Cobbler “Advanced Networking” not quite up to task

System administrators that deploy tools such as RHEL’s Kickstart are typically concerned with rapidly deploying large numbers or servers, therefore it is quite unfortunate that Kickstart has only very basic network configuration support. What it means is that sysadmins have had to resort to manually configuring IP addresses and NIC Bonding for each and every installed server.

Cobbelr’s Advanced Networking feature seems to suggest a solution for this problem. It seem to me, however, that the approach taken is impractical for large organizations. Cobbler’s approach is to have the sysadmin use the Cobbler command line tool feed in the configuration for each and every NIC on the new server, prior to server installation and based on NIC MAC addresses.

This approach is impractical because the last thing a sysadmin faced with installing dozens of servers wants to to is to boot each and every server with one tool or another in order to check what the MAC addresses are, might as well manually configure the servers once they are already installed with a operating system…

The approach we’ve taken in my organization was to develop our own internal tool that automatically performs network configuration based on detecting where the various NICs are connected to by pinging well-known IP addresses. This approach has an additional benefit in that it can be used to quickly reconfigure the server when faulty NICs or motherboards are replaced (E.g. when the MAC addresses change).