Sys-Admin and Configuration Management

We use SaltStack for Configuration Management. This article explains the benefits of using configuration management tools: What are configuration management tools?

Here is a copy of the list of important features:


Configuration enforcement may be the single most important feature of a configuration management tool. By running regularly and ensuring the machine is configured to the desired state, configuration management tools prevent configuration drift. Configuration drift can happen in a variety of ways: Package updates, live debugging, “helpful” coworkers, etc. Whatever the cause, being able to say with confidence, “This is how this machine is configured,” is a great way to shorten incident resolution time and reduce surprises.

Enables cooperation:

Configuration management tools make it easier for team members to cooperate. With one change, configuration can be updated across the entire infrastructure. Hand-editing configuration on machines can only lead to unexpected differences. By putting all of the configuration in one place, you can keep from stepping on someone else’s (including future you) toes.

Version control friendly:

Of course, the best way to enable cooperation is to have everything in a version control system. All of the tools listed below use some form of text for configuration. This means you can take advantage of the benefits of your favorite version control system. The benefits of version control are beyond the scope of this article, but let me assure you from experience that you really, really want your configuration in a version control system.

Enables change control processes:

Because configuration management tools are textual and VCS-friendly, you can treat infrastructure changes like code. Changes can be submitted as diffs or merge requests and be subject to code review before approval. Having explicitly enumerated changes with timestamps can make reconstructing incidents much easier. With atomic changes, you can release them at a rate you’re comfortable with instead of throwing a bucket of changes at your infrastructure all at once.


Few sysadmins maintain completely homogeneous environments. Even if you’re an all-Linux shop, you probably have multiple distros that you support, or at least multiple versions of a distro. With configuration management tools, many of the operating-system-specific implementations of a configuration are abstracted away for you. The same configuration file can be used to manage, for example, the installation of Apache HTTPD on both Red Hat and Ubuntu systems.