The open source Puppet configuration management system is widely used to get software onto servers. Now the developers behind Puppet are going a step further, taking aim at bare metal provisioning in an open source effort with EMC called Razor.
"Provisioning is the critical first step in the application lifecycle -- everywhere you have infrastructure, you have to have bare metal somewhere," Luc Kanies, CEO of Puppet Labs told InternetNews.com. "The easier it is to turn that bare metal into what you need it to be, the more efficient your infrastructure will be."
Kanies noted that system administrators for the most part still rely on single vendor platform provisioning tools and there's a need for a cross-platform tool. That's what Razor is all about. It's a tool that provides agility at the physical layer, so a server admin that wants to make changes to a thousand different servers doesn't have to go through menial steps at the physical level.
Razor features include auto discovery for all hardware nodes, providing a real-time status update on hardware inventory. The system includes dynamic image selection that will leverage the auto-discovered hardware to select and deploy the correct operating system image needed for the bare metal server.
From an extensibility perspective, Razor has open APIs and a plug-in architecture that will enable it to be easily integrated with other tools. In terms of how servers are provisioned from bare metal with Razor, Kanies explained that there is a microkernel that is PXE (Preboot eXecution Environment) booted on the bare metal.
Kanies explained that in building Razor, they took a lot of existing technologies that were known to work in cross platform environments, including PXE and a standard Linux kernel that supports what they need. On top of this are the existing Puppet technologies that provide an always-on hardware inventory. This information is relayed to Razor so that it to always know what hardware is present.
Working with EMC on Razor
In terms of why EMC was involved in building the Razor project, Kanies explained that EMC had been investigating hardware provisioning tools and found them to be lacking.
"We have been working with EMC for a while and they know our technologies," Kanies said. "Based on our active and engaged open source community, they thought we were a great partner."
Kanies stressed that Razor is an open source project under an Apache 2.0 license, and it was clear to both Puppet Labs and EMC that the project would work best in open source. The core of Puppet Labs technologies today is all open source, with a separate commercial Puppet Enterprise version that layers additional features on top.
Razor will be a hosted project on the Github open source project repository, and outside contributions will be welcomed. While Razor is not currently part of Puppet Labs' commercial offerings, that's likely to change.
"You can expect us with Razor to build this into Puppet Enterprise and to take this integrated solution and provide even more value on top," Kanies said.