Spacewalk as a viable replacement for Satellite

[Edit- mrepo tutorial has been posted. See here…]

Okay, a Primer, first.

Spacewalk is an open-sourced software suite for maintaining a number of Red Hat based servers. The Commercial version is Red Hat’s Satellite Server. SatServer has a few more bells and whistles, and the added benefit of support from the big Red Hat themselves, but also costs about $50,000 a copy. (Okay, I realize that number is off, depending on your situation, but my point remains. It’s expensive.)

What does it do? A lot, actually. You can use it for building new servers, and maintaining existing ones. It can automate patching, so your security holes get fixed in a reasonable amount  of time. It can manage Change Control- making sure people can’t inadvertently change important system file, and reverting them to the correct version at a given time. It can keep track of all your Linux Servers, what version, revision, and distribution they are, and more importantly, it can keep track of which groups/users need a certain configuration, and others that need different ones, etc. You can build a new VM with a mouse click, and know it will be built, patched, and configured right from the start.

Spacewalk does almost all of that, and also does it to distribution types that Aren’t Red Hat- like CentOS, Scientific, and others built on RH’s source.

Here’s what I can say conclusively about using CentOS 6 as a vehicle for Spacewalk provisioning. Don’t do it. Not yet.

CentOS and RHEL 6 retooled the rhpl packages and the legacy up2date tools in such a way as to make 6 a poor candidate for a provisioning server if you use actual Red Hat repositories. That is to say, unless you want to manually patch a metric shit-tonne of files, and pull your hair out generating systemIDs to sync your mrepo repositories. If you are using only CentOS, or syncing to other repositories, 6 might be the better choice for al the reasons that 6 is an improvement over 5, but in my opinion most of those are marginal improvements at best, and nearly everything 6 does out of the box can be done on 5 with a simple yum command.

RHEL/CentOS5 are still the gold standard for Linux in the enterprise, and like XP, might not be going anywhere soon.

The verdict: I’m pushing out my Sat on CentOS 5, but now am able to relatively easily mount and mirror all of my RHEL and Cent repos and host them as channels on my Spacewalk build. I can actually cross build using Cent packages on RHEL boxes and vice versa. I’ll update more on this after testing commences next week.

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