I'm a notoriously late adopter of new technologies. Sure, if I think that something is potentially a good idea, I'll go for it, but for the most part, I assume that things are stupid. I refused to use the WWW for many years, thinking it was idiotic. Now I use the WWW. I find microblogging to be inane and narcissistic at best, but I have derived mild amusement from Shaq on Twitter. Microsoft Windows is something I thought would be ridiculously unsuccessful, because it didn't do anything I would find useful.

The list goes on and on, and includes something known in the popular vernacular as “configuration management”. I've been hearing about BladeLogic and Opsware for quite some time, and idly wondering who the incompetent fools are that need something like this. Back in my day we could manage 100 servers with relative ease; no centralized authentication (because it was a running argument about whether NIS sucked more than NIS+ or vice-versa), no cfengine, no prebuilt server images or any of that jazz. If, for some reason, we needed to make the same change to all servers at once, or some subset thereof, we would just script it.

So when one of my acquaintances started raving about Puppet, I assumed it was equally pointless. We'll call him Downs. Downs exhibits a pattern of behavior where he will rave about something for a few weeks, sometimes without having even tried it first, and then eventually become disillusioned with it and start ranting with the same fervor with which he had insisted that whatever fad of the week was the greatest thing ever.

It came as no surprise to me when he fell out of love with Puppet and started raving about how much better Chef is. In case you're wondering, he still has not tried Chef to this day.

Finally someone convinced me of the value of Puppet. I do not think it is the Way and the Light, but I do see a few situations wherein it makes sense to sacrifice efficiency, flexibility, sanity, and system resources to gain a way of building a near-identical machine from scratch. Now, beyond the flaws inherent to a solution like this, Puppet does have some annoying flaws which I find unnecessary, and which Downs ranted about back when I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about.

I disregarded his alleged preference for Chef, but I have heard intelligent people extoll the virtues of Chef, and to a lesser extent Bcfg2. So I took a very brief look at each of those, and was pretty much horrified by what I found.

If I need something Puppet-like in the very near future, I will probably be choosing Puppet. I have no intention of running Puppet on machines I manage all by myself though.

For that eventuality I am NIHing something with what I consider a better design. The current code is published, but it does not do very much, and requires linking with libdpkg.a which does not exist in any package (but Guillem's working on that, I think).

I have no idea whether or not I'll have the motivation to finish it all by myself, but it is Free Software.

This post is intentionally weak on details, or “deets” as the kids call them.

Posted on 2009-12-24
Tags: ranticore, puppet, chef, bcfg2, deets, configuration, management