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Kara — A Distributed Configuration Management System for OpenBSD

by Adrian Close


Anyone running computer systems eventually strikes the problem of configuration management.  The simplest approach might be to maintain configuration directly on a system, making changes by hand, however recovering from a disaster can be quite difficult if no copies of configuration files exist.  Managing multiple systems in this fashion increases the disaster potential significantly.

Clearly, backups are an important aspect of system management.  Revision control of configuration files is a useful tool, especially when multiple system administrators and operators are involved.  Repeatable methods of configuration change deployment can be critical to service availability.  The ability to automate these tasks can make the difference between getting the job done and total work overload, especially if you are looking down the barrel of a task like managing hundreds of systems.

Kara is a framework designed to address these issues.  It is not a single bit of software that will make all your problems go away.  Rather it is a methodology, combining a number of well-known and freely available software packages (CVS, SSH and others) with system administration techniques gleaned through some years of experience.  It still won’t make all your problems go away, but it should help you keep important configuration files under control.

Kara is designed not to get in your face unless you want it to.  You can manage as much or as little of your configuration as you like (even just one file), so there’s no flag day requirement.

It is unashamedly *nix-centric, aimed in particular (at least in the first instance) at OpenBSD systems.  It should prove easily adapatable to other BSDs and Linux-based operating systems, as well as some commerical flavours.  If you’re unfortunate enough to be saddled with operating systems that don’t support text-based configuration files, Kara is probably not the answer.

Adrian Close
Fernhill Technology

Download the paper: Kara — A Distributed Configuration Management System for OpenBSD (193K PDF)