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Software Configuration Management in Software Engineering

What is Software Configuration Management?

In Software Engineering, Software Configuration Management(SCM) is a process to systematically manage, organize, and control the changes in the documents, codes, and other entities during the Software Development Life Cycle. The primary goal is to increase productivity with minimal mistakes. SCM is part of cross-disciplinary field of configuration management and it can accurately determine who made which revision.

In this software engineering tutorial, you will learn-

Why do we need Configuration management?

The primary reasons for Implementing Technical Software Configuration Management System are:

  • There are multiple people working on software which is continually updating
  • It may be a case where multiple version, branches, authors are involved in a software config project, and the team is geographically distributed and works concurrently
  • Changes in user requirement, policy, budget, schedule need to be accommodated.
  • Software should able to run on various machines and Operating Systems
  • Helps to develop coordination among stakeholders
  • SCM process is also beneficial to control the costs involved in making changes to a system
  • Any change in the software configuration Items will affect the final product. Therefore, changes to configuration items need to be controlled and managed.

Tasks in SCM process

  • Configuration Identification
  • Baselines
  • Change Control
  • Configuration Status Accounting
  • Configuration Audits and Reviews

Configuration Identification:

Configuration identification is a method of determining the scope of the software system. With the help of this step, you can manage or control something even if you don’t know what it is. It is a description that contains the CSCI type (Computer Software Configuration Item), a project identifier and version information.

Activities during this process:

Identification of configuration Items like source code modules, test case, and requirements specification.
Identification of each CSCI in the SCM repository, by using an object-oriented approach
The process starts with basic objects which are grouped into aggregate objects. Details of what, why, when and by whom changes in the test are made
Every object has its own features that identify its name that is explicit to all other objects
List of resources required such as the document, the file, tools, etc.

Example:

Instead of naming a File login.php its should be named login_v1.2.php where v1.2 stands for the version number of the file

Instead of naming folder “Code” it should be named “Code_D” where D represents code should be backed up daily.

Baseline:

A baseline is a formally accepted version of a software configuration item. It is designated and fixed at a specific time while conducting the SCM process. It can only be changed through formal change control procedures.

Activities during this process:

Facilitate construction of various versions of an application
Defining and determining mechanisms for managing various versions of these work products
The functional baseline corresponds to the reviewed system requirements
Widely used baselines include functional, developmental, and product baselines
In simple words, baseline means ready for release.

Change Control:

Change control is a procedural method which ensures quality and consistency when changes are made in the configuration object. In this step, the change request is submitted to software configuration manager.

Activities during this process:

Control ad-hoc change to build stable software development environment. Changes are committed to the repository
The request will be checked based on the technical merit, possible side effects and overall impact on other configuration objects.
It manages changes and making configuration items available during the software lifecycle

Configuration Status Accounting:

Configuration status accounting tracks each release during the SCM process. This stage involves tracking what each version has and the changes that lead to this version.

Software Configuration Management Plan

The SCMP (Software Configuration management planning) process planning begins at the early coding phases of a project. The outcome of the planning phase is the SCM plan which might be stretched or revised during the project.

  • The SCMP can follow a public standard like the IEEE 828 or organization specific standard
  • It defines the types of documents to be management and a document naming. Example Test_v1
  • SCMP defines the person who will be responsible for the entire SCM process and creation of baselines.
  • Fix policies for version management & change control
  • Define tools which can be used during the SCM process
  • Configuration management database for recording configuration information.

Software Configuration Management Tools

Any Change management software should have the following 3 Key features:

Concurrency Management:

When two or more tasks are happening at the same time, it is known as concurrent operation. Concurrency in context to SCM means that the same file being edited by multiple persons at the same time.

If concurrency is not managed correctly with SCM tools, then it may create many pressing issues.

Version Control:

SCM uses archiving method or saves every change made to file. With the help of archiving or save feature, it is possible to roll back to the previous version in case of issues.

Synchronization:

Users can checkout more than one files or an entire copy of the repository. The user then works on the needed file and checks in the changes back to the repository.They can synchronize their local copy to stay updated with the changes made by other team members.

Conclusion:

  • Configuration Management best practices helps organizations to systematically manage, organize, and control the changes in the documents, codes, and other entities during the Software Development Life Cycle.
  • The primary goal of the SCM process is to increase productivity with minimal mistakes
  • The main reason behind configuration management process is that there are multiple people working on software which is continually updating. SCM helps establish concurrency, synchronization, and version control.
  • A baseline is a formally accepted version of a software configuration item
  • Change control is a procedural method which ensures quality and consistency when changes are made in the configuration object.
  • Configuration status accounting tracks each release during the SCM process
  • Software Configuration audits verify that all the software product satisfies the baseline needs
  • Project manager, Configuration manager, Developer, Auditor, and user are participants in SCM process
  • The SCM process planning begins at the early phases of a project.
  • Git, Team foundation Sever and Ansible are few popular SCM tools.