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mValent  Founded in 2001 and headquartered in Tewksbury, Massachusetts, mValent, Inc. is a provider of infrastructure management software that enables companies to improve application production quality and reduce cost to maintain complex environments. For more information visit
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mValent's Integrity 3.0 Central Integrity October 27, 2005 Network Computing

Managing an application infrastructure can be demanding, especially in a tiered deployment architecture. If multiple Web and application server configurations are involved, the problems associated with maintaining consistency across the organization are compounded.

MValent's Integrity can help harried administrators by providing a centralized repository from which all text-based configurations can be managed and, in some circumstances, automated. Integrity 3.0 lets you perform audit configuration changes, and capture and centralize configurations. The program also notifies you immediately when a change is made.

Integrity, which is closely aligned with the ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library), organizes its features and functionality into three categories: configuration, change and release. In short, it provides mechanisms for managing configurations, tracking changes and provisioning configurations across the enterprise.

Integrity can manage virtually any text-based configuration file. It's designed to suck in configurations from application servers, but also supports a wide variety of other infrastructure devices, including Web servers, routers and switches. For each machine I wanted to manage, I had to perform some setup within Integrity. Its power lies in its ability to both read and write managed configuration files, so you must make sure the access method includes write access for the specified user.

Access to resources is specified through authentication packs, which specify how Integrity should retrieve the configuration file--through FTP, SSH (secure shell) or a UNC (Universal Naming Convention). Integrity's power lies in its ability to both read and write managed configuration files, so you must make sure the access method includes write access for the specified user.

To test this, I specified a WebSphere 6.0 automation pack and then pointed Integrity at a WAS 6.0 directory over UNC. Integrity initially had some problems pulling in our WebSphere configuration--differences in configuration format between WAS 5.1 and 6.0 were the culprit--but mValent engineers quickly remedied the problem, and we moved forward without further delay.

Integrity supports a lengthy list of possible assets, including Apache Web server, BEA Systems WebLogic, IBM WebSphere, Microsoft Internet Information Server and SQL Server and Oracle databases. Integrity also provides an import mechanism similar to that found in Excel that lets you specify how the configuration file should be read--comma delimited (CSV) or XML-based--and then parses the file. In my tests, Integrity handled simple CSV or key-value pairs (Windows INI style) with ease.

Integrity organizes configurations into projects, which helps when using the comprehensive comparison tools. I configured two projects, one to hold my WAS 6.0 and Apache production configurations and another to represent a development or quality assurance (QA) environment. By selecting the Apache httpd.conf from both projects, I could compare the two (see screen, page 20).

One glitch: It's not readily apparent which configuration file belongs to which project. For each piece, such as DocumentRoot or Listen, I could ignore key-value pairs on a global, asset or session basis. This is useful if you need to ignore values that must be different across configurations, such as host-specific values, but still view base-configuration differences that may be causing problems or deviating from organizational standards.

The interface clearly shows configuration differences through bright color schemes and uses the same view an administrator would to edit the configuration file. This lets admins immediately change one or both files without moving between the config files in the hierarchy. Comparisons can be executed against configuration files from different machines or across versions of a single configuration file from a single machine.

Trail of Changes

Tracking is accomplished through a polling mechanism that occurs on a scheduled basis, so in a large network changes will only be detected periodically. Once a configuration is loaded, it's a simple task to enable tracking, which then logs each change to the configuration file whether it occurs out of band or from within Integrity's role-based structure.

I enabled tracking for my production WAS 6.0 configuration and then modified the configuration manually through the WAS administration console. Integrity picked up the change, shot off an e-mail and further notified me through the use of the alerts tab within the Integrity console. I scanned the differences and then was given the choice of provisioning the WAS configuration stored within Integrity back to the server or accepting the change and creating a new version within Integrity. I decided to provision the original configuration back to the server. When I reloaded the WAS admin console, it notified me--as expected--that the configuration had changed.

Functions such as copying, cloning, provisioning and versioning configurations are a breeze with Integrity, though the interface is cluttered by the extensive hierarchical nature of product configurations. Integrity continually polls for config changes through the defined authentication packs, and can be scripted using Python to provision configurations on a scheduled basis.

Administering Integrity

You can control configuration administration through Integrity's role-based authentication and authorization system, which provides a delegated admin environment. For even finer control, you may override permissions at the file level, which enables an administrative hierarchy of a single resource type. For example, I designated permissions on both WAS environments (production and QA) and then further dove into specific configuration files, giving one administrator access to modify the configuration for the production environment but not the QA.

