Managing many servers with Foreman

Recently I joined the Foreman team - an open-source provisioning and configuration management software written in Ruby on Rails. If you manage more than one server and you need to automate server installations and configuration, maybe Foreman is good fit for you. If you use Puppet for configuration deployment, then Foreman is great fit for sure.

In this blog post, I want to share how to do a small installation everythin-on-one-box for evaluating Foreman. This kind of setup is great for evaluating Foreman or for development or testing. It is definitely not recommended to run production setup configured according to this blog post! I will repeat this several times, do not install Foreman for serious use following this page.

Warning: I used this setup to learn how Foreman works, how Foreman Smart-Proxy works and how everything fit together. Foreman does have puppet-based installer which configures all services out-of-box (except libvirt of course). It is highly recommended to use it instead of this manual installation. If you are going to evaluate Foreman, it is more recommended to do this:

  • Get a RHEL 6.4+ box with some memory and space and hypervisor capabilities
  • Install libvirt and create a virtual NAT network without DHCP enabled (see bellow how to do that)
  • Install Foreman and Foreman-Proxy using our installers
  • Reconfigure ISC DHCP to listen only on the virtual network (see bellow)
  • Register the proxy and the libvirt in the Foreman using the UI
  • Play with Foreman

Ok if you decided not to stop reading here, you want to do the “hard” setup. And that is fine, this is the purpose of my blog post.

The idea is simple - I will have one hardware box running RHEL6 where I want to install KVM/libvirt hypervisor with a virtual network. In this network, I will run DHCP, DNS and TFTP services for automated installations of RHEL6, CentOS6 or Fedora. Note that Foreman does support other distributions like SUSE, Debian, Ubuntu or even Solaris OS, but for simplicity I will focus only on RHEL-based systems.

Also, I will not use libvirt DHCP server since I wanted to try out full integration with ISC DHCP service. Ready, steady. Let’s do this!

First of all, get a decent hardware box with at least 4 GB RAM and a CPU with native virtualization support, install RHEL6 (I am using 6.4) and install necessary Virtualization yum group (or just libvirt if you want).

For the sake of simplicity we will configure libvirt without any authentication. This is dangerous, but for our testing purposes it will work. On the libvirt server make the following changes:

# cat /etc/libvirt/libvirtd.conf
listen_tls = 0
listen_tcp = 1
auth_tcp = "none"

# grep listen /etc/sysconfig/libvirtd

Restart the guy.

# service libvirtd restart

You should be able to reach this instance via TCP. Note the above setting is perhaps not necessary for the whole setup, but I just did this for my convenience. Test it out:

# virsh -c 'qemu+tcp://libvirt:16509/system' list

Now, we want to create a virtual network where we will run our services. I want to stress out using virtual network instead physical one, because I can imagine you are already running a DHCP server there and starting our own one could cause some pains :-)

To create it, the easiest method is to use virt-manager, connect to your hypervisor and using Details - Virtual Network - Add add new one with a name “virtual”. Do NOT set DHCP server there and leave the default network configuration. Also put NAT option in there. It will likely have device virbr1 since virbr0 is usually taken by network “default”. The configuration should look like this (note the network I use here):

# cat /etc/libvirt/qemu/networks/virtual.xml 
OVERWRITTEN AND LOST. Changes to this xml configuration should be made using:
virsh net-edit virtual or other application using the libvirt API.
<forward mode='nat'/>
<bridge name='virbr1' stp='on' delay='0' />
<mac address='52:54:00:20:1F:20'/>
<ip address='' netmask=''>

You should be also able to create this via virsh, or even manually (but you need to stop libvirt, edit the file and then start it). Also create the autostart symlink if you are doing this manually. The UI is highly recommended for this tho.

Note you could use the “default” network which has the very same configuration (but usually with network), but with DHCP. I tend to prefer creating very own network not to confuse others which would like to use “default” one.

Now, the following step is really not necessary, because there will not be any TFTP NAT traversal, but we can load our iptables modules since it does not hurt at all (actually I just wanted to keep these lines somewhere not to forget about these :-)

# cat /etc/sysconfig/modules/foreman.modules
modprobe nf_nat_tftp
modprobe nf_conntrack_tftp
exit 0

Make sure it has executable flag and load these modules by executing this file.

Let’s install ISC DHCP software, ISC Bind (DNS) software and BSD TFTP.

# yum -y install dhcp bind tftp-server syslinux

Before we start configuring DHCP, we need to generate security token:

# dnssec-keygen -r /dev/urandom -a HMAC-MD5 -b 512 -n HOST omapi_key
# cat Komapi_key.+*.private |grep ^Key|cut -d ' ' -f2-

Copy the output and paste it bellow to the dhcpd.conf.

