Bulk updating dozens of (not identical) servers

Clint Byrum clint at ubuntu.com
Fri Jan 28 05:23:04 UTC 2011

On Thu, 2011-01-27 at 23:35 -0500, Carlos A. Carnero Delgado wrote:
> Hi there,
> the number of servers we have in my organization -- both physical and
> virtual -- is slowly increasing at a steady pace, and the trend will
> continue for the foreseeable future. It has come to the point that
> apt-get upgrading && updating each one individually, and manually, is
> really time consuming and prone to errors. We're looking into stuff
> like Puppet and Cfengine, and it seems that either will do fine, but
> we have this "feeling" or notion that they're a little bit heavyweight
> for our needs. Not to mention the learning curve.

Puppet can actually be incredibly lightweight. Whether you choose
puppet, cfengine, chef, or another, any configuration management system
will have a lot of residual benefits. Its hard to recommend that you
avoid these, when you don't *have* to take them on to make puppet useful
for what you're doing now.

Think about how hard it is to repeat what you did on server A, when
somebody wants A+something slightly different. What about all those
standard things you do on every install, like add admin users, or setup
ldap auth.

When you use a config management system.. that stuff is easy and
maintainable. Add in version control, and now you can actually figure
out what you did to break stuff. :)

> So, in the context of *only* dealing with installed packages updates
> in an automated way[1] and having 8.04 and 10.04 LTS releases in
> service, do you guys recommend anything? Did you write custom code?
> Has anyone seen Fabric in the context of systems administration?

One cool thing is that with puppet you can make sure the packages get
configured automatically as well:


Anyway, puppet has also recently added mcollective, which makes it easy
to do things in a highly scalable way accross many servers
intelligently. I think Chef has something to do that already as well.

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