Server provisioning is a set of actions to prepare a server, taking it from bare metal to a functioning system complete with an operating system, data and software.
It does not take long for users to recognize that setting up more than a couple of machines is extremely time consuming. System administrators realize this extremely early in their career. The ability to deploy additional servers or to replace failed servers without fuss and bother is important if business applications are to keep running, and the pressure falls squarely on the system administrator. Server provisioning tools come to the rescue.
However, the difficulty is that operating systems have thousands of components with different interfaces for different components. This means that an automated provisioning tool is a complex beast especially if you consider the tasks that are involved in provisioning a server. These include the installation of an operating system, kernel modules, middleware and applications. Further, the organization will want the system customized to their requirements such as deploying machines with specific roles such as web servers, email servers, with appropriate partitioning and packages. The server will also need to be appropriately configured for the network.
Fortunately, there are a number of sophisticated tools available for Linux that are adept in provisioning servers, offering the ability to simultaneously set up thousands of machine unattended.
To provide an insight into the quality of software available for Linux, we have compiled a list of 7 desirable server provisioning tools. We have ranked them in our order of preference, with Spacewalk, xCAT, and FAI carrying our highest recommendation. Hopefully, there will be something of interest here for any system administrator that needs to set up many servers as quickly as possible.
Now, let’s explore the 7 server provisioning tools at hand. For each title we have compiled its own portal page, a full description with an in-depth analysis of its features, screenshots, together with links to relevant resources.
|Spacewalk||Systems management software developed by Red Hat|
|xCAT||Extreme Cluster Administration Toolkit|
|FAI||High quality tool for fully automatic installation of Linux systems|
|Cobbler||OS provisioning and profile management|
|m23||Software distribution and management system|
|OpenQRM||Systems management platform|
|Foreman||Life cycle systems management tool|
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