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Provisioning is the term that is used as a "superset" of the term "OS installation". They talk about "server provisioning" (which means bare metal installation of OS, like kickstart) , user provisioning (which means creating user account on multiple servers), "patch provisioning" (which simply means patching of multiple servers :-), etc. But in reality "provisioning" is just fancy term with very little substance (aka corporate bullshit ;-) 

It does not bring too much additional clarity into the issues involved and as such have little value. 

Here is how Wikipedia defined the term:

In telecommunication, provisioning is the process of preparing and equipping a network to allow it to provide (new) services to its users. In NS/EP telecommunications services, "provisioning" equates to "initiation" and includes altering the state of an existing priority service or capability.[1]

In a modern signal infrastructure employing information technology at all levels, there is no distinction possible between telecommunications services and "higher level" infrastructure. Accordingly provisioning configures any required systems, provides users with access to data and technology resources, and refers to all enterprise-level information resource management involved.

But while the term is suspect,  the concept of specialized software that help to perform installation and patching in not. Early system like Solaris Jumpstart were extremely helpful for large server farms and created a lot of imitations such as Red Hat Kickstart and Suse Autoyast.

I would like to note, that provisioning often is treated like something really complex, the task that requires buying an expensive software from IBM or other big software vendor.  That's marketing propaganda.

In reality you can get 80% of the benefits using extremely simple tools, such as kickstart for installation, and some simple scripts with yum for patching multiple servers).

Expensive software vendor systems might have some edge if you need to support many different platforms, but even that is not given. Many such systems including one from IBM (old good TCM) are simply crap: complex with proprietary packaging and low reliability of delivery.  Often the presence of a complex provisioning package in corporate IT infrastructure can serve as a warning sign of the complete degeneration of corporate IT brass (aka Dilberalization).

If you are limited to Unix/Linux, then  native OS provisioning tools like AutoYaST, Kickstart, Jumpstart, Ignite and so on can do really good job with much less hassle. You do not need to buy anything and you can good a very return on small investment in learning vendor-supplied provisioning software.

Provisioning of OS, which is 50% of all provisioning business (another 50% is installation of patches and custom applications) is essentially a three step process.

Please note that step two and three can be performed by any good software configuration management packages and some functions are also available from client-server monitoring systems like OpenView and job schedulers. 

For example, Oracle job scheduler is free, programmable and can help. 

But the main help is availability of SSH. With SSH you can perform pretty complex "provisioning" operations with simple scripts and that provides you with the level of flexibility that no proprietary system can match.  Even in Windows environment installation of SSH or dual boot with network boot to Unix partitions can solve many "provisioning problems" better then packages like "Managesoft".

See also Unix Configuration Management Tools

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[Jun 23, 2011] (R)ex - A simple framework to simplify systemadministration


Need Help?

Some Examples

This command line example will execute "uptime" on all the given hosts (frontend01, frontend02, ...).

rex -H "frontend[01..15] middleware[01..05] db[01..04]" "say run 'uptime'"

[Jun 14, 2011] Spacewalk Free & Open Source Linux Systems Management

Open version of Red Hat Network.

Spacewalk is an open source (GPLv2) Linux systems management solution that allows you to:

[Dec 15, 2010] uranos 1.1675

uranos is a system to support unattended installation of several varieties of Linux (kickstart, preseed, autoyast) and Windows (W2k, XP, W2k3, Vista, 7, W2k8). It features inventory, software management,... DHCP-LDAP, DNS-LDAP, PHP-SSH, syslog-ng, switch managment, LDAP browser, and PXE management

Changes: Software is now able to handle also other OSes like Linux and Mac OS X. Software versions can now depend on architecture, OS, and OS version. Licence management was added. A free... text parser was added. Quwiki can generate Latex code for pdflatex


High quality tool for fully automatic installation of Linux systems. FAI can also be used for configuration management of a running system.

Support Sites:
FAI Guide, Man Pages, Mailing List, Wiki, Interview with Thomas Lange, DataCenter Deployment Control

Features include:

xCAT Extreme Cluster Administration Toolkit

Clients can run on any Perl compliant system.
Features include:

Spacewalk Systems management software developed by Red Hat

Spacewalk provides provisioning and monitoring capabilities. It enables you to kickstart systems, as well as to manage and deploy configuration files. Spacewalk's monitoring feature allows you to view monitoring status for your systems alongside their software update status. Spacewalk also has virtualization capabilities to enable you to provision, control, manage, and monitor virtual Xen guests.

Spacewalk works with RHEL, Fedora, and other RHEL derivative distributions like CentOS, Scientific Linux, etc.

Support Sites: Documentation, FAQ, Wiki, Mailing List, Red Hat Network Satellite

Features include:

Cobbler OS provisioning and profile management

m23 Software distribution and management system

m23 is controlled via the web browser. The installation of a new m23 client is performed in three simple steps and the integration of existing clients is possible, too. Group functions and mass tools make managing a vast number of clients simple.

m23 is composed of a large number of open source components such as Etherboot, Apache, PHP, BusyBox, MySQL, DHCP, ATFTP and many more.

Features include:

OpenQRM Systems management platform

openQRM is a single-management console for the complete IT-infra structure and provides a well defined API which can be used to integrate third-party tools as additional plugins.System RequirementsGNU GPL v2
Java Runtime Environment

Support Sites: Documentation, Forums, Demo, SourceForge Project Page, Mailing Lists Features include:

6 of the Best Free Linux Server Provisioning Tools - Linux Links - The Linux Portal Site

Server provisioning is a set of actions to prepare a server, taking it from bare metal to a functioning system complete with an operating system, data and software.

It does not take long for users to recognise that setting up more than a couple of machines is extremely time consuming. System administrators realise this extremely early in their career. The ability to deploy additional servers or to replace failed servers without fuss and bother is important if business applications are to keep running, and the pressure falls squarely on the system administrator. Server provisioning tools come to the rescue.

However, the difficulty is that operating systems have thousands of components with different interfaces for different components. This means that an automated provisioning tool is a complex beast especially if you consider the tasks that are involved in provisioning a server. These include the installation of an operating system, kernel modules, middleware and applications. Further, the organisation will want the system customized to their requirements such as deploying machines with specific roles such as web servers, email servers, with appropriate partitioning and packages. The server will also need to be appropriately configured for the network.

Fortunately, there are a number of sophisticated tools available for Linux that are adept in provisioning servers, offering the ability to simultaneously set up thousands of machine unattended.

Kickstart was created to enable system administrations a way of automating a Red Hat Enterprise Linux installation. Cobbler is a project from Red Hat that offers turnkey support for provisioning Kickstart files, and setting up the services on the system.

To provide an insight into the quality of software available for Linux, we have compiled a list of 6 desirable server provisioning tools. We have ranked them in our order of preference, with FAI and xCAT carrying our highest recommendation. Hopefully, there will be something of interest here for any system administrator that needs to set up many servers as quickly as possible.

Now, let's explore the 6 server provisioning tools at hand. For each title we have compiled its own portal page, a full description with an in-depth analysis of its features, screenshots, together with links to relevant resources and reviews.

Server Provisioning
FAI High quality tool for fully automatic installation of Linux systems
xCAT Extreme Cluster Administration Toolkit
Spacewalk Systems management software developed by Red Hat
Cobbler OS provisioning and profile management (kickstart based)
m23 Software distribution and management system
OpenQRM Systems management platform

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Provisioning - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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