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Stacki 2 – More Enterprise, More Enterprises By @DMacVittie | @DevOpsSummit #API #DevOps

Fast, repeatable hands-free installations are a good thing for Operations, leaving more time for value-adding activities

Since the first release of the Stacki Open Source project, it has seen the type of growth that one would expect of a cutting-edge tool that makes operations lives easier. The number of active users continues to increase, as does the breadth of things they’re achieving with the world’s fastest open source Linux install tool. Several very prominent enterprises have joined the list of active users, and have asked for a range of enhancements. Stacki 2 incorporates many of these requests. More enterprise friendly functionality, in more enterprises, enabling enterprise IT to do more.

So the Stacki team spent a considerable bit of time making Stacki more friendly to enterprise environments. This week, we released a version with these changes. The changes are spread across the product, touching on many parts of the system, and some of the changes are pretty complex. But we’ll go through them here, with my unofficial English translations of what, exactly, they do for enterprise operations.

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, then you know that I think fast, repeatable hands-free installations are a good thing for Operations, leaving more time for value-adding activities, and spending less configuring RAID, installing and configuring OS’s, etc. So I won’t go into that any deeper here, we’ll just look at what’s new and/or different.

More provisioning networks
When initially released, Stacki assumed that the front end and the back ends would be on a single network. Enterprise users have pointed out that while this generally held true for Boss, the parent of Stacki, it is less true in the “across the datacenter” scenarios that they use Stacki for. As such, users can now add provisioning as an option when creating new networks.

Install front end without the GUI
The Stacki front end was designed as an ISO that asked a few questions and then installed the system. Since asking questions in a GUI is not automation friendly, some of the largest enterprise users asked that there be a version of installation that could be 100% GUI free. This version supports that requirement, meaning that not only are backend server installations completely automated by Stacki, but now frontend installs can be automated by operations or the DevOps team.

Command Line Standardization
The command line for the initial release of Stacki had both required fields  that were positional parameters, and optional fields that were generally either positional or named parameters. Larger organizations that were aiming for operations automations goals found this more difficult to interface with, and operations teams sometimes found it more confusing than necessary. This version of Stacki fixes those concerns by standardizing the command line on the more script-friendly named parameters format. As of this release, the position of the parameters is not an issue, just the key,value pair that can be expressed as key=value anywhere on the command line.

Better exception handling
As with most highly complex projects, logging had some oddities in format and frequency. This version of Stacki cleans those oddities up, providing better formats for integration into and searching from centralized logging.

Since the release of Stacki, users have had the ability to create their own install bundles (called “Pallets”) that can perform tasks like install Ansible on servers, or Puppet, or whatever a local network needs on its hosts. Pallets are the heavy lifting of customization, something many sites do not need, but some few do. The thing is that Pallets are powerful and adaptable, and with power comes complexity.  This complexity got in the way of the bulk of local customizations, and it quickly became evident that while Pallets are still very much needed by some orgs, the bulk of Operations teams would be better served by something less complex. Enter Carts, a lightweight site customization option that allows users to add RPMs without creating an entire pallet. Most scenarios that needed a pallet in the initial Stacki release can be satisfied by Carts, and for those that truly require a Pallet, the option is still available.

Not only has Stacki gained some great users in the enterprise space, the team is responsive and dedicated to making Stacki work in the way enterprises need it to. Fast automated installs take us in the right direction, but only if they don’t take more work to integrate than doing the installs would. Stacki has been improved to make integration into enterprise environments better, and if you haven’t given it a try, grab it from and see what you think..

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More Stories By Don MacVittie

Don MacVittie is founder of Ingrained Technology, A technical advocacy and software development consultancy. He has experience in application development, architecture, infrastructure, technical writing,DevOps, and IT management. MacVittie holds a B.S. in Computer Science from Northern Michigan University, and an M.S. in Computer Science from Nova Southeastern University.