According to Scott Johnston, VP of marketing at Puppet Labs, Razor (which is freely available and open sourced under the Apache 2.0 license) is the first hardware provisioning tool with the responsiveness and productivity of the cloud. "Puppet can now automate every phase of the IT infrastructure life cycle, from bare metal to deployed cloud applications," says Johnston.
Servers shipped in bulk from manufacturers (Dell, HP, IBM, etc.) typically don't have installed operating systems--they're just chunks of metal holding CPUs, disk and memory (that is, "bare metal"), explains Johnston. Razor provisions the correct operating system software onto the bare metal server as the first step in building up a server to host an application--for example, a Web server or a database. This type of tool is generally used by the system administrators responsible for building a server.
"Puppet Enterprise starts at the operating-system layer and configures and manages this layer and the application layers above this one. Razor sits below PE, provisions the operating system on top of the bare metal, automatically installs PE onto the operating system, and then hands off to PE, which allows it to continue building the server," adds Johnston.
Razor provides autodiscovered, real-time inventory data for every hardware node, eliminating inefficient, error-prone manual processes. As a result, system administrators get full insight into the latest, up-to-date status of their hardware inventory. Razor automatically selects the correct operating system image based on the autodiscovered, real-time inventory data, removing the need for manual intervention whenever there's a change in hardware configuration, explains Johnston.
Different server hardware configurations are optimized for different applications. For example, for database servers, system administrators usually want a hardware server with lots of hard-drive space; for Web servers, they want a hardware server with a fast CPU. Previously, to match the operating system for database servers to the hardware server configured for database servers, system administrators were required to manually perform this function and then maintain some sort of record of this "match" in a spreadsheet.
"With Razor, the system administrator establishes rules--for example, 'only match database operating system software with server hardware that has lots of hard drive space,' and/or 'only match web servers with server hardware that has fast CPUs,'" Johnston says. "Then, when the hardware server starts up, Razor automatically discovers the inventory of the hardware server ('looks like this hardware server has lots of hard drive space') and, based on the rules, automatically matches that hardware server with the appropriate operating system. No more manual matching, and no more manual inventory and tracking. And, if the hardware changes--that is, upgrades the CPU or removes some hard drives--Razor uses the rules to determine automatically and dynamically whether it should select a different operating system the next time the server starts up."