back to article Cobbler pieces together mass Red Hat Linux installations

One of the main community-driven projects that prompted Red Hat to open source its Satellite code today was the Linux boot server, Cobbler. Cobbler is a nifty piece of code that assembles all the usual setup bits needed for a large network installation like TFTP, DNS, PXE, installation trees etc. and automates the process. …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not wishing to rain on anyone's parade

    but most of the time, these tools cause more problems than they are worth.

    They are great if you were the one developing it, but for everyone else they are just another level of abstraction. It is much better to know the ins and outs of deploying each individual component than it is to put your faith in one 'all knowing configurator'.

    With that said, some people will enjoy it, so well done to Cobblers, but it probably won't be coming near any of my systems thank you.

    What I would really like to see is more knowledge based systems, ones that will check configuration, offer a number of alternatives, and analyse current setups, reporting their view of what they think is happening, with snippets of how to change. An intelligent book if you will. But, not many like to make those style of system, oh well.

  2. A J Stiles

    Or do what I did

    Or you could just do what I did. Build a Debian mirror (it helps if you have a "spare" ADSL connection you can max out without anyone noticing). Download Netinstall CD image. Install one workstation, get it exactly how you like. All "apt-get" and other statements you used are now in command history. Write shell script to automate installation procedure and place in /var/www/ on mirror, where it can be grabbed with wget.

    If you're doing hundreds of workstations, it'd be worth modifying the supplied tasksel. But for a couple of dozen or so, the shell script method works fine.

  3. amanfromMars Silver badge

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  4. Mike
    Paris Hilton

    a load of old cobblers?

    "but most of the time, these tools cause more problems than they are worth."

    Obviously spoken by a guy who doesn't need to install many identical systems and attempt to keep them running. A decent sys admin can keep 80+ systems running and updated on his own. If you chose to do stuff without automation, you will be lucky to even hit this number.

    "What I would really like to see is more knowledge based systems, ones that will check configuration, offer a number of alternatives, and analyse current setups, reporting their view of what they think is happening, with snippets of how to change. An intelligent book if you will. But, not many like to make those style of system, oh well."

    You mean like puppet? The reporting 'what they think is happening' should be done by monitoring software, unless you chose to reject the paradigm of 'do one thing and do it well' that is common (and proven to work well) in the Unix world.

    Paris because I can help her with an installation...

  5. Andrew Meredith

    Re: Not wishing to rain on anyone's parade

    Fair comment if you only have one of everything, or don't want a means of rebuilding a machine that dies. I use cobbler to produce the second, thrid etc instance of a platform I have hand developed. I theoretically can use it to rebuild the basic platform before rolling the data back on ... but so far (touch wood) I haven't needed to do that in anger :-)

  6. Rainer
    Thumb Up

    Cobbler is great!

    To Mr Anonymous Coward in the first posting:

    If you have dozens or hundreds of servers to install on a regular basis, doing it all by hand is crazy.

    With cobbler, I can have it done in almost no time, and have consistent results every time.

    I agree that you should know how to deploy a server - and currently, cobbler still requires that knowledge. But once you've installed a server-OS a couple of times, it becomes incredibly boring.

  7. Steve

    Windows has been doing this for a decade

    Said it in the title. Windows 2000 Server, RIS, DNS, AD - all in a polished GUI with full image deployments... without the "apt" "yum" and other stupid names that are unrelated to the task at hand.

    This is news because the "OS to the Gods" can finally do something Windows has been able to do for a decade.....

  8. Josh Holman

    So has Linux

    PXE server + AutoYaST.

  9. Matthew

    Why's this different to Kickstart/AutoYaST etc....

    We've had auto-installers so you can build identical Linux boxen for years, why's this significant?

  10. Mike


    I've setup a fair number of Linux systems and a fair number of Windows systems.

    Linux is by far, hands down easier to setup. None of this GUI business that prevents you from scripting everything. No wizards, no group policies that sometimes work and sometimes don't.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re-Inventing The Wheel

    Hands-off network installation of various OS's has been around since forever. Is this article implying that this is a new capability for Linux? Or is it just more free PR for Redhat?

