If you manage 1 or more servers powered by cPanel, you undoubtedly have used their easyApache program to get the various Apache and php modules set up to suit your needs. If you needed to rebuild from scratch, or apply the same configuration on another machine, would you be able to quickly recall all the selected options and versions? Do you have a configuration management solution in place?
For most, the answer will likely be no. That’s ok, there are a lot of people answering no to that, but this is your chance to start to get it right. The road to proper configuration management can be a long one, and we get there taking baby steps, one after the other. While doing some configuration audits for a customer who needs to get his servers onto a consistent PHP/Apache build, we built this very simple spreadsheet that can be used as a template to gather your selected options in EasyApache. The time to fill it out is about 5 minutes per server on the first pass, and for any future change, you simply alter the values you selected or modified. Find the link below, but check out a few introductory thoughts on approaching configuration management, and helping the task seem less monumentous than it can initially.
Configuration Management, A Quick Introduction
Let’s take a step back. What exactly is configuration management. For the purposes of this article, configuration management is simply referring to managing the software and configurations that are applied to a server to make it do what you need it to do. It’s about helping you work in a known state, being able to repeat builds and get reproduceable results, cutting down on admin time and ultimately saving you money. This topic can be huge and is a major lead into full automation, but for now we are just dipping our toes in the water with some basic concepts around how to manage your configurations.
Don’t Manage Everything
This is probably where most start and fall off the configuration management bandwagon. When an administrator starts to think the various configurations on their system, the list quickly piles up. You have all the configuration files in /etc/, you have all the things in /usr/local/cpanel, and don’t even start on the bios settings. Stop and think this through.
1) You installed CentOS 6.5
2) You installed the pre-requisite cpanel software
3) You installed and set up cPanel
4)You ran easyApache to generate a custom Apache/PHP build
5) The end
From here we see that our configuration points we care about are:
1) The settings applied during the install – name, dns, ip, etc. Maybe you customized some of the software selections, but most likely you installed based on a static profile
2) Document the software that was installed and versions
3) Document the specific cPanel settings that were applied
4) Document the easyApache selections
The point is, if you have a known state of installing Cent OS 6.5 followed by cPanel version 11.40, you don’t need to document every single thing about the system for Configuration Management, only the changes you made to make the system capable of running your application.
Repeat, Repeat, Repeat
So what’s the point? Configuration Management has numerous, undeniable benefits, but the practical benefit is that things are repeatable. If you use the same software, same configurations then we can reasonably expect the same result. This will help ensure that your users have a consistent experience, and help keeps you as a system administrator sane by always knowing what the build looks like.
More Benefits ( a list, we all like lists)
- Cut down troubleshooting time
- Increase disaster recovery success
- Consistent platforms
- Makes planning upgrades easy
- Lowers admin costs
If you’ve read through this and still feel you don’t need to manage your configurations and would prefer to work in the wild wild west where every server is different and performance and results vary widely, by all means move along, but if you do see the benefits and want to learn more, sign up for our newsletter or grab our rss feed and stay tuned, we will expand on this toipic. For now, grab the audit template by filling out this form and give it a try on one of your servers.