Config Management Camp Ghent 2020 – Recap

Cfgmgmtcamp Logo

It seams like Config Management Camp at beginning of February in Ghent gets a fixed date for me. I attended the fifth year in series, gave a talk in the last three and joined the Foreman Construction day on the day after as many times. So why am I still attending while some people are perhaps already telling you that the time of configuration management is over in favor of containers and Kubernetes. While I can not totally agree or disagree with this thesis, my schedule is still full of Foreman, Puppet and Ansible, so it makes sense to keep me updated. Furthermore the event allows to network like not many others with speaker diner, community event (also known as beer event) and Foreman community dinner. And last but not least it is always interesting to hear what the big names think about configuration management in the future and how to adopt to a world of containers and Kubernetes which was a big part of the talks in the main track.

But to get everything in correct order let me start at Sunday morning where Blerim, Aleksander and I started so we can meet Bernd and Markus who attended FOSDEM in advance in our AirBnb before going to speaker diner. I have to admit I really like Ghent’s old City so I was happy the same restaurant right in the middle of Ghent was chosen for diner like last year. And also like last year I joined the Foreman table to meet old and new friends for some hours mixed of small talk and technical discussions.

The first conference day started as always with main tracks only and I can really recommend Ryn Daniels’ talk Untitled Config Game. After lunch I joined the Foreman community room to get latest news from the community and the 2.0 release by Tomer Brisker and Ewoud Kohl van Wijngaarden respectively. The talks about Katello and how to create API and CLI for a Compute Resource where also quite interesting, but my favorite was Marek Hulan who had initially chosen a very similar title for his talk about Foreman’s new Reporting Engine and showed some interesting examples and the future templates documentation which will be automatically rendered in a similar fashion like the API documentation which is always available at /apidoc on a Foreman installation. Last but hopefully not least was my talk about existing solutions which get data from Foreman into central systems like Elasticsearch for logs and Supervisor Authority Plugin which enables Elastic APM to show performance bottlenecks, stacktraces and some metrics and is perhaps the most promising solution for me. As I was the one between the audience and the beer I was quite happy finishing my talk in time and get some more Kriek afterwards.

Day two had also some create talks to start with John Willis telling us he got 99 (or perhaps even far more) problems and a bash DSL ain’t one of them and Bernd how convenience is killing Open Standards. The first was really great in showing how configuration management has evolved compared to the container world which follows the same evolutionary process. The second was not only related to configuration management but IT at all including clouds and many more (and Bernd was fully aware of the discrepancy giving such a talk on a macbook). This day I visited more different tracks to hear about the migration of Pulp 2 to 3 behind Katello, testing of Ansible roles with Molecule (including some chemistry lessons), Ansible modules for pulp, how Foreman handles Secure boot and last but not least to get an update on Mgmt Config. After the talks we joined the Foreman Community diner which was located in a separate room of the same location we visited last year, allowing even more discussions without fearing to disturb others.

The Foreman Construction day like many other community events is a fringe event at the same location allow to hack together on some features and I was happy to make the beginner session I had given already the last years an official workshop. It was based on our official training focusing on installation and provisioning including hints and answering questions. After lunch I joined the hacking session for some time before shopping some Kriek and waffles and then traveling home.

Dirk Götz
Dirk Götz
Principal Consultant

Dirk ist Red Hat Spezialist und arbeitet bei NETWAYS im Bereich Consulting für Icinga, Puppet, Ansible, Foreman und andere Systems-Management-Lösungen. Früher war er bei einem Träger der gesetzlichen Rentenversicherung als Senior Administrator beschäftigt und auch für die Ausbildung der Azubis verantwortlich wie nun bei NETWAYS.

Open Source Camp on Foreman

Like every year there was an Open Source Camp following the OSMC and as usual we helped organize that. Just in case you aren’t aware of what an Open Source Camp is here is the just of it: It’s meant to be an offer for Open Source projects to present themselves more in depth to the community. This year the Open Source Camp is on that one special yellow helmet we all know and love, Foreman.

