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10/17/2005
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Review: Software For Managing Server Config Changes

mValent's configuration file manager lets you consistently maintain config changes across your application, Web and database servers.

Managing an application infrastructure can be demanding, especially in a tiered deployment architecture. If multiple Web and application server configurations are involved, the problems associated with maintaining consistency across the organization are compounded.

MValent's Integrity can help harried administrators by providing a centralized repository from which all text-based configurations can be managed and, in some circumstances, automated. Integrity 3.0 lets you perform audit configuration changes, and capture and centralize configurations. The program also notifies you immediately when a change is made.

Integrity, which is closely aligned with the ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library), organizes its features and functionality into three categories: configuration, change and release. In short, it provides mechanisms for managing configurations, tracking changes and provisioning configurations across the enterprise.

Specs and Setup

Integrity has some strict hardware requirements, and I scrambled to supply a machine that would meet its need for a dual 3-GHz processor with 3 MB of RAM in our NWC Inc. business applications lab in Green Bay, Wis. (For more on our 24/7, real-world production environment, go to inc.networkcomputing.com.) Unfortunately, the Windows 2003-based beta version of Integrity I loaded required a separate installation process for its embedded Oracle database. However, mValent says the final install program will be completely integrated.

Good
• Automation packs available for most commonly deployed application servers
• Manages any configuration file, even without an automation pack

Bad

• No task-based navigation
• Eclipse's tab-based interface difficult to navigate

Integrity 3.0, starts at $60,000. mValent, (781) 272-5650. www.mvalent.com

Integrity can manage virtually any text-based configuration file. It's designed to suck in configurations from application servers, but also supports a wide variety of other infrastructure devices, including Web servers, routers and switches. For each machine I wanted to manage, I had to perform some setup within Integrity. Its power lies in its ability to both read and write managed configuration files, so you must make sure the access method includes write access for the specified user.

Access to resources is specified through authentication packs, which specify how Integrity should retrieve the configuration file--through FTP, SSH (secure shell) or a UNC (Universal Naming Convention). Integrity's power lies in its ability to both read and write managed configuration files, so you must make sure the access method includes write access for the specified user.

To test this, I specified a WebSphere 6.0 automation pack and then pointed Integrity at a WAS 6.0 directory over UNC. Integrity initially had some problems pulling in our WebSphere configuration--differences in configuration format between WAS 5.1 and 6.0 were the culprit--but mValent engineers quickly remedied the problem, and we moved forward without further delay.

Integrity supports a lengthy list of possible assets, including Apache Web server, BEA Systems WebLogic, IBM WebSphere, Microsoft Internet Information Server and SQL Server and Oracle databases. Integrity also provides an import mechanism similar to that found in Excel that lets you specify how the configuration file should be read--comma delimited (CSV) or XML-based--and then parses the file. In my tests, Integrity handled simple CSV or key-value pairs (Windows INI style) with ease.

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