Open Source

DIY: Data center rack management made easy

See if RackTables might fit the bill for your data center rack management needs. Jack Wallen walks you through the tool's installation.
If you work in or run a data center, you know that managing all of those servers and racks can be a challenge. You might think that any tool that helps with this task would break the bank, but that isn't the case. The open source, web-based tool RackTables can maintain documentation for all of the server racks you manage. RackTables is free (outside of the hardware).

With RackTables, you can:

  • Have a complete, easy-access list of all devices.
  • Have a complete, easy-access list of all racks and enclosures.
  • Easily manage devices and racks.
  • Maintain a physical listing of ports of the devices and links between each device and/or rack.
  • Manage IP addresses, assign them to devices, and group them into networks.
  • Document firewall and NAT rules.
  • Describe loadbalancing policy and store loadbalancing configuration.
  • Attach files to objects in the system.
  • Create users, assign permissions, and allow or deny any actions they can do.
  • Label everything with flexible tagging system.
  • Access everything from anywhere in the world with a web browser.

Installing RackTables

For this tutorial, I'll show how easy it is to install RackTables on a Ubuntu 11.04 distribution. (Note: At the time of this writing, RackTables is not available for a WAMP, but since the tool is open source, it probably wouldn't take much to get RackTables installable onto a WAMP environment.)

The first step is to download the necessary file and move it to the proper location. This is done with the following (from a terminal window):

  1. Download the latest version from the RackTables Download page.
  2. Move the file to the /var/www directory.
  3. Unpack the file with the command: tar -xvzf RackTables-XXX.tar.gz (where XXX is the release number).
  4. Issue the command sudo cp -r /var/www/RackTables-0.19.6/wwwroot /var/www/racktables.

The next step requires a database to be created. You can do this from the command line or from a tool like MySQL Workbench. Since the GUI tool is so simple to use, let's create the database from the command line. Here are the steps:

  1. Issue the command mysql -u root -p.
  2. Enter the root user password.
  3. From the mysql prompt, issue the command: create database racktables;.
  4. From the mysql prompt, issue the command: grant all on racktables.* to root;.
  5. From the mysql prompt, issue the command: grant all on racktables.* to root@localhost;.
  6. From the mysql prompt, issue the command: grant all on racktables.* to rackuser;.
  7. From the mysql prompt, issue the command: grant all on racktables.* to rackuser@localhost;.
  8. From the mysql prompt, issue the command: set password for rackuser@localhost=password('rackpw');. (rackpw is the password you want to set for the user rackuser.)
  9. From the mysql prompt, issue the command: exit.

After you complete these steps, it is time to point your web browser to the installer. To do this, use the address http://ADDRESS_TO_SERVER/racktables/?module=installer. This will walk you through the process of completing the installation. You will probably find that these Perl modules are missing:

  • SNMP (Optional)
  • GD
  • LDAP (Optional)
  • PCNTL (Optional)
  • HTTPS (Optional)

Anything in yellow is a warning, and anything in red is an error. The installer will not continue with errors. To install the Perl GD module, do the following (from a terminal window):

  1. Issue the command sudo apt-get install php5-gd.
  2. Enter your sudo password.
  3. Restart Apache with the command sudo /etc/init.d/apache2 restart.

Before you proceed, issue these commands:

  • sudo touch '/var/www/racktables/inc/secret.php'
  • sudo chmod 666 '/var/www/racktables/inc/secret.php'

Now hit the Proceed button and the web-based installer will finish, allowing you to enter the details for the database created earlier.

The final step is to set the administrator password. Now log in to your RackTables instance with the username "admin" and the password you just created. You're ready to start exploring RackTables.

In my next DIY column about RackTables, I will explain how to use this incredibly handy and cost-effective way to manage your data center racks.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

5 comments
jtessier72
jtessier72

I know that this is an old post, but is there a follow up article as indicated in the last line?

OH Smeg
OH Smeg

To anything let alone Video Games as they get stuck in your Nose as you snort them. ;)

shonlh
shonlh

Interesting article. Can't wait for the continuation article you mentioned.

wlramsey
wlramsey

I have been looking for something to help me do inventory as well as have documentation for the network layout. This is great! We are a small company and everyone wants documentation in case you get run over by the "beer truck". This is great. I just wish there were a couple of additions. 1. it would be great to have a little more support documentation. 2. It would be really nice to have some more detailed reports. I realize that I could write some, since it is MySQL based, but if there were some reports that gave a little more detailed information that would be awesome! 3. It would also be nice to expand a little (outside of the rack) to be able to add other devices that may not be servers/network, but that use static addresses or that may need to be inventoried (outside of workstations) ie. Network printers, print servers, WAP's, etc. Since this has the potential to serve as an IP Workbook, having these features would be nice. Now I realized this was designed for Rack-mounted equipment, but it could be such a powerful tool if it was broadened a little. I was trying to work with Visio and all sorts of other tools to map out my network, and they just wouldn't do what I needed. This however has fit to a 'T', outside of the above suggestions. It is also super easy to use and add equipment. Setup was pretty much a breeze as well. Although I added to an existing webserver and had to go back and remember how to add an additional alias. Good find! Thanks for the info!

justgold79
justgold79

Perhaps checkout IPPlan. Or openqrm. Or rackview. Or zenoss. Or glpi.. Or racksmith. Or hyperic. After this data-center neophyte's quick perusal of all the free as in freedom/freeware/oss software, racksmith looks pretty nice.