Document, then Install

I saw someone post a note that they had installed a new SQL Server and wanted to document the install. Did anyone have a good script or process for doing this?

I’ve done this myself, but lately it seems to be the wrong way of actually building systems. One of the things I have started to feel is important is that I should strive for consistency and known states for systems rather than works of art.  However if I’m installing systems and then documenting them, I think that I’m doing things backwards.

There has been a trend towards declarative actions in technology, whereby we tell the system what we want and it configures itself to arrive in that state. An example of how some this can be done is with Puppet. This is a case of the administrator essentially documenting what they want to be done first, and then letting the system put itself in that state. It’s almost like programming the installation and configuration of software, but with tools to make the process much smoother.

In this model, administrators don’t need to document the installs. They’ve already declared what needs to be done. If vendors change defaults in the future it doesn’t matter, as the installations will configure themselves to the same state, ignoring defaults and human expectations. This also results in much more consistently configured systems, something that’s critical for building a smooth software delivery pipeline.

The closest thing I’ve seen to this for SQL Server is the Finebuild project that Ed Vassie set up. That’s much better than unattended installs and I’ve seen Finebuild demo’d, and it looks good. I need to set it up so that I can ensure that every instance I set up is in a known configuration. I can have multiple configurations ready, but I’d rather choose one of my choices and then let the system apply the settings than remember to click a particular check box or change some item manually. I’d also appreciate this for DR and auditing, with some list of settings for each instance or host.

That just seems more like a 21st century way of working to me.

Steve Jones

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