Ondřej Ezr started us off with Ansible automation for Foreman (hosts). There are probably more than enough people using puppet only in their Foreman environment. Alternative or complementary to that would be using the plugin foreman_ansible. Ansible and Puppet don’t necessarily need to be better or worse, they are different and both have their advantages and disadvantages. By going through some basic steps, like role assignment, host creation and so on, he showed how one can do all that, but with Ansible. You can easily dynamically allocate roles and installations through Ansible to your Foreman hosts, but to make it even more specific one can set custom variables within the Ansible plugin for it to use, like foreman_repository_version. You could invoke a Job, like an Ansible Playbook, which will overwrite the variables previously set or make your installation more customizable from the get go. Install from git, run a playbook through ssh and more was covered during his talk. The plugin would not be a good alternative or viable if it did not hold up against the standards that puppet sets as a competitor. While Ansible doesn’t offer an inherit solution for reoccurring runs like every hour, the plugin does.

Next up was Bernhard Suttner, who wanted to give us a taste of Salted Foreman. Initially he explained what all that salt was about. The SaltStack a open source project written in python, can be used as a configuration management tool for Foreman. Salt excels at orchestrating cloud environments and network use-cases, but then we got to the Foreman relation. Running a salt and Foreman environment means running a environment of managed hosts, which are salt minions and a foreman_smart_proxy, which will also be the salt master. He showed us what salt in Foreman looks like and gave us some insight on how it works, but even more important from now on there are people dedicated to the project and some day the plugin might be as good as the puppet or ansible plugin. Salt is great and especially effective in terms of scalability. It’s pretty straightforward to use and the initial setup is not so hard. We are excited for what is to come.

Provisioning on Azure Cloud through Foreman by Aditi Puntambekar was going to follow that one. Aditi made sure everyone is familiar with the extend of Foremans capabilities in terms of provisioning. This was especially important because Foremans capabilities differ from its usual when it comes to cloud provisioning. After a quick trip through the configuration of compute resources and imaged-based provisioning templates we went onward to the Azure Resource Manager. She explained how the Azure Resource Manager essentially worked, but what is interesting to us is the foreman_azure_rm. Well and foreman_azure_rm does what you expect it to do. It adds the Microsoft Azure Resource Manager as a compute resource for the foreman. In her demo, she showed us how to use said resource and more.

Martin Bačovský talked about CLI tools with Foreman. He started of with the Foreman API. Of course the Foreman API is fast and has a wide range of tools and libs included within it. Just like Martin said in his talk, if you are interested in the Foreman API check out the documentation, it’s very good. Also interesting in the realm of APIs was his next tool, which is using apipie/apipy, which you are probably aware of if you are more heavy on the python side of things. Up there with the most well-known tools is Martins next, Hammer CLI, a command-line tool for Foreman. After sharing his experience with these rather popular tools with everyone he introduced us to Foreman’s integration of GraphQL. It’s basically a query language, which seems to be promising so far. Martin especially focused on the flexibility of queries and the introspective it has, yet one has to see where the project goes. There were many more tools he told us a lot about. To name just a few more of them, Report Templates, Foreman Ansible Modules and foreman_maintain. If you are interested in one of these tools in particular check out the video of the talk, which will be available soon on our Youtube Channel.

 

Give your Foreman a greater toolbox with Plugins by our very own Dirk Götz. Like he said himself: I will start of with existing toolbox things and at the end I will show you how to create these things yourself. And that he did. This talk was very demo heavy, thereby everything he explained was plain and simple, because you where able to see it as he did it. At the very top of his agenda was Job Invocation/Remote Execution. Not that exciting you think? Well, more interesting is the best practice advice he threw in on the way, like there is no issue of the configured user because his password is not saved as plain text in the database. Then the development part was up. He showed a couple of jobs that he wrote himself. Easiest, which served as an example is a simple ping check. He pointed out important thoughts to keep in mind, while writing jobs, like default values. Before his talk came to a close he talked a bit about the Web Console which has been introduced and is yet not well known. The web console is pretty much a integration of Cockpit. A well experienced user in the Linux world won’t be that excited about this, but a less experienced user will love this.

