Apr 052011

One of the most frustrating things about using Red Hat Enterprise Linux or CentOS in an enterprise environment, in my opinion, is maintaining updates on hosts that are supposed to be identical and are in different environments, like dev, test, and production.  In the past, I’d roll out patches to my dev server, run yum update (or up2date) on my test servers, and then do the same in production.  By the time I got through with production, dev and test would be off a bit and production would generally have at least a dozen rpm’s that were newer than their dev and test counterparts.  This is attributed to the frequency with which bug fixes, security, and other errata are released for these distributions.  In an enterprise environment with auditing requirements in place, this can cause a real pain in the neck.

This is the first reason I started testing out Spacewalk.  Spacewalk is the upstream project for Red Hat Network Satellite, which allows you, for all intents and purposes, to have an RHN install right in your own datacenter.  The benefit that added to me originally was simply being able to choose a cut off date for syncing patches, apply those patches to my systems, then resume syncing again.  This ensures all of my systems have the same package version.  If you’re familiar with Red Hat Network at all, you’ll know that there is a lot of gravy too.  It lets you work with groups of servers, create custom channels, provision servers, execute remote commands, manage configuration files on clients, provision new hosts, and monitor clients as well.  There is a web-based API that leverages XML RPC that you can script against.

It took a lot of work up front to get set up, but it’s getting to the point where managing the systems is a breeze.  In my opinion, Spacewalk is still a little buggy, but as of version 1.3 which is current at the time of this writing, stability and functionality has increased dramatically since I started working with version 0.6.  If you’re looking for a way to manage your Linux systems (including Red Hat Enterprise, CentOS, Scientific, or Debian), I highly suggest taking a look at Spacewalk.

  8 Responses to “Linux Systems Management with Spacewalk”

  1. Hi Greg,

    Good article. Looking at doing the same myself. What are you running Spacewalk on? Run into any problems?


  2. In all cases, I’m running Spacewalk in an ESX (or ESXi) virtual machine. It’s a little needy in terms of disk and memory resources (I think I’ve found that 4 GB RAM is the most efficient – smallest amount for largest gain). I’ve run into a couple of things that are annoying but nothing that would make me stop using Spacewalk. I’m currently testing version 1.4 with a PostgreSQL back end, and so far I’m liking what I’m seeing (ie, many of the annoyances seem to have been fixed and it is more efficient than Oracle XE).

  3. Hi all,

    I installed Spacewalk 1.6 on Fedora however I cannot use kickstarts, when I try to create one it says “No trees were found for the selected channel”

    Thanks in advance for your help

    • In order to create a kickstart in spacewalk, you first have to create a distribution to associate with the kickstart profile you intend to create. On the left navigation pane, click on Kickstart -> Distributions and then “Create New Distribution.” This usually involves downloading the install tree from a mirror or mounting up a DVD iso via loopback and copying stuff off. Once you have a distribution, you’ll be able to create a kickstart profile.

  4. Hi, Greg !

    Have you evr tested monitoring on Spacewalk?

    • I’ve not used monitoring in Spacewalk yet as the need has never come up for me. We already use another monitoring solution that works across all of our Unix platforms (AIX, Solaris, Linux). Spacewalk, sadly would only work for our Linux environment so there was no point in exploring it much further.

      That being said, once I find some time, I’d love to play around with the monitoring scout in a lab environment. It would be interesting to see the capabilities.

  5. Hi Greg,

    I have a bunch of RHEL5 and RHEL4 boxes I’d like to use Spacewalk to maintain. Have you been able to maintain a repository for both versions at once? I plan to use a RHEL5 box to host it.



    • I’ve had spacewalk set up to work with my RHEL and CentOS 4,5, and 6 servers all at once. I’ve since moved to just 5 and 6, but maintaining separate channels and keeping the systems subscribed to the appropriate ones is really no problem. RHEL 5 is a fine choice to run spacewalk on. I’ve had equal success running it on 5 and 6, although I believe that some of the TCP stack optimizations in RHEL 6 might have helped to increase performance a bit.

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