Note: If you get an package conflict error in Fedora 16 or RHEL 6.0, do yum update dhclient and try again then. Now configure dhcpd and make it listen on the correct interface (virbr1 in our case). This is very important - do NOT run DHCP daemon on your physical device like eth0 :-)

# cat /etc/dhcp/dhcpd.conf
default-lease-time 604800;
max-lease-time 2592000;
log-facility local7;

subnet netmask {
    option routers;
    option subnet-mask;
    option domain-search "virtual.lan";
    option domain-name "virtual.lan";
    option domain-name-servers;

omapi-port 7911;
key omapi_key {
    algorithm HMAC-MD5;
    secret "0pD4fT+...";
omapi-key omapi_key;

As you can see our network will have “virtual.lan” domain. Also change your DNS servers from Google public (8.8.x.x) to yours. This network has NAT, so it will use your physical interface.

Again, do not forget to set the correct listening interface!

# cat /etc/sysconfig/dhcpd
DHCPDARGS=" virbr1"

# service dhcpd restart
# chkconfig dhcpd on

If you do not want to break your current LAN setup, double check in the /var/log/messages dhcpd is listening on the correct interface! I know I am repeating myself, I promise - this is the last time.

Let’s configure DNS, bind is already installed so we can edit it’s configuration:

# cat /etc/named.conf
include "/etc/rndc.key";

controls  {
    inet port 953 allow {; } keys { "foreman"; };

options  {
    directory "/var/named";
    forwarders {;; };

include "/etc/named.rfc1912.zones";

zone "" IN {
    type master;
    file "dynamic/100.168.192-rev";
    update-policy {
        grant "foreman" zonesub ANY;

zone "virtual.lan" IN {
    type master;
    file "dynamic/virtual.lan";
    update-policy {
        grant "foreman" zonesub ANY;

There is a key section in the rndc.key file - it is good idea to keep it separate:

# cat /etc/rndc.key
key "foreman" {
    algorithm hmac-md5;
    secret "WqEdq...Kk2vWhcw==";

As you can see, it is pretty much standard named.conf configuration with acl virtual-lan added, zone “virtual.lan” and key section which was generated by the following command:

# ddns-confgen -k foreman -a hmac-md5

Make sure the DNS does listen on the virtual lan only. I am not configuring IPv6 at all. Now let’s create a simple zone file:

# cat /var/named/dynamic/virtual.lan
$TTL 86400  ; 1 day
virtual.lan     IN SOA  virtual.lan. (
                2013041903 ; serial
                28800      ; refresh (8 hours)
                7200       ; retry (2 hours)
                864000     ; expire (1 week 3 days)
                86400      ; minimum (1 day)
            NS  ns.virtual.lan.
            MX  10 mail.virtual.lan.
$ORIGIN virtual.lan.
foreman         A
mail            A
ns              A
tftp            A

And the reverse file:

# cat /var/named/dynamic/100.168.192-rev
$TTL 86400  ; 1 day IN SOA virtual.lan. (
                2013041903 ; serial
                28800      ; refresh (8 hours)
                7200       ; retry (2 hours)
                864000     ; expire (1 week 3 days)
                86400      ; minimum (1 day)
            NS  ns.virtual.lan.
1           PTR foreman.virtual.lan.

Start the thing!

# service named start
# chkconfig named on

Now you should be able to connect to the management interface. To test this issue the following command:

# echo -e "update add aaa.virtual.lan 3600 IN A\nsend\n" |\
    nsupdate -k /etc/rndc.key

Note you will not see the entry in the zone file, but in the transfer jnl binary file. To move all the entries from the binary file to the zone text file, use the following commands:

# rndc freeze virtual.lan
# rndc freeze

Now you can remove it and restart named.

Warning: Since I will install Foreman and Smart Proxy as root (NOT recommended), I do not need to care about permissions. You should make sure that the key file is readable by Smart Proxy user.

Configuration of TFTP will be pretty straightforward, the software is already installed and we just need to do few steps. Create a directory structure for files:

# mkdir -p /var/lib/tftpboot/pxelinux.cfg

Now, copy essential files from syslinux package to our TFTP root directory.

# cp /usr/share/syslinux/{pxelinux.0,menu.c32,chain.c32} \

If you are thinking about “service tftp start” command, forget about it. Muhahahahahaaaa! The TFTP service is started via xinetd, so we need to start it. Remove disabled line from the tftp xinetd file:

# grep disable /etc/xinetd.d/tftp
disable         = yes

And start it.

