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Proper provisioning is a central part of configuration management, and relies on an accurate picture of available resources.
IT provisioning takes many forms. When a new employee joins the company, their digital provisioning includes access to groups, applications and storage appropriate for their role -- and nothing more. As another example, a server provisioned for a new workload needs the operating system, files, application and access configured in accordance with established policy to a known desired state. This discussion focuses centrally on hardware and software asset tracking, provisioning and management.
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It's hard to provision resources without knowing what resources are available, so organizations use IT asset tracking.
Many configuration management tools have some native IT asset inventory capabilities. Some inventory features in configuration management tools enable automated discovery, wherein the tool queries systems and determines the hardware and software available on each server, as well as storage and network devices. Discovery may also extend to the virtual layer's VMs, operating systems and applications. An import feature can pull in lists of inventory supplied by other parties, such as a cloud infrastructure provider or a configuration management database (CMDB).
Software agents enable organizations to discover and inventory IT assets. Configuration management tools install an agent on systems to collect and report data to the CMDB, which summarizes the data and compiles reports. Agents can also support configuration enforcement, whether through admin alerts or by actually preventing unauthorized changes to the system's hardware or software configuration.
Inventory also crosses over into IT asset tracking, providing a comprehensive picture of physical and software assets across the enterprise. IT asset information ranges from vendor makes and models to details such as serial numbers, purchase and service contract forms, and software license and maintenance agreement data. Asset management helps organizations monitor spending, protect gear, ensure useful agreements and prevent license violations.
IT asset tracking summaries can inform resource capacity decisions. When administrators see which resources are available and how those resources are used over time, they can predict future use and make purchasing decisions.
Configuration management features and functions include discovery, asset management, provisioning, desired state enforcement and change management, reporting and alerting, formal workflow orchestration, system inventory and license management, and capacity tracking and planning. The actual suite of configuration management features will depend on each tool or framework.