I’m currently on the train on my way back from DevOpsDays in Brooklyn. The conference was great — lots of smart people facing a lot of similar problems and trying to see what we could learn from each other. The scale was small, with only like 100-ish people present and not a ton of huge, in your face sponsorship. And the venue was a college campus. And so I kept making these comparisons in my head to LUG meetings, installfests and small scale Linux conferences.
Obviously the subject matter was a bit different — talking about and thinking about running large scale production infrastructures is a little bit different than the next cool Linux distribution. This tended, I think, to more discussion around patterns and best practices than about the specifics of “you should do X to get Y to work”. So a higher level and more abstract discussion.
The composition of the audience and attendees was a pretty similar make-up. Linux events always had a strong majority of the attendees who self-identified as sysadmins and then there tended to be a smaller number of developers. And many of the latter group had ended up in that camp due to necessity. The breakdown for DevOpsDays felt pretty similar with an interesting twist where there were speakers who said they were (paraphrasing) “developers first and fell into operations because they needed to”.
One thing that felt more evolutionary than anything else was that the side channel discussion for the event took place on Twitter rather than on IRC. I have (fond) memories of many conferences where attendees sat in an IRC channel and then basically continued to interact on IRC long after the conference had ended. In fact, I made many friends in this fashion. Similarly there was an ongoing discussion on Twitter using the #devopsdays hash tag and I have followed (and am being followed by) a number of the other attendees and hope to keep in touch and call them friends in the future.
And maybe the thing that struck me the most strongly was where people were “from”. Not in the sense of where they lived but rather where they worked. The attendees were almost all from startups. We were in Brooklyn and not the heart of downtown Manhattan, but NYC is probably home to more financial services companies than anywhere else in the world. And all of those companies have *many* people working in software dev and operations-y roles. But they weren’t there.
So it feels like “the DevOps movement” is going through a similar growth and evangelism pattern as open source and Linux did years ago. Maybe that’s why it feels so comfortable to me.
Originally published at Jeremy's Thoughts. Please leave any comments there.
Although I haven’t really talked about it here, I joined a new startup a couple of months ago called Stackdriver where we’re working on building a hosted solution to make infrastructure monitoring and management suck less for users of the public cloud. After a having to duct tape the various pieces together a couple of times now, it’s super clear that the need is there so it’s exciting to be working on solving it. More on the side of being at a very early startup to come in the future.
Today I had planned to do some work around some of our provisioning and deployment code and Amazon had another EBS outage making the AWS API pretty unavailable for much of the afternoon. So after doing some other things, I took a look at what fails along with EBS to help us remember what fails along with EBS and thought it was interesting enough to share.
Originally published at Jeremy's Thoughts. Please leave any comments there.
I finally got around to trying the Chef omnibus installer and it’s a step up from what I was doing previously but still not great. Grabbing a shell script with curl or wget and piping it to your shell is an anti-pattern which I wish had never taken off. Luckily, in this case, the shell scripts is just pulling down an rpm and installing it. One step nicer would be if there were just a repo that you could use via yum and have things a yum install chef-full away. And as I thought that this afternoon, I remembered the baseurl support in createrepo. Thus, without further ado, I’ve thrown together a quick set of repos that just point to the files in the opscode s3 bucket and minimizes the amount of storage I have to do If you want to use them, just drop a file into /etc/yum.repos.d named something obvious like chef.repo
name=Chef Omnibus Packages
I’ve only tested the EL6 x86_64 package but I went ahead and created the repos for EL5 and EL6, both i686 and x64_64. Yes, the packages aren’t signed right now. Hopefully that’s something that can be remedied relatively easily. And even better would be if Opscode would just integrate the simple call to createrepo into their build process for the omnibus installer.
Originally published at Jeremy's Thoughts. You can comment here or there.
I have a decent amount of experience at this point with puppet both from experience using it to manage the infrastructure running Fedora as well as setting it up at a pretty large scale at HubSpot. But in a new gig, I decided it was worth rounding myself out a bit and giving chef a try. Not out of any deep seated dislike of puppet but there are a few pieces that I’ve continued to run up against which are a little grating and so I figured it was worth broadening my horizons. The nice thing is that both are fairly successful open source communities and realistically, as long as you’re using a system, you probably can’t go that wrong or switch in the future.
Side-note: I’ve also been playing with Michael Dehaan’s new project, ansible which is also interesting. But I don’t think it’s mature enough to use for a production environment yet and I also was mostly interested in it as a better remote execution layer as opposed to another full fledged config management tool. But yeah. It’s there. It’s interesting. I’ll probably write more about it later.
