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Distributed Systems Administration Utilities User's Guide

Chapter 2 Configuration Synchronization


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Managing the configuration and configuration drift of a set of distributed systems is a constant challenge for system administrators. There are a variety of tools available to help manage various aspects of multi-system configuration management. For example, for account management, standard solutions include the Network Information System (NIS) and Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP). For file level synchronization, tools like rdist (see the rdist(1) manpage) and rsync are available. HP Systems Insight Manager helps to discover, monitor and manage groups of systems.

A new tool in this toolkit is Configuration Engine (cfengine). cfengine is a popular open source tool for configuration synchronization. It allows policy-based or goal-based configuration management that allows the administrator to define the management actions to be applied to groups of systems so those systems reach a desired state.

cfengine is a client/server based tool. A central configuration master system or policy server hosts a configuration policy file which defines the management actions to be performed on each managed client. The configuration master also hosts the “golden image” files, or reference copies of files that should be distributed to the clients. The administrator can use cfengine to perform tasks such as:

  • Ensure that client systems are using a correct set of configuration files by copying over reference files or directories.

  • Disable inappropriately configured files on the client.

  • Check file permissions, ownership, and track checksum changes.

  • Edit files.

  • Execute specified shell commands on each client.

  • Check for processes or signal processes.

  • Check for specific filesystem mounts.

A Configuration Synchronization Wizard (csync_wizard) is available to help the administrator quickly configure cfengine for managing a set of distributed systems or configuring it as a highly available service in a Serviceguard cluster.

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