A configuration management plan needs to be a custom fit

The configuration management process begins with tool evaluation

The reasons you and your IT team might consider implementing a configuration management tool won't be the same as those pondered by your counterparts running some other data center. Your reasons probably won't be ones supplied by a well-practiced sales rep. Your reasons will be your reasons -- unique responses to particular needs and preferences within your organization.

Just as varied as the motivations are the options available. This is where the configuration management process gets interesting. The products come in many forms and aim to fix many problems. The selection of a tool that fits your team and your expectations will take some time and effort.

One IT team will be more comfortable working in the Ruby programming language. Another might prefer handling YAML file formats. You'll need to assess your team's skills and preferences as part of your tool evaluation.

IT trainer and author Sander van Vugt offers his take on that and related issues in this handbook's first article. He looks at how Chef and Puppet, for instance, are in some ways similar but not the same. He compares and contrasts tools such as Ansible with PowerShell DSC. While all point toward similar goals of helping users better understand and manage how their systems are configured, the products take different routes there.

Trying to manage a complex and largely virtualized IT environment without a management tool could set back your organization's larger goals. It's smart to deploy a tool that'll help. It's not smart to choose a tool without fully matching its capabilities to your goals.

So sort out the reasons you might begin the configuration management process in the first place. Knowing exactly why those reasons are your reasons will give you a better chance at successfully putting a product to work.