The standard way configuration data is kept in unices is by various different config files under the /etc directory.
This mix of different textformats is unlikely to change given various pros and cons.
With config4gnu in debian however the cons can be eliminated and new possibilities arise.
Full flexibility and authority of /etc is maintainted, flexibility even increased and an uniform api to all config files and formats is provided.
Check out the webpage: http://config4gnu.sourceforge.net/
"Points of Integration config4gnu in debian" (or better integrate debian into config4gnu ?):