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CFEngine 3 Nova: Configuration Management At Warp Speed?

With roots in Europe and a new office in Silicon Valley, CFEngine's commercial configuration management software "CFEngine 3 Nova" has been going through a rigorous refinement process since its first launch six months ago. The product is designed for system administrators looking to manage developers' applications across servers, desktops, and other heterogeneous computing devices with what the company calls "autonomous agent" technology.

With programmers needing to work in line with the demands of a web 2.0 centric world where cloud-based application needs are arguably changing more rapidly than at any time in the past, the ability to support command-line needs with an infrastructure capable of continuous monitoring, self-repair, and update functions becomes even more important.

Speaking directly to Dr. Dobb's, Mark Burgess, CTO and founder of CFEngine, explained that CFEngine 3 Nova is the first leg of the CFEngine 3 Enterprise roadmap.

"It takes CFEngine's basic open source, federated architecture and adds scalable orchestration, high-availability reporting, fault tolerance and auditing, and compliance and performance monitoring. For those shifting towards cloud, CFEngine adapts transparently to Amazon or VMware, as it does to Solaris, AIX, and Windows. There are examples of CFEngine 3 Nova running on embedded devices, storage units, and even Android phones," said Burgess.

CFengine 3 has virtualization management to build small private clouds, so even regulated, conservative environments can get the benefits of elastic server management. There are new simplifying interfaces too for service management and security.

According to Burgess, "Users tell us that CFEngine is the simplest configuration product to deploy. There's no Ruby or Python dependence, for instance. Also, it's by far the cheapest in terms of resources — that's important in the cloud, where the total cost of running with memory and CPU is an issue. In terms of security, speed, agility, etc, CFEngine is unbeatable."

"We currently do well in the enterprise market, where a lot of importance is placed on compliance in complex, federated environments. We have five-minute resolution for continuous repair and reporting, and will pretty soon have virtual interfaces for handling multiple standards in a knowledge-oriented approach. Knowledge management is a big deal for us."

Reports go to a web console, with REST API (for app integration), and there's command-line reporting too. These support high availability and fault tolerance, for mission-critical environments. Development is all across the board, with a lot of attention on software reliability, but currently the company is turning its focus to making massive deployment easier.

"We are seeing close to a hundred thousand hosts in an integrated framework, with federated control. A lot of effort is going into user design, and our infrastructure template library. Today, CFengine offers top infrastructure engineers a lot of power, but many still find the software daunting to master," said Burgess.

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