I’ve ran into another example of this recently. I really don’t get why this concept so hard for so many people. You have to have a definition of your system in some form that can be consumed or taken as an input. No automation will happen without it. It doesn’t really matter what it is. You can use Puppet or Chef or CFengine or VMWare templates or SCCM or even Visio…..the list is endless. What you absolutely don’t do is have a form asking someone to fill out their system details in a free text box. That scales to about 4 systems. Hell, just type it like this in a word processor of your choice:
“OS”: “Favorite Linux distro”
“APP”: “Super Widget for TPS reports”
Even as a completely stand-alone approach, at the very least you’re creating a blueprint of your systems and a foundation for the future. Something that can be replicated, analyzed, plugged in, transformed and consumed down the road.