I love reading articles like these, mostly because they deal with issues that I see almost every day in my day job. Adding a new server to your deployment should be as simple as doing a base install and then pointing your configuration management system at it. The hard work should be done once, defining services, their configuration and their relationships.

The operational efficiencies gained from an automated configuration management system should extend beyond growing your current server farm. The time taken to track down bugs and reproduce problems should fall substantially when you know all your servers have the correct configuration. No more diff’ing the config across multiple servers to figure out why one is behaving different to another. No more checking software version numbers across hosts, because sometimes, a host is missed during an upgrade. No more wondering if apache is supposed to be installed on one of your mail servers.

Once your operational staff are relieved of these tedious tasks, their time can be used more effectively in improving aspects of your service. All those tasks that should be done “one day” such as implementing or improving backups, capacity planning or monitoring and reporting of the service can finally get some love.

As we move towards a virtualisation of hardware, automation of provisioning, building and management of servers will become ever more critical. Businesses with advanced operational practices will gain a competitive edge over those organisations who still manually build, configure and maintain their hosts.