[Beowulf] Configuration management tools/strategy

Skylar Thompson skylar.thompson at gmail.com
Sun Jan 6 10:55:38 PST 2013

Hash: SHA1

On 01/06/2013 05:38 AM, Walid wrote:
> Dear All,
> At work we are starting to evaluate Configuration management to be
> used to manage several diverse hpc clusters, and their diverse node
> types. I wanted to see what are other admins, and HPC users
> experience like,  the ones that we will start evaluating are
> CFEngine3, Puppet, Chef, Saltstack, ansible, and blueprint. there
> might other products that we need to evluate in partnership such as
> Foreman, spacewalk, ..etc.
> I would like to hear from you if you did evaluate such tools, or
> using one, or have a different strategy in keeping and maintaining
> configurations.

CFengine probably isn't a bad choice - going with something that's
well-tested and -used is helpful because it's a lot easier to get
recipes for what you need to do. The one on the list I can absolutely
recommend against is Spacewalk - we use RHN Satellite (the commercial
version of Spacewalk) and it is easily the worst configuration
management system I have ever seen.

Here's some problems:

1. It's slow - everything you do has to go through Jabber, Tomcat,
Oracle, and god knows what else. Trying to schedule an action on
hundreds of systems can take minutes to accomplish, degrading
performance for everyone else.
2. It's unreliable - it can take multiple attempts to actually get a
command scheduled.
3. Its configuration file management is byzantine - rather than
letting you combined fragments of configuration files together, you
have to include whole files into channels, which are then applied in
some order to each individual system. Good luck trying to figure out
which systems have which order after the fact, or trying to update the
order in some predictable fashion.
4. Its channel management is slow and opaque - if you upload a new
package into Satellite, it has to rebuild its indices before it's
available to client systems. When this starts and when this finishes
is totally invisible to you, though, so you have no idea when the
package is actually ready to be installed.
5. Support is atrocious - Even with a paid support contract, we've had
pretty bad experiences. We've encountered serious bugs and
deficiencies in Satellite that have taken years to correct.

I could go on but I think that's sufficient.

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