Mike Zimmerman

Finding Fault with Default Settings

One of the critical management features of an enterprise system is configuration. Rather than settling for suggested default settings from the vendor, users need to configure their system based on goals specific to their organization.

First, let me define my terms. In this instance, I use the word configuration to refer to Millennium® system settings such as database connection strings, log levels, the number of brokers in a queuing system, etc. I am not referring to areas such as user preferences or reference data.

Traditionally, configuration settings that allow for default settings often require a system administrator to define the value before the system can function properly. A newer trend in system management is to define an overall configuration profile for the system that can be used to drive more intelligent default values without input from an administrator. The profile is created from high-level organizational goals or priorities. For example, an administrator could create a profile with the following system priorities: 1) availability, 2) performance and 3) security. The configuration system would use these priorities to optimize the default value for such areas as where to use SSL connections or what log level defaults are most appropriate for a given layer in the stack.

Knowing your priorities is important because changing a configuration setting to optimize for one goal oftentimes can detract from another goal. For example, you may determine that you want the system to perform as fast as possible, but set a higher goal to never lose any data; therefore, the logging level should be set higher than it would be for a system that doesn’t prioritize data loss over performance.

Configuration profiles are gaining momentum in the industry, but probably won’t appear in Millennium for several years. Even so, I would recommend that you take time now to determine the priorities for your system. Is high availability the most important thing for you? Then review the potential choke points in the architecture and make sure you have backup and failover strategies for these layers. Is performance most important? Then make sure your log levels aren’t set to DEBUG.

In addition to defining an overall set of system priorities to drive your configuration settings, you need to define a change control process for all configuration updates. Proper procedure is vital because most configuration settings do not track history, making it impossible to undo a change or even track down who made the change. Keep in mind that configuration settings are stored in the Millennium directory, the system registry, .cerner files, .ini files, the Windows registry and in database tables.

Prognosis: Understanding your organization’s goals and priorities is the first step in determining optimum configuration settings for your Millennium system.