Overall, mValent's Integrity 3.0 performed as advertised. The extensive hardware requirements may make the cost of acquisition less than appealing, but the reduction in risk, management time and troubleshooting may be well worth the $60,000 investment.

Lori MacVittie is a Network Computing senior technology editor working in our Green Bay, Wis., labs. She has been a software developer, a network administrator, and a member of the technical architecture team for a global transportation and logistics organization. Write to her at [email protected].

MValent automates app server configurations

"We set out to address and automate all the information that was held by IT departments. The knowledge held by DBAs, systems administrators and so forth is the glue that holds the application together," says Andrew Bird, mValent vice president of business development.

The application server platform support comes in software packages called enablers. The WebSphere and WebLogic enablers automate the creation and management of configurations for those platforms. Among the features are best practices templates, automatic verification and application server replication.

The templates include definitions and specifications designed for the application server platform. The enabler will match the definitions with what is in the customers' environment and then customize the templates to their infrastructure. This will help them standardize their management processes on those platforms because all the configurations will be based on a common template, the company says.

The automatic verification feature is there to ensure that as additional application servers are provisioned and brought on line they are in sync with the current application infrastructure. The enablers will check the application server configuration against that in the templates and verify that it meets the chosen standard.

Application server replication automates the process of creating a new server.

Lastly, the new enablers will automatically save WebSphere- and WebLogic-specific information into mValent's configuration management database. The company says this simplifies the process of creating a consolidated source for all infrastructure configurations for customers.

"The software can reduce the time it takes to perform a server replication or large migration job from three men working three months down to one man for a week, for example," Bird says. "It's an automation platform for application infrastructure."

MValent software captures information about infrastructure requirements for different applications and models how applications use infrastructure components such as Web, application and database servers. The captured information and models inform different IT departments how to either write an application or configure infrastructure components for optimal performance.

MValent uses software installed on a dedicated server and client software on, say, an application developer's desktop. The client software collects information relevant to its user's role in the application lifecycle. For example, a systems administrator, an application developer, a database administrator and a network manager could all use the client software.

The data configured and collected by the client software regarding any given application from that specific perspective is then sent to the server software to be correlated and to create the models of how the application users multiple components in the infrastructure.

Available now, pricing for mValent's Infrastructure Automation Suite 2.2 is based on the number of IT users and starts at $50,000.


Andrew Bird Vice President of Marketing and Business Development

Andrew Bird has a consistent track record of success at enterprise software companies ranging in size from early-stage to market leader. Prior to joining mValent, Andrew was the Executive Vice President of Marketing at Precise Software Solutions, where he established Precise as the leading application performance management ISV which merged with VERITAS in July 2003 in a $675M transaction.

Andrew joined Precise after building the application service management business for BMC Software in Europe. Andrew's 25-year career includes executive management roles at Precise Software Solutions, BMC Software, and BGS Systems, where he held various senior positions in business development, marketing, and sales, both in the US and Europe. Earlier in his career, Andrew also held sales, systems engineering and technical support positions with Cullinet Software and Cincom Systems. Andrew is a native of the United Kingdom and, when not focused on business, can be found sailing the northeast coast of the US.

James Tauber James Tauber's Blog James Tauber, Chief Scientist, mValent

Personal info for jtauber

Name: James Tauber



I'm Chief Scientist at mValent and an original participant in the XML activity at the W3C. I wrote the first open source implementation of XSL-FOs, FOP (which I donated to Apache); started the first open source implementation of UDDI, jUDDI; a Python implementation of the XML schema language TREX, PyTREX; and am co-developer of Redfoot, an RDF application framework.

Recently, I started PyGo, a Python application for studying and playing Go.

Email: [email protected]

This person is:

Recent diary entries for jtauber:

Living back in Perth, but working for mValent in Boston. Working on the editing and scoring for my first short film, Alibi Phone Network. Resumed work on my morphological database of the Greek New Testament, MorphGNT and was in the midst of a major rewrite of Leonardo (release as 0.4)

Python is my programming language of choice. I've been using it for over seven years. I, like many people, have Paul Prescod to thank for my "conversion".

I am currently working on:

Also see my new Relational Python series.

Little scripts people might find fun / useful:

In hiatus are:

Open-source software I have previously written in Python includes:

I also mentored the Python Bayesian Network project for Google's Summer of Code.

Re [tools-dev] Python support



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