The next talk would not have happened, if Dirk didn’t spontaneously offer to step in. So we got another thirty minutes of Dirk Götz and I won’t complain. Katello: Adding content management to Foreman was the title and people where keen to hear about just that. What is Katello? Dirk described it as a defined set of Foreman plugins but not just that. It enriches your content management, as well as subscription management. Wait… content management? Why do I need that? Configuration management should be enough! Not necessarily, depending on your environment. Lets just pick up the points that Dirk made towards content management. For local content it ensures availability. For staging, it allows testing updates and makes builds reproducible. So content management should be seen as an addition to config management. He also talks about content views and how they are used to do the versioning, while they are being held by life cycles. Integration in orchestration was also a rather big point during his talk, which is done via SSH or Ansible. Dirk designs his talk in a way that makes summarizing them impossible, because he covers way to much. Lets just say not announced but very appreciated and most definitely worth checking out at our NETWAYS-Youtube Channel.

It was my second Open Source Camp and if you ask me this kind of exchange is what one wants to see in the open source community. There was variety and judging by the crowd reactions I was not the only one enjoying these talks. Thanks to all the speakers and attendees, safe travels home to everyone. Until the next Open Source Camp, hope to see you there!

Alexander Stoll
Alexander Stoll
Junior Consultant

Alexander ist ein Organisationstalent und außerdem seit Kurzem Azubi im Professional Services. Wenn er nicht bei NETWAYS ist, sieht sein Tagesablauf so aus: Montag, Dienstag, Mittwoch Sport - Donnerstag Pen and Paper und ein Wochenende ohne Pläne. Den Sportteil lässt er gern auch mal ausfallen.

Give your Foreman a greater toolbox

Like every Foreman our well-beloved lifecycle management is only as good as its tools, says Dirk Götz, Foreman expert from NETWAYS. At OSCamp Dirk will showcase some plugins and explain their use case before giving some hints on plugin development.

DevOps with Foreman

Ondřej Ezr, Satellite Software Engineer at Red Hat, loves to invest time to DevOps so much, it basically became his main job, he says. He will show how to get the most value when using Ansible from Foreman – both when using hosts in a predefined state, or when working in a remote execution fashion.

Better with Salt

Everything is better with salt – even Foreman. Bernhard Suttner, head of development at ATIX AG, who is maintain the foreman_salt plugin, will demonstrate the use of Salt in Foreman. New features, such as Salt Variables and the Remote Execution Salt Provider will be part of his talk.

With these and many other talks at OSCamp, get to know how to best equip your Foreman according to your individual needs.

Tickets at https://opensourcecamp.de/.

Julia Hornung
Julia Hornung
Senior Marketing Manager

Julia ist seit Juni 2018 Mitglied der NETWAYS Family. Vor ihrer Zeit in unserem Marketing Team hat sie als Journalistin und in der freien Theaterszene gearbeitet. Ihre Leidenschaft gilt gutem Storytelling, klarer Sprache und ausgefeilten Texten. Privat widmet sie sich dem Klettern und ihrer Ausbildung zur Yogalehrerin.

OSCamp on Foreman: Program is online!

Together with Red Hat we present the program for the Open Source Camp on Foreman! Learn about topics like automation, remote execution, and provisioning in the cloud, and the latest know-how and how-to’s from top-level speakers like:

OSCamp on Foreman is organized by NETWAYS and supported by Red Hat. The event takes place directly after the lecture program of OSMC on November 07, 2019 in Nuremberg. Meet like-minded people, share expertise and discover new grounds! Get your ticket at opensourcecamp.de

Julia Hornung
Julia Hornung
Senior Marketing Manager

Julia ist seit Juni 2018 Mitglied der NETWAYS Family. Vor ihrer Zeit in unserem Marketing Team hat sie als Journalistin und in der freien Theaterszene gearbeitet. Ihre Leidenschaft gilt gutem Storytelling, klarer Sprache und ausgefeilten Texten. Privat widmet sie sich dem Klettern und ihrer Ausbildung zur Yogalehrerin.