# service xinetd start
# chkconfig xinetd on

You should be able to download a file via TFTP now:

# cd /tmp
# tftp
tftp> get pxelinux.0
tftp> exit
# rm -i pxelinux.0

We are not there yet, but quite close. We want to install smart proxy at this point. Smart proxy is a very small daemon that Foreman talks to via HTTPS REST. Smart proxy is able to interact with all the services like DHCP, DNS, TFTP and Puppet/PuppetCA.

For both Smart proxy and Foreman, I will use rbenv installation, because both projects need recent ruby libraries which are not avaiable in RHEL6 yet. It is not recommended to use rbenv for production setups, but for our evaluation purposes it should work just fine and it is very quick.

I will install everything in /root (yeah) and will run everything under root (on my test/development servers I only have the root user). Because rbenv script will compile it’s own Ruby, we need some devel libraries.

# yum -y install git libvirt-devel mysql-devel pg-devel openssl-devel \
    libxml2-devel sqlite-devel libxslt-devel zlib-devel readline-devel 

We are following rbenv installation instructions now. Let’s install rbenv and Ruby 1.9:

# cd /root
# git clone git:// ~/.rbenv
# echo 'export PATH="$HOME/.rbenv/bin:$PATH"' >> ~/.bash_profile
# echo 'eval "$(rbenv init -)"' >> ~/.bash_profile
# exec $SHELL -l
# git clone git:// \
# rbenv install 1.9.3-p327

It will take a while to finish. Now, let’s move on to smart-proxy. We will configure to run it in the foreground instead of deamonizing. Good for testing.

# git clone git://
# cd smart-proxy
# cp config/settings.yml.example config/settings.yml

Configure Smart Proxy to use all the services we have just configured.

# grep '^:' config/settings.yml
:daemon: false
:daemon_pid: /var/run/foreman-proxy/
:port: 8443
:tftp: true
:tftproot: /var/lib/tftpboot
:dns: true
:dns_key: /etc/rndc.key
:dhcp: true
:dhcp_vendor: isc
:dhcp_config: /etc/dhcp/dhcpd.conf
:dhcp_leases: /var/lib/dhcpd/dhcpd.leases
:dhcp_key_name: omapi_key
:dhcp_key_secret: 0pD4fT+hJ...==
:puppetca: true
:ssldir: /etc/puppet/ssl
:puppetdir: /etc/puppet
:puppet: true
:puppet_conf: /etc/puppet/puppet.conf
:bmc: false
:log_file: logs/development.log
:log_level: WARN

Note I am not setting Proxy up for SSL, again, this is NOT recommended for production setups. For fast readers - warning - this is testing installation.

Since Puppet in RHEL/EPEL is pretty outdated, we will run latest Puppet from directly. Add this line to the Gemfile:

# grep puppet Gemfile
gem 'puppet'

Start the proxy:

# bundle install
# bundle exec bin/smart-proxy

We need to configure Puppet first. Although we will run the latest puppet from, we configured standard paths.

# mkdir /etc/puppet
# puppet master --genconfig > /etc/puppet/puppet.conf

You can review the configuration, I made just three changes there. I will run puppet master daemon as root, which is not recommended for production setups.

# grep -E '^\s*(modulepath|user|group)' /etc/puppet/puppet.conf
user = root
group = root
modulepath = /etc/puppet/modules/$environment

Now you can start puppet master:

# puppet master --no-daemonize --verbose

Finally, you can follow Foreman installation:

# cd /root
# git clone -b develop
# cd foreman
# bundle install
# cp config/settings.yaml.example config/settings.yaml
# cp config/database.yml.example config/database.yml

I will keep the default database setting on sqlite3, but if you intend to evaluate Foreman with more than one user, I highly recommend to configure postgresql database (more info in the Foreman manual about that). Settings are standard:

# grep '^:' config/settings.yaml
:unattended: true
:login: true
:require_ssl: false
:locations_enabled: true
:organizations_enabled: true
:support_jsonp: false

Migrate db and start the thing! It is recommended to run in the production mode which is much more faster.

# RAILS_ENV=production bundle exec rake db:migrate assets:precompile locale:pack
# RAILS_ENV=production bundle exec rails server

We are almost there, go to http://localhost:3000 and visit main settings page. Review it and setup root password for newly created hosts and also foreman_url to foreman.virtual.lan.

Configure Smart Proxy first, you whould see all its features there.

Now you can create architecture, OS, associate templates and provision hosts and do stuff. More about that maybe later.

10 April 2013 | linux | fedora