12.4. Tracking Configuration Drift

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Much of the JBoss ON configuration management is designed around implementing changes for resources by editing configuration files or updating files and packages. But another aspect of managing configuration is detecting changes.
IT administrators must invest a significant amount of time planning the optimum configuration for systems in every type of environment, from production systems to internal resources. This ideal configuration includes file settings, software versions, and system settings. Resource configuration is going to change naturally over time, but administrators need to be able to track those changes to make sure that no unplanned or undesirable changes impact the resource. Defining a baseline configuration and tracking changes helps systems remain resilient during both maintenance and failures.
The unplanned changes that occur to a resource's configuration is called drift, as the configuration moves away from the designed baseline. Drift is common because of frequent software and hardware updates, particularly in a colocation facility or using virtual machines.
Production, staging, development, and recovery configurations are designed to have identical or near-identical configuration to maintain consistency. As the configurations within the different environments change, there emerges a configuration gap. Ultimately, this configuration gap can lead to disaster recovery failures or high availability failures because the configuration of the production system and the backup system are too different.
Drift monitoring provides a very general, freewheeling content monitoring. Rather than structured configuration management, drift monitoring tracks changes, any changes, in files — even binary files.
Configuration History v. Configuration Drift
The configuration history for a resource applies only to the supported configuration properties for that specific resource instance.
Drift management has a much more external view of configuration changes. Drift is associated with a resource — like a platform or a JBoss server — but it is not restricted to that resource or to set properties for that resource:
  • Drift looks at whole files within a directory, including added and deleted files and binary files.
  • Drift supports user-defined templates which can be applied to any resource which supports drift monitoring.
  • Drift can keep a running history of changes where each changeset (snapshot) is compared against the previous set of changes. Alternatively, JBoss ON can compare each change against a defined baseline snapshot.
The drift definition that is essentially a profile that identifies a directory and files that should be monitored. Any time there is any change in that drift base directory or any of its subdirectories — file modifications, new files, or deleted files — the drift detection scan notices the change and records it.
Drift detection can be used by administrators to track scheduled changes, maintenance and updates, and server changes. There are a lot of common scenarios where administrators need to be aware that change has occurred (and even be able to identify the specific changes made), but that occur in areas outside normal JBoss ON configuration tracking:
  • System password changes
  • System ACL changes
  • Database and server URL changes
  • JBoss settings changes
  • Changed JAR, WAR, and other binary files used by applications
  • Script changes
Drift is not bound or restricted to a resource managed by JBoss ON. You can create a drift definition for a platform and set it to monitor any file or directory on that platform, even if it is outside the JBoss ON inventory, as long as that directory is accessible to the system user that the JBoss ON agent runs as.
Managing configuration drift is described more in Chapter 15, Managing Configuration Drift.
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