Foreman’s 10th birthday – The party was a blast

Birthday Logo

I can still remember when Greg had the idea of celebrating the Foreman’s Birthday four years ago and I volunteered to organize the German one. After two editions and with Foreman being covered on the Open Source Camp last year I asked for others to run the party. And with ATIX doing a great job I asked them to team up on this. So we have grown a great community event with the annual Birthday party.

This year was different to the ones before because we had such a big support by Red Hat. The new Community Managers showed up to introduce them accompanied by Greg who had stepped down earlier this year. A group of Product managers and consultants made the last stop on their European tour. A technical writer came over to discuss the future of documentation. And with Evgeni and Ewoud we had some recurring attendees to give a talk later. ATIX also arrived with a bus full of people. Monika represented iRonin, a company doing custom development on Foreman and I hope to team up in the future, and Timo developing on Foreman for dmTech brought a colleague. So users were slightly under-represented and the prepared demos were mostly used to share knowledge and probably because of the heat instead of hacking many discussions took place. But I think everyone of the about thirty attendees made good use of the first session.

Birthday PartyDemoThe session ended when I brought in the cake. And thanks to our Events team the cake was as tasty as good looking. A nice touch by Ohad was to insist he can not blow off the candles alone as he could not have build Foreman without the community.

Birthday CakeHelmets

After the cake break we started with the talks and the first one was by the Community team giving us a recap of Foreman’s history, data from the community survey and other insights like a first look on the future documentation. This is really the next step to me that Red Hat is also making their Satellite documentation upstream adding a use case driven documentation to the manual which is way more technical. The second talk Quirin showcased the current state of Debian Support which will be fully functional with Errata support being added, but he already promised some usability and documentation improvements afterwards. The third speakers were Dana and Rich who showed Red Hat’s roadmap for features to add to Foreman so they will be pulled into Satellite afterwards. The roadmap will be presented in a community demo and uploaded to the community forum. Having the product managers easily available allowed the audience also to ask any question and I was excited to hear for almost all topics brought up that there is already ongoing work in the background. For example I asked about making subscription management also usable for other vendors and Rich told me he is part of a newly founded team which is evaluating exactly this.

Because of the heat we added a small ice break before starting the next talk and because of Lennart being ill Ohad entered the stage to show his work on containerizing Foreman. He explained that he started it mainly for testing but the interest showed him that expanding it to be fully functional to run Foreman and even Katello on Kubernetes could be a future way. Evgeni gave a shortened version of the talk on writing Ansible modules for Foreman and Katello he created for Froscon. It was a very technical one showing how much work is necessary to build a good base so later work is much easier. From this perspective I can really recommend this talk to all Froscon attendees. Last but not least Ewoud looked into the project’s social aspects which was a nice mixture of official history and personal moments. He also showed off the different swag the project created, ending with a t-shirt signed by as many team and community members as possible while traveling from Czech to US and back as suitable gift to Greg because “Once a foreman, always a foreman”. 😉

For dinner we had Pizza and Beer, but moved to the air-conditioned hotel bar after a short while to finish the evening. I heard people were enjoying conversation until two o’clock in the morning even when the bar closed one hour earlier. 😀

I would say the Party was a blast and I am already looking forward to next year when ATIX will be the host again. But until then there are several other Foreman related events with the Open Source Automation Day on 15. & 16.10.2019 in Munich including Workshops the day before and a Foreman hackday the day after organized by ATIX and the Open Source Camp on 07.11.2019 in Nuremberg right after OSMC by NETWAYS.

Dirk Götz
Dirk Götz
Principal Consultant

Dirk ist Red Hat Spezialist und arbeitet bei NETWAYS im Bereich Consulting für Icinga, Puppet, Ansible, Foreman und andere Systems-Management-Lösungen. Früher war er bei einem Träger der gesetzlichen Rentenversicherung als Senior Administrator beschäftigt und auch für die Ausbildung der Azubis verantwortlich wie nun bei NETWAYS.

