A couple weekends ago I attended the CPOSC in Harrisburg,PA. The home of 3 mile island. This was a five hour drive for me,  so I was uncertain at first whether I should go. However, Ontario Linux Fest was canceled and there was a talk on Puppet. It is risky to bet an entire conference on just one talk, I took it anyway.

Was it worth it?

We want to start using puppet at work. It appears to be the best tool for infrastructure/system management. Maybe I will go into all the details as to why we chose puppet (extensive research.) in a later post. (/me adds to org file). So the opportunity to talk to someone who has actually used puppet was too good to pass up.

I got two big lessons from Bill Hathaway’s presentation; start small and puppet does not do application orchestration.

Start Small

You should start with managing a small insignificant file, such as /etc/motd. When you have this understood and working, then you add a bit more to what puppet manages for you. Eventually, puppet will be managing your systems. If you try to do too much too quick, there will be mistakes and probably lots of swearing.

No Orchestras

The biggest shock was there is a difference to what puppet does and “application orchestration.”. I am a systems newb so perhaps this is no surprise to anyone else. However, the idea that something to manage your system shouldn’t be doing the upgrade orchestration was not expected.

For the other newbs out there: Application Orchestration means that you have App A running on Box 1 and App B running on Box 2. They talk to each other and the upgrades to both have to be coordinated. Meaning that if A is running 0.2 and B is still on 0.1 you are in a world of hurt.

Apparently, the solution to this is The Marionette Collective. The requirements for mcollective are also surprising (I shouldn’t be surprised since I knew nothing going into this.). Requiring a amqp server to broadcast ‘commands’ out to your servers seems a bit too complicated.

I need to get grounded on this whole process, but at least I have a more appropriate path forward than I did before.

Of course the other talks were awesome too. A few highlights:

  • Walt Mankowski gave a talk on perl one-liners. He is the first person to ever make me want to learn perl. I still probably won’t but there was a definite tinge language envy. Python and Erlang can’t do that.
  • Tom Clark gave an excellent walk through of twisted. It is one of those frameworks that promises to make things simple. Yet whenever I try to read other twisted apps I feel like a rat caught in a mad scientists maze, overdosed on psychotropics. This gave me a bit more solid footing. Not sure if that solid footing is an illusion from the psychotropic induced haze or something real.
  • I am not an iOS dev. No do I really want to be one. One question that has always interested me about these platforms is: how the hell do you make testing scale? While applicable to any gui, it is quite challenging on iOS simulators.Sikuli was a pleasant surprise here. It is extreme alpha software and should be treated as such, i.e. operate it with a long stick and have some solid cover nearby so you can survive the inevitable explosion.


    1. don’t use the IDE
    2. don’t use the IDE

When I look back, CPOSC is a win. It is well organized and attracts a pretty good high quality crowd. It is going on my calendar for next year.