Dynamic Configuration Management

Dynamic Configuration Management (DCM) is a robust methodology for structuring the configuration of computing workloads. With DCM, developers articulate workload specifications which detail all the prerequisites for successful workload execution. These specifications are then dynamically utilized to construct configurations, enabling workload deployment in a specific environment. One of the standout benefits of DCM is that developers are not burdened with defining or maintaining any environment-specific configurations for their workloads.

Developer perspective

For developers, DCM cultivates workload-centric development. This approach enables workloads, along with their respective resources and configurations, to be deployed across all environments using a single workload specification.

Platform Engineer perspective

Platform engineers leverage DCM to ascertain how and where to provision resources and workloads. This significantly enhances the consistency and compliance within an organization, making the implementation of a self-service Internal Developer Platform (IDP) more feasible.

DCM versus static configuration

DCM is an alternative to the traditional, static, infrastructure-centric approach where a developer is required to maintain distinct configuration files for each environment and manage the infrastructure independently, or delegate to other teams, often termed as “TicketOps.”

Advantages of Dynamic Configuration Management

Standardization of configuration

A key advantage of DCM is its ability to standardize configuration, with the workload specification serving as the focal point of workload-centric development.

Workload specifications are structured files that outline everything a workload requires for successful operation, devoid of environment-specific configurations. Platform teams can use these specifications to determine how to deploy workloads based on standard base configurations, effectively eliminating configuration drift.

Configuration drift refers to the scenario where teams create new workloads by duplicating an existing workload’s configuration structure and customizing it to fit their needs. Over time, these customizations compound and cause subtle differences in configuration between workloads. This can make bulk updates across workloads challenging.

By using environment-agnostic workload specifications, DCM eliminates configuration drift and reduces cognitive load. Platform teams are responsible for provisioning the environment-specific resources and configurations for the workload, while development teams simply declare everything they need in a single workload specification that applies across all environments.

Separation of concerns

DCM enforces a clear separation between environment-specific and environment-agnostic configurations. In certain regulated industries, it is essential to maintain tight control over data access, which often requires a centralized database administrator (DBA) team. With DCM, automated tooling can notify the DBA team whenever a new database is needed, or even automate the entire process—provisioning databases as and when required by workloads.

Enhanced developer experience

Adopting a DCM approach can significantly reduce developer cognitive load. When integrated with a dynamic Internal Developer Platform (IDP), developers only need to maintain the workload specification. The IDP ensures that the correct resources are provisioned and wired to the workload, thereby improving the developer experience.

New working possibilities

DCM offers new ways of working, especially when tooling is used to manage the dynamically generated configuration. This can include provisioning (and cleaning up) infrastructure based on what a workload actually needs, setting up ephemeral environments (for example, on every PR), and centralizing changes of resources shared by workloads managed by different teams.