With a little bit of chef time under my belt, I have to say that I’m not struck by drastic differences. The terminologies are different, the DSL used on the config side is a bit different but they act pretty similarly and you can get either of them to do what you want. That said, there are a few things (good and bad) that I’ve noticed about chef and figured I’d share for others who are looking at deciding for themselves. Note that a few of the things in the dislikes section may well just be me missing something and being a n00b… suggestions welcome!
Things I’ve Liked
- Hosted Chef is a very very nice option to have. Props to the Opscode team for building an infrastructure to run the server side for youand especially for making the barrier to entry nearly zero by letting you manage up to five hosts for free. Given some of my headaches around running a puppetmaster previously, I’m glad not to be having to pull together everything to run a chef server
- Knife is actually pretty cool. I was skeptical before using it but it does a pretty nice job of encapsulating a lot of common tasks for you
- Knife gets really cool with the addition of the ec2 plugin. Launch servers, register them with hosted chef and have them ready to go. I’ve built all of the surrounding bits and as the environment I’m dealing with grows, I think I’ll grow out of being able to use knife ec2 effectively, but it’s great for an easy starting point
- Chef solo seems to work okay and have a few niceties over a master-less puppet setup but I didn’t spend much time with masterless puppet, so it’s probably just that I didn’t find the related nice pieces
Things I’ve Disliked / Been Annoyed By
- The package support in the Fedora/CentOS/RHEL universe is pretty poor. I realize that all the cool kids use Ubuntu these days but tons of server infrastructures are not. Todd does a great job with the puppet (+ ecosystem) packages for Fedora and EPEL. Would love to see someone do similar for all of the Chef stuff
- A lot of the cookbooks that are out there and published are Ubuntu specific. Even the ones which strive to work across distros often end up coercing the Fedora universe to look more like Debian. Which isn’t necessarily a path I want to go down
- Probably just a side effect of this but a lot of cookbooks using things which aren’t the standard init system (eg, depending on runit)
- knife-ec2 makes you think you can get away with using it but I keep tripping across things it doesn’t support and making me consider abandoning it
- Trying out cookbooks from others drives me crazy. I’m pretty sure I’m missing the good workflow here but polluting my checkout by adding vendor branches and auto-committing things. There’s gotta be something I’m missing here
So am I now a rabid chef fan? Nope. But it’s a nice system with some definite advantages for certain use cases. I suspect I’ll find more of them as I use it more.
Originally published at Jeremy's Thoughts. Please leave any comments there.
Wrote up a nice post that maps pretty well to the Ignite talk I gave at Velocity about using using monitoring to help drive your infrastructure development.
Go check it out over on the HubSpot dev blog
I spent last week out in California for the O’Reilly Velocity Conference. It was in Santa Clara, which I hadn’t been to and frankly, I would be perfectly happy to not return. Parts of California are nice, Santa Clara is an office building wasteland. No good food options, nothing really going on, etc. But I was there for a conference and not for other stuff, so it sufficed.
The conference was actually very good. It has been a few years since I’ve been to a conference between grad school, my daughter being born, and being at a startup where conferences weren’t the priority. But it was good to get back to it. Had a lot of good hallway conversations with people about things that are relevant to us and saw a lot of good presentations. And Velocity is especially relevant to me at this point as it was all about various web performance and operations stuff. Where, unsurprisingly, there’s a lot of cool stuff going on.
I mostly kept to the more operations-y tracks just because they map better to what I’m currently working on. I’ve come away with a bunch of things to look into and posted a whole bunch of choice quotes over on Twitter, but a few takeaways boiled down for here would include
- If you’re using a public cloud provider, plan for things to fail. Build your systems expecting it and you’ll have less pain.
- HubSpot is doing an awesome job with post-mortems. DanM actually posted a great blog post over on our dev blog about things we’ve learned from doing a lot of them.
- DevOps has mostly been about putting developers into ops (hi!) but also needs to be about putting ops into dev
- Web performance has been very successful in tying itself to business metrics. Weirdly, operations has overall been less successful at that
- There’s a lot of work going on to help with debugging and working on webapps for mobile platforms. Very cool.
None of those are particularly earth shattering revelations, but still good to see/hear.
Also, on Tuesday night I did a talk for the Ignite track. So 5 minutes, 20 slides, auto-advancing. My topic was “Just Too Late” and was largely around some things I’ve discovered transitioning into a role where I’m doing more ops stuff and the fact that I feel like I get to things too late. But then turning it around and showing that’s not really so. Stay tuned for a longer blog post on the topic. But the talk went really well. It was fun, a lot of positive feedback and was good for me to get back to it. Looking forward to submitting some (full-length) proposals for talks for some conferences later this year.
