Check out the new USENIX Web site.

Config: A Mechanism for Installing and Tracking System Configurations

John P. Rouillard and Richard B. Martin
University of Massachusetts at Boston


One problem that faces system administrators is how to install and maintain local configuration information on a large number of machines. Some previous approaches such as cloning [2] help, but they only provide a baseline, not ongoing configuration control. Other mechanisms such as Typecast [7], Hobgoblin [5], Scrape [3] or Mkserv [6] assist in the configuration process, and provide some support for ongoing maintenance. However supporting multiple system configurations is still troublesome. Also it can be very difficult to delegate system administration tasks. Insufficient logging of file changes can create a nightmare when attempting to find the cause of a problem.

The method we present uses rdist and integrates it with make(1) and the CVS version control system to provide the ability to delegate and log changes. End node users can make changes to their workstations, however all changes are logged, so that it is possible to see what has changed on a given machine when problems occur. When making changes that affect a large number of machines (e.g., amd automount maps, rc files) previous versions of the file are available in the CVS tree and can be retrieved and distributed in case of unforeseen problems.

Download the full text of this paper in ASCII (37,642 bytes) and POSTSCRIPT (147,720 bytes) form.

To Become a USENIX Member, please see our Membership Information.