Automating the build process by tracking dependencies between source files and other data sources or artifacts.
  • Configuration Management: Tracking information about machines, operating systems, compilers, etc. for the deployment of the software.
  • Debugging: Debugging and testing applications by allowing access to previous revisions of the code.

Click Here to Read: 13 Best Software Configuration Management Tools

Conclusion

The above discussion has been able to give a clear idea about SCM and its benefits. We just need to use SCM for maintaining software projects if we want to succeed in our work, then what are we waiting for? Just put this all ideas into practice and enjoy your success.

6 Comments

  1. Florencia November 8, 2021
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