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Veritas' OpForce 4.0

Go Configure

OpForce can manage your servers' VLAN configuration and supports a range of switches from Cisco Systems and Extreme Networks. I set up a single flat network for all my servers, then added the network address with subnet mask, gateway address, DNS servers and a range of IP addresses OpForce would allocate to my servers.

Next, I used the software to discover the servers I wanted to be managed. OpForce supports server NICs with PXE version 2.0 Build 72 or higher, which run the Intel boot agent. I configured my servers so they would boot from the network. After rebooting, they were displayed in a list of discovered servers.

I accepted the relevant servers from the list, then named and assigned the servers to my network. After a manual reboot of each server, OpForce loaded its Active OS, a Linux-based client OS, to my discovered servers and assigned an IP address from the allocated pool. The OpForce Active OS compiled hardware configuration data, such as CPU type, processor speed, firmware and NIC details, and passed that information to the OpForce server.

Picture Perfect

I took a snapshot of a model server that could be loaded to other servers. OpForce saves snapshots in repositories, which can be located on NFS- or CIFS-mounted drives. I created a repository on a CIFS share on one of my storage servers.

Then I provisioned one of my servers. This process copies a snapshot of operating system and even application software data to the server and gives the server its unique configuration data. I input information--such as the server host name, DNS data and how the IP address would be allocated--from OpForce and not from another source, such as an external DHCP server.

OpForce rolls out the new snapshot to servers with different hardware using Microsoft's Sysprep tool, which can be downloaded from Microsoft's Web site. I created a Sysprep package for Windows 2000 server, using OpForce's software package feature. Again, I saved my snapshot, but this time I chose the Sysprep package to incorporate into the image.

I wanted to deploy my snapshot to two free servers, so I used OpForce's Mini-Setup option to configure Sysprep data, such as the Windows product keys, time zone, and user and company names. The snapshot was pushed to both servers and after booting, the Windows Mini-Setup wizard configured the system and hardware settings.

Seek and Deploy

OpForce identifies software packages and applications running on your managed servers. To test this capability, I ran a discovery on both a Red Hat Linux and a Windows Server. OpForce reads packages found in the Windows system registry and the packages shown by running an rpm -q -a command on a Linux server. OpForce also has a listing of specific enterprise applications supported under this feature. My Linux server generated a long list, but, luckily, I was able to use filters to search for specific items.

Good
• Supports a wide range of server architectures in both 32- and 64-bit formats

• Built-in VLAN support
• Simplifies and accelerates application and patch deployment
• Remote management tools for managed servers

Bad

• No tools provided for automated software-package creation
• Remote management not designed for WANs

Veritas OpForce 4.0, server starts at $7,500; target starts at $500 per CPU. Veritas Software Corp., (8000 327-2232, (650) 527-8000. www.veritas.com

One of most useful features of OpForce 4.0 is its support for deploying software packages, which it does particularly well for the BEA Systems WebLogic product. I manually installed and configured an initial WebLogic server and got the software up and running. I then used OpForce's software package feature to set up the configuration for an additional server. The new server was to have its own instance of WebLogic and would join the existing cluster. I entered the data in the required fields and with a few mouse clicks I deployed the software to the additional server. In minutes I had an installed and fully configured WebLogic server, which was joined to the cluster and available for clients to use.

Any software that can run a batched mode or noninteractive installation can be deployed using OpForce. Although the product doesn't ship with tools for creating custom software packages, Veritas offers support to customers in creating and configuring custom packages.

Time To Change

OpForce offers a server-comparison feature that assesses files using one of three methods: file-size attributes, a checksum on the files or file content. This lets you track changes that have been made to configuration files for your server systems.At first I ran a test comparing the entire C drive on two servers. These servers didn't have much software installed, so OpForce compared only about 3 GB of data. I also compared two similar folders on my servers after adding and deleting a few files from one folder and making changes to a few files as well. This time, I used the checksum method with CRC 32 to compare the files and then repeated the procedure using the file-content option, which does a binary file comparison. In both cases, the program identified the changes that had been made to the files.

A boon for administrators, Veritas OpForce lets companies automate the entire life cycle of server deployment from installation to configuration and change management. The new features in version 4.0 put OpForce in a better position against competing products from Altiris, IBM and Opsware.

Ian Brown is a network consultant at our Syracuse University Real-World Labs®.