First off I will say I do not offer dedicated servers so I won't be competition <G>
I have a few internal linux web servers (apache, bind, mysql, exim, the whole works) that I constantly rebuild / upgrade, etc. All the servers would be the exact same running either RedHat or Mandrake.
Is there an easy way to mass deploy these when I need to put up a new one to replace a old one?
I really hate installing linux, then compiling in every daemon and configuing them all. There has to be a better way that you large dedicated server hosts use as I can not see you guys having slaves doing fresh installs and configurations for every new client <G>
I have considered building one fully, then ghosting it and sending the image to all of the other servers and then just changing the host names.
The second part... How can I easily upgrade the software packages on each? PHP as an example when 4.2.2 just came out, I manually have to recompile it on each box.
i'm not familiar w/ the process, but redhat has a method of "imaging" servers called "kickstart" ... you might want to investigate it. i've used the solaris "jumpstart" method to provision a box, and it's fast and hands-off approach to getting a box up and on the network! very very cool stuff.
as for the upgrade, what you can do is write a simple shell script that executes when the OS has been installed. if you're using redhat, i'd assume you're going to go w/ RPM's for the majority of things, so you'd just do an rpm install, etc. for each piece of software to be updated. now, it'll probably take one or two test runs to make sure the install script executes properly, but once it's done you can start the install, go grab some lunch, and come back to a box sitting nicely on the network!