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This module introduces software configuration management (SCM) as a key element of software engineering, and a key component of software development and maintenance environments. SCM is examined from the perspectives of a control function and a support function. Support for SCM in environments is assessed in terms of the state of practice and the state of the art.

Introduction

A system can be defined as a collection of components organized to accomplish a specific function or set of functions. The configuration of a system is the functional and/or physical characteristics of hardware, firmware, or software, or a combination of these, as set forth in technical documentation and achieved in a product. It can also be thought of as a collection of specific versions of hardware, firmware, or software items combined according to specific build procedures to serve a particular purpose. Configuration management (CM), then, is the discipline of identifying the configuration of a system at distinct points in time for the purpose of systematically controlling changes to the configuration, and maintaining the integrity and traceability of the configuration throughout the system life cycle. It is formally defined as “A discipline applying technical and administrative direction and surveillance to: identify and document the functional and physical characteristics of a configuration item, control changes to those characteristics, record and report change processing and implementation status, and verify compliance with specified requirements.”

Software configuration management (SCM) is a critical element of software engineering.

Unfortunately, in practice it is often ignored until absolutely necessary. It may be introduced at first customer release, possibly through customer pressure. Tool support for SCM is limited in that only certain aspects of software development and maintenance are accommodated. SCM methods and tools are often viewed as intrusive by developers, a management tool that imposes additional work with little perceived benefit to the tasks of the developer.

Software configuration management (SCM) is a supporting software life cycle process which benefits project management, development and maintenance activities, assurance activities, and the customers and users of the end product.

The concepts of configuration management apply to all items to be controlled, although there are some differences in implementation between hardware CM and software CM.

SCM is closely related to the software quality assurance (SQA) activity. SQA processes provide assurance that the software products and processes in the project life cycle conform to their specified requirements by planning, enacting, and performing a set of activities to provide adequate confidence that quality is being built into the software. SCM activities help in accomplishing these SQA goals.

The SCM activities are: management and planning of the SCM process, software configuration identification, software configuration control, software configuration status accounting, software configuration auditing, and software release management and delivery.

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Source:  OpenStax, Software engineering. OpenStax CNX. Jul 29, 2009 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10790/1.1
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