August 9, 2010
I'm working on automating some installs that are going to happen during the infrastructure upgrade, and I need to decide what I want to use for automation.
I have used Kickstart before, and it's essentially a single file that contains instructions for the RedHat installer (although Debian is in on that action, too). The idea with Kickstart is that your "normal" installation (whether that be through DVD, USB key, PXE, or whatever) points to the kickstart file, and the installation proceeds according to those instructions.
Cobbler goes the extra steps and becomes the installation server, PXE/DHCP boot provider, etc etc, in addition to working with kickstart files. In fact, it can even do crazy kickstart templating. It certainly seems full featured, and I've heard people recommend it before.
One of the coolest things I've seen it be able to do is automate new virtual machines. As I understand it, you basically hit a button and a VM is created, powered on, and installed according to the kickstart templates. That's slick.
Unfortunately, the best support for Koan (the Cobbler client) is on Qemu/KVM. The site mentions support for VMware Server, but that's anathema. There doesn't appear to be support for ESXi (certainly not 4.1, which was just released last month), but I was hoping for something more recent than a question on VMware Communities from 2007.
So I come to you. If you've got an ESXi infrastructure, do you automate rollouts? Am I just doing this wrong? I'm leaning toward manually spinning up machines and using Cobbler / Kickstart to perform the installs (maybe with customized boot media, in the case of just kickstart). What do you suggest?