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I've been investigating cobbler a little recently. It's a system that helps with deploying new OS installs onto servers, consolidating things like PXE, TFTP, making the distros available for network installation, configuration, IP address and DNS setup, DHCP settings, a web interface, etc…

I've been having a bit of a problem even getting it working, but have finally had some success. Read on for my solution to using it on Fedora 14, and initial impressions.

My first thought was to try it on Fedora 14 Beta, since it's likely to have the latest and greatest. But, when I initially tried it the web interface was producing a Segmentation Fault. I eventually tracked that down to a bug in Fedora's Bugzilla: crash in mod_python when accessing a koji server.

The patch given in comment 3 I was able to apply to mod_python and then gain access to the web interface. However, I then ran into problems with some of the pages producing a traceback due to what looks like a coding problem.

When I found that mod_python was Seg Faulting on F14 Beta, I then decided to try it under CentOS 5. The packages there however seemed to be missing many dependencies, and even after installing what I though was necessary I was having problems getting it started. That's when I went back to Fedora 14 and found the Bugzilla with the patch.

At this point I gave up on cobbler because this was just something I was playing with in my spare time and I don't really have a business need for it. I'd spent more than my time budget on it…

It's hard for me to see the benefit to cobbler, but part of that is because we already have a PXE boot server set up, and make some use of Kickstart and Preseed files.

Cobbler has a lot of features, and they say that you can start simple and then add more features as you go. However, it seems to me that it has so many moving parts that it would be hard for me to recommend it's use in place of a simple PXE setup, if that's all you need.

In our case it's particularly hard to justify because we already have a working PXE boot server and distro images. But even as just a simple PXE server, it can be fairly complex. I started a test PXE install, and it failed due to the kickstart file Cobbler provided being invalid. I'm guessing this was related to the tracebacks in the web interface, but it was unclear how to even track this down, because it was all happening kind of behind the scenes.

Another thing to take into consideration is that Cobbler seems to be heavily oriented towards Fedora and RHEL or CentOS. It claims that you can use it for Ubuntu by specifying “–breed=debian”, but whenever I tried that cobbler complained that it was an unknown breed. Ubuntu is the second most popular distribution we support, and Ubuntu is easy to set up in PXE, so that's another case where cobbler doesn't look that compelling. Unless you work in a CentOS/Fedora/RHEL-only environment. In which case I envy you. :-)

So, those are just a few of my impressions of Cobbler. My recommendation would be that if you are looking to deploy it you plan plenty of time to work out the kinks, probably a couple of days. It's worth looking at, but because we work a lot with Ubuntu systems and already have a deployment system we are happy with it really wasn't compelling for our needs.

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