Automatisierte Updates mit Foreman Distributed Lock Manager

Foreman Logo

Wer kennt das nicht am besten soll alle nervige, wiederkehrende Arbeit automatisiert werden, damit man mehr Zeit für spaßige, neue Projekte hat? Es gibt nach Backups wohl kein Thema, mit dem man so wenig Ruhm ernten kann, wie Updates, oder? Also ein klarer Fall für Automatisierung! Oder doch nicht weil zu viel schief gehen kann? Nun ja, diese Entscheidung kann ich euch nicht abnehmen. Aber zumindest für eine häufige Fehlerquelle kann ich eine Lösung anbieten und zwar das zeitgleiche Update eines Clusters, was dann doch wieder zum Ausfall des eigentlich hochverfügbaren Service führt.

Bevor ich aber nun zu der von mir vorgeschlagen Lösung komme, will ich kurz erklären wo die Inspiration hierfür herkommt, denn Foreman DLM (Distributed Lock Manager) wurde stark vom Updatemechanismus von CoreOS inspiriert. Hierbei bilden CoreOS-Systeme einen Cluster und über eine Policy wird eingestellt wie viele gleichzeitig ein Update durchführen dürfen. Sobald nun ein neues Update verfügbar ist, beginnt ein System mit dem Download und schreibt in einen zentralen Speicher ein Lock. Dieses Lock wird dann nach erfolgreichem Update wieder freigegeben. Sollte allerdings ein weitere System ein Lock anfordern um sich upzudaten und die maximalen gleichzeitigen Locks werden bereits von anderen Systemen gehalten, wird kein Update zu dem Zeitpunkt durchgeführt sondern später erneut angefragt. So wird sichergestellt, dass die Container-Plattform immer mit genug Ressourcen läuft. CoreOS hat dazu dann noch weitere Mechnismen wie einen einfachen Rollback auf den Stand vor dem Update und verschiedene Channel zum Testen der Software, welche so einfach nicht auf Linux zur Verfügung stehen. Aber einen Locking-Mechanismus zur Verfügung zu stellen sollte machbar sein, dachte sich dmTech. Dass die Wahl auf die Entwicklung als ein Foreman-Plugin fiel lässt sich leicht erklären, denn dieser dient dort als das zentrale Tool für die Administration.

Wie sieht nun die Lösung aus? Mit der Installation des Plugins bekommt Foreman einen neuen API-Endpunkt über den Locks geprüft, bezogen und auch wieder freigegeben werden können. Zur Authentifizierung werden die Puppet-Zertifikate (oder im Fall von Katello die des Subscription-Managers) genutzt, die verschiedenen HTTP-Methoden stehen für eine Abfrage (GET), Beziehen (PUT) oder Freigaben (DELETE) des Lock und die Antwort besteht aus einem HTTP-Status-Code und einem JSON-Body. Der Status-Code 200 OK für erfolgreiche Aktionen und 412 Precondition Failed wenn Beziehen und Freigeben des Locks nicht möglich ist sowie der Body können dann im eigenen Update-Skript ausgewertet werden. Ein einfaches Beispiel findet sich hierbei direkt im Quelltext-Repository. Ein etwas umfangreicheres Skript bzw. quasi ein Framework wurde von einem Nutzer in Python entwickelt und ebenfalls frei zur Verfügung gestellt.
(mehr …)

Dirk Götz
Dirk Götz
Principal Consultant

Dirk ist Red Hat Spezialist und arbeitet bei NETWAYS im Bereich Consulting für Icinga, Puppet, Ansible, Foreman und andere Systems-Management-Lösungen. Früher war er bei einem Träger der gesetzlichen Rentenversicherung als Senior Administrator beschäftigt und auch für die Ausbildung der Azubis verantwortlich wie nun bei NETWAYS.