I also had a few thoughts on the way conferences have changed since I last went to one
- Twitter really is a pretty big game changer. Lots of conversation on twitter during the conference about which sessions were good, useful tidbits from sessions, etc. I actually felt that the experience was pretty strongly enhanced by it
- Conference wireless still sucks. But you can get decent data now for devices and avoid the use of the conference wireless entirely. This made it easier to stay on twitter during the conference
- An iPad (or other tablet) is a pretty perfect device for looking at stuff during a conference. It sits on your lap so you can just check it sporadically, the battery lasts all day, you can get data from a cellular provider, and it’s reasonably fast.
Anyway, good time was had. Thanks to all the people that I met and chatted up. And hopefully it won’t be as long before I make it to another conference
I’m still at HubSpot but my role within the company has changed a bit over the past few months. Related to the article that Yoav wrote which was posted on onStartups today about how we’re trying to better empower our engineers and teams to really own things, I’ve shifted my focus some.
Instead of working on the product which is front and center to all of our customers or even working on the free tools at grader.com that millions of people use, I’m now instead focused quite a bit on various infrastructure related things for us. Obviously, I’ve done some of that all along, but at this point, it’s my primary job.
It’s a lot of fun. We are heavy users of EC2 and some of the other Amazon services. We also are using Rackspace Cloud some. And I wouldn’t be surprised if we add another provider in the future. So there is a challenge in making all of these environments look the same for the rest of our dev team as well as our on call folks. We’re also working to make it so that we can easily continue to scale out as our compute needs increase. All the sorts of things that I’ve spent some time thinking about over the years, but there’s no theoretical here — we’re really deploying, managing and everything else a pretty large distributed system. We are using a fair bit of open source stuff in addition to building some stuff ourselves. The first thing was obviously ami-creator but there’s more to come almost certainly. In addition, we’ll probably be doing some work and submitting some patches to improve some of the tools and things that we use as it makes sense to do so.
And as we we are growing like crazy, I’m looking to hire some people to join my team to help us get even more things done. If I were writing a job description it would probably include bits and pieces like Linux administration, python, puppet, probably devops (as it’s something that’s in mind), cloud automation (… even though I still hate the word cloud), release and build tooling, monitoring, and more. Sound interesting? Drop me a line and let’s talk.
I could give some excuse about being busy, but everybody does that. Let’s do the rundown of big events of 2010
- Finished and submitted my thesis to complete the work necessary to finish up the SDM program and graduate in January.
- My daughter was born in February. There are plenty of pictures on Facebook if you know me and are on there (mostly taken by my wife)
- I’ve continued working at HubSpot where there’s no shortage of work to be done and it seems like always something big going on or coming up
- Picked up cyclocross racing in the fall. Read all about it. Since apparently I managed to blog about that.
If you wanted more details, well, there was a lot more on twitter. But hopefully going to get back into the habit of some blogging again for the new year. Then again, I’ve said that before.
I’ve been having to build some new CentOS images to be used with EC2 for work recently. I went into it thinking that it shouldn’t be too big of a deal. I know that some work had been going on in this area and Fedora 14 is now available on EC2, so I figured I could convince the same toolchain to work.
Unfortunately, I was pretty disappointed with my options.
- Do some building by hand on an actual instance, then do the bundling and upload off of the running instance.
- Some of the ThinCrust stuff initially looked promising, but it seems like it’s largely unmaintained these days and the ec2 conversion bits didn’t really work at this point. I was able to get my initial images this way, but mostly by having a wrapper shell script of doom that made me sad.
- There’s always the rPath tools, but I wanted to stick to something more native and fully open source
- The new kid on the block is apparently BoxGrinder but I found it to be a lot over-complicated and not that robust. I’m sorry, but generating your own format that you then transform into a kickstart config and even run through appliance-creator via exec from your ruby tool just felt wrong. No offense, but just felt like a lot more than I wanted to deal with
So, I sat down and spent an evening hacking and have the beginnings of a working ami-creator.
It’s pretty straight-forward and uses all of the python-imgcreate stuff that’s used to build Fedora live images. Your input is a kickstart config and out the other side pops an image that you can bundle and upload to EC2.
Thus far, I’ve tested it to build CentOS 5 and Fedora 14 images. I’m sure there are some bugs but at this point, it’s worth getting it out for more people to play with. Hopefully it’s something that’s a lot simpler and more accessible for people to build images and I think it will also fit in a lot better with having Fedora release engineering building the EC2 images in Fedora 15 if they want.
One of the big outstanding pieces that I still want to add is the necessary bits to be able to (optionally) go ahead and upload and register as an AMI with your EC2 account. But release early, release often.
Comments, etc appreciated in all the normal ways.
Minor update: switched the repo to live on github instead
I’ve been wanting to play with tumblr, so I’ve set up a new blog for my bike blogging to try it out. Check it out for exciting race reports, some video and probably some other random thoughts on cyclocross as I begin my inaugural season of cyclocross racing.
There might be some other reorganization and moving around here as well in the future when I have a little bit of spare time. Which, since I’m racing cross, might not be for a few months