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Are You Looking For Trouble?

Do you know where your servers are right now? Good sysadmins and devops use automation and monitoring, but good sysadmins don’t rely on them. The problem with automated monitoring, as we know from the movie Jurassic Park, is that you only find what you’re looking for.

In this article I’ll explain why paranoia, suspicion and snooping are essential items in your sysadmin toolbox, and give you a few hints on how to find trouble you didn’t know you had.

Jurassic Park: when monitoring isn’t enough.

Puppet Drupal recipes

Drupal, Puppet. Puppet, meet Drupal

Puppet and Drupal make a great combination. Drupal is an amazing tool for quickly constructing attractive, functional web sites. It lets you manage large numbers of web sites from a single installation, and (via add-on modules) provides almost any CMS or blog feature you could want.

However, like any powerful tool, Drupal takes some learning. It also needs a certain amount of discipline to manage Drupal servers without getting into a chaotic mess. The Drupal sysadmin can end up trying to navigate a spaghetti of ad-hoc symlinks and face problems upgrading, maintaining, monitoring and backing up a large Drupal installation. Aegir can help with this (I’ll look at Aegir vs. Puppet in a future article) but first we need to get Drupal itself under control.

Fortunately, Puppet can help you tame Drupal and use the power of configuration management to bring your Drupal sites under control. In this article I’ll explain some techniques and Puppet recipes I use to manage Drupal sites and servers, including my own sites, including this one! Read more »

Scaling Puppet with Git

Scaling Puppet with Git

More and more people are turning to systems automation tools like Puppet and Chef to get the most out of their environments, and to create time to focus on delivering business benefits. Scaling Puppet is most commonly done using client/server mode, in which every client is issued with an SSL certificate, and conversations take place between clients and a server, over HTTP, and manifests and assets are served over the network, and applied by a locally running Puppet daemon. However, is there a better way? We present an alternative to the traditional Puppetmaster solution which we like to call ‘Git Puppet’.

Guest article by Stephen Nelson-Smith

Update: There is a fuller and more up-to-date description of my Git-based Puppet infrastructure in The Puppet Cookbook - so after you read this introduction, you may find it helpful to read the book too. Read more »

Puppet versus Chef: 10 reasons why Puppet wins

Puppet, Chef, cfengine, and Bcfg2 are all players in the configuration management space. If you’re looking for Linux automation solutions, or server configuration management tools, the two technologies you’re most likely to come across are Puppet and Opscode Chef. They are broadly similar in architecture and solve the same kinds of problems. Puppet, from Reductive Labs, has been around longer, and has a large user base. Chef, from Opscode, has learned some of the lessons from Puppet’s development, and has a high-profile client: EngineYard.

You have an important choice to make: which system should you invest in? When you build an automated infrastructure, you will likely be working with it for some years. Once your infrastructure is already built, it’s expensive to change technologies: Puppet and Chef deployments are often large-scale, sometimes covering thousands of servers.

Chef vs. Puppet is an ongoing debate, but here are 10 advantages I believe Puppet has over Chef today. Read more »

Agile Sysadmin and the Art of Infrastructure Automation

I recently gave a “Devops’-flavoured talk at the London Ruby Users Group on agile sysadmin practices, agile web ops, configuration languages and infrastructure automation. The slides are below, and you can also see:

The idea of the talk was to look at modern sysadmin practices such as version control, configuration management and automation, and to show developers that with languages like Puppet, infrastructure is just code. “We’re all developers now,” as Julian Simpson (“The Build Doctor”) neatly put it. (Video of Julian’s talk here.) Read more »

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