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Remsys IMP success story

Remsys has been offering services in the IT outsourcing market for over 9 years. Our customers are very diverse, and so are their servers and configurations. At a certain point, companies using large numbers of servers run into the following issues: "How do we organize all of the chaos that we run on servers? How can the workload that the system administrators are facing be reduced? How can IT processes be optimized?" As a growing organization, we were continuously seeking answers to these questions. And almost all of them were answered, after we discovered and examined The Puppet’s features. Puppet declarative language was used as a base for our Infrastructure Management Platform, or simply IMP – a product that facilitates not only simple configuration management, but does a lot more than that. Here is the story:

For a long time, all of our workload was automatedand optimized by bash/perl scripts. Everything was fine, up to the point when we realized that maintaining these scripts sometimes took more time and resources, than just doing everything manually. In 2009, we began searching for an alternative. We investigated different options such as Cfengine, Chef, and Puppet. Finally, we decided to build our own solution based on Puppet, as it was more flexible than Cfengine and way more developed than Chef. With the help of Puppets declarative language Remsys engineers came up with an Infrastructure Management Platform or simply IMP – the solution that would automate processes within an infrastructure.

First things that were implemented: we automated the use of common settings, configurations, and software on all of the servers that we administered. It was rather hard for us to make the proper tool to administer the infrastructure using IMP. Before the internal IMP implementation was complete we got requests from two customers (with over 50 servers each), who wanted to implement something like Puppet in their infrastructure. It was another challenge for us, because implementing such tools in their infrastructure meant total review of the infrastructures, procedures, processes and sometimes even the approach to the concept of work. After the review, in most cases everything was updated, changed and standardized for IMP implementation.

During implementation of these 3 projects, Internal IMP and IMP for 2 clients, many interesting features were added and new concepts were developed. Thanks to IMP, Remsys and its clients are now able to:

1.    Manage SSH configuration files and SSH keys

  • Manage root login
  • Manage predefined keys
  • Manage per‐server specific keys

2.    Deploy perl modules through cpan

3.    Manage and setup DHCPD

4.    Manage sysctl (Linux, FreeBSD)

  • Maintain the entire systcl.conf file the same on all servers
  • Define custom values for sysctl variables

5.    Manage BSD accounting (Linux, FreeBSD)

6.    Manage time zone

  • Manage time zone on servers

7.    Manage and setup tftpd

8.    Manage syslog

  • Install/configure rlogging software
  • Define custom per‐server configuration
  • Manage server's running remote logging collect part

9.    Manage /etc/resolv.conf

  • Manage system DNS resolving configurations

10. Enable/disable bsdsar (FreeBSD)

11. Manage/configure inetd/xinetd

  • Start/stop, configure needed services

12. Manage nginx

13. Manage Puppet ‐ client configuration file and Puppet service

14. Manage NTP client

  • Install, configure and start/stop service
  • Define NTP servers

15. Manage Sudoers file

16. Manage MySQL (user and database creation)

17. Manage and setup Firewall

18. Manage lines in config files where lines are presented as key‐value separators (for example a=b)

19. Manage FreeBSD rc.conf

  • Manage common rc.conf values and settings

20. Have an ability to determine what panel is installed (cPanel, DirectAdmin, Plesk)

21. Manage DNS

  • Managing of DNS records in simple files or MySQL databases (using Puppet manifests for nodes)

22. Manage and configure snmpd

23. Manage Cron

24. Manage Nagios

  • Perform complex integration into Puppet infrastructure (Nagios configuration being managed through Puppet)
  • Carry out automatic re‐configuration
  • Achieve the ease of administration (service can be added by a 1 line definition)

25. Manage Nagios Manage NRPE

  • Install, configure and manage NRPE plugins and Nagios records

26. Manage/configure Bacula server and client

  • Bacula client configuration and monitoring

27. Manage Yum Repositories

28. Manage APT repositories (for Debian based systems), and a lot more

To ensure the optimal level of performance of all the functions, our developers had to implement the following:

  • Manage lines in files using patterns
  • Manage simple configuration files (for hosts where Augeas is not available)
  • Facilitate the usage of arrays (what Puppet by default cannot do or it is complicated to do)
  • Facilitate the usage of hashes (what Puppet by default cannot do or it is complicated to do)
  • Many custom facts.

All of these give us and our clients the possibility to free up the engineers' time for other projects. For Remsys staff, it is now much easier to administer servers. Our engineers are able to add up to 30 services into monitoring with the help of just 1 line. The applied concept of standardization and unification shows significant results. We already experienced all of the benefits of IMP implementation and are continuously enhancing the platform, as there is always room for improvement, with nothing remaining constant in the industry.

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