  12. Anonymous Coward


    but (a) RIS requires a criminally expensive license for a feature that should be free, after all their O/S is being installed, they're being paid for that, so why restrict the Server license on which RIS can be used, and (b) your maths is sort of up for debate. "A decade", starting with Windows 2000 Server et al, is two years from now ..... that kind of reminds me of the attention to detail and accuracy shown by the marketing team who said "Vista good"

    Before u file me in the OSS world, I use XP, Win2k3, various Linuxes and Solaris at work; the easiest install of all is Debian / Ubuntu for the ones I do (for the record we dont use FC or Centos), and the most irritating is Win2K3 - because I can't do it effecitvely while remote and/or travelling without complications .... whereas I have on more than one occassion installed Ubuntu using a Blackberry ..........

    On the other hand if I'm wrong I would be very grateful if you could point me to Technet for how do same with a Win2k3 install?

  13. Michael DeHaan


    Thanks Register Folks for posting this.

    Advance Disclaimer: I'm the author :)

    So posters have asked above, "how's this different than just kickstart?". Well, kickstart is just a small piece about managing installations. Cobbler is of course highly reliant on kickstart. Though I should also mention Cobbler also can install SuSE and Debian, and there's work on actually getting it packaged for the later going on.

    So, what gets automated? If you are adding a new system to your datacenter, you might have to make new DHCP records, new DNS records, and so forth. For virtualization, you have to remember all of the parameters to pass to the virtualized install tools. You have to create files in your TFTP boot directory, etc. So, cobbler is about providing a central management and provisioning server for all of that. On top of that, there's also a kickstart templating system, to help in managing sites that would ordinarily have several dozen kickstart files. It also makes assigning systems to new profiles trivial. It also provides tracking for in progress installations and has a triggers system to kick off arbitrary tasks server side when installations start and stop. On top of all of that, there are solutions for deploying bare-metal without PXE too.

    Cobbler currently runs datacenters with several thousand of systems but is equally also targetted at small labs and home setups. The most important thing here is that we're building a community of admins to consolidate the kickstart infrastructure we all build, rather than having to keep rebuilding it again for each specific site. Ultimately, allowing admins to share tools is what this is all about. If it sucks, tell us what you'd like to see, etc.

    If anyone is interested in learning more, the has all the details, or you can check out the manpage and so forth. There's really quite a bit more towards a provisioning server than just kickstart. We're really automating quite a bit more. Join #cobbler on freenode if you'd like to learn more.

  14. amanfromMars Silver badge

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  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ load of cobblers?

    I think you are misunderstanding what I am saying.

    Obviously you are a guy that cannot code :) Automation is required to install and maintain a number of systems, but each group of systems is different. It is not particularly hard to maintain a central repository of a configuration files, and have them pushed or pulled to hosts, that is trivial.

    Though where you need fine grained control over the slight difference between the hosts or virtual hosts, then instead of relying on someone else's tool, you just roll your own. If you are not capable of doing that in an afternoon you should really be questioning what you are doing in admin.

    By relying on someone else's tool, you will find it harder to make allowance for the side cases. System administration is abstracted enough, going that one level higher will make you reliant on a tool and its view, rather than enabled by it. The tools are already there, we call them scripting languages.

    And as to the knowledge based systems, there you get confused again, monitoring is there to test a system, what I am talking about is parsing of configuration data, suggesting corrections and suggesting alternatives, not something that monitors.

    Instead, something that wraps knowledge and works with configuration data to convert it into a natural language. There you are free to ignore the advice, but it extends the admin's knowledge and acts as an early safety net.

  16. Steve

    @ AC

    Um, RIS is free - it comes with Server 2008/2003/2000. Same as RRAS, AD, DNS etc. It's just a server function.

    Not too sure what you mean about remote.... The end users at my place do it themselves. They press F11 at the boot screen, enter in their username and password and have a coffee. 40 minutes later they have a freshly formatted OS install with all their apps and documents again.

    Why do you need to be involed? It's automated...?!

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