Monthly Archives: January 2009

Can you smell what the Puppet is cookin’?

Imitation is the highest form of flattery…

Things are getting really interesting in the configuration management space.  The confluence of clouds, web 2.0, dev-ministration and chocolate sauce.

Chef is upping the ante, one way or another. I’m a little saddened that the majority of the ideas in Chef were discussed in the context of Puppet and implemented by someone who has made a living off of Puppet… but I’m not totally surprised.

I understand why Adam would do this, and on many levels it parallels Luke’s relationship with cfengine.  Adam has probably used Puppet to solve more real problems and build more infrastructure than anyone else, just like Luke had done consulting with cfengine for years before Puppet was born. In a sense, Adam is the embodiment of the future of system administration that Luke had envisioned and hoped to create.

Socrates, Plato, Aristotle… and so it goes.

Adam is a smart guy who thinks clearly about solving problems, had Puppet as an example and data from the front line. He strikes me as a genuine fellow and while we aren’t best friends, I have enjoyed his conversation and insights on more than one occasion.  Chef adds some nice functionality that was obvious and some pieces that are differences in philosophy.  I’ve done my best to absorb both Luke and Adam’s expressed positions, and paradoxically, in my estimation they are both right, in their context. One way or another, there are still a lot of machines out there being managed by meatclouds, so there is plenty of work to do.

Puppet was first released in 2005 and has grown in functionality and adoption since that time. Puppet is revolutionizing system administration, similarly to how Rails revolutionized web development, and Chef can only accelerate that process, by its own merits and by driving innovations in Puppet. At the heart of the story are many questions about progress, open source, community, technology, obligations and the attributions.  The storyline already has mystery, intrigue, tragic heroes, and double agents. There is bound to be some drama, just because there are humans involved, but sometimes nothing motivates like a nice punch in the mouth.

Remember when Nintendo was king of the world then couldn’t sell anything, and now they pwn Playstation and Xbox… Or when apple was awesome and then wasn’t and now we all have iPhones… Innovators innovate, ebb and flow, ebb and flow.

And rails is merb is rails, and you never know what the future holds.  Buckle up… I’m just sayin’…

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.

–George Bernard Shaw


Landfall Mashups

Earlier this year, I was really impressed with stormpulse, a mash up that provides nearly real time visualizations of hurricanes and the expected trajectories (as a probabilistic band). The whole thing is driven by public data and in addition to being really cool if you are in Salt Lake City, is probably even cooler if you need to decide to leave before landfall.

After the Ruby Hackfest (which really turned into an intro to machine learning and classification), I kept thinking about what data sets might be interesting to train SVM. At the same time, rolling around in the back of my brain was the auto-scaling discussion that burned a swath across the blogo-tweeto-sphere. Those two things collided in the background and prompted this post. (The best analysis and something I mention to Adam Jacobs in a side channel is that these applications don’t scale linearly and naively throwing hardware at the problem without analysis can bring an application to it’s knees. Adam thinks it is all about the appropriate apologies, which will probably never change…)

But I digress…

One of the points brought up in the original post is that auto scaling based on monitoring doesn’t have time to react, but that is like noticing there are 80 mph winds and surmising that their might be a hurricane. I contend that the ‘Digg/Oprah/Slashdot’ effects have some characteristic patterns which could be easily characterized and the trajectories of the ‘storms’ could be predicted, if we could only get the data.  The data is all there, it’s just not together and not publicly accessible. Maybe there is some way to get people to donate access logs so we can characterize the curves?  Once you have those characterized, take the model and analyze the real time logs and feed that info back into both the model and an autoscaling engine.  Start to bring up machines before the big waves start to break…  Take it a step farther and get a protocol/etiquette for a track/pingback mechanism, just to let you know there might be a tropical storm to keep an eye on…

Just a little idea… seems pretty straight forward…

Is anyone out there trying to do something like this?


2009: To Be Is To Do

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.

— Albert Einstein

Can someone help me scratch an itch?

Can someone help me scratch an itch?

2008 was a hard year for me. 2008 was also a wonderful year for me. I just felt like at times there just was too many plates to keep spinning. Most of them are still spinning and there is surprisingly little to sweep up, but there was enough wobbling to make things painfully interesting. The whirlwind year saw my wife graduate from medical school and my second son turn one. I joined forces with Luke and I started blogging. Since June, I was in Los Angeles, Nashville, Portland OR, Toronto and San Fransisco twice, for a week each time. I got to meet a lot of interesting people, was introduced to a lot of new ideas and I was able to share some of mine. I can’t say I was totally ineffective, but one thing 2008 exposed to me is a lot of my inefficiencies.

Don't breathe

Don't breathe

I decided the theme for 2009 was going to be ‘Embrace the Suck’, not because I believe 2009 is shaping up to be so horrible, but because I know there will be things out of my control. C’est la vie is the kinder gentler version of the same sentiment. There are things I can control and things I cannot but if I can’t control myself, what can I hope to effect? Whatever the circumstances, the choice is always between two extremes. Duality can take many forms, but I think the lens most useful for myself is love vs. fear. ‘Embrace the Suck’ might be another way of saying ‘love the fear’. I’m going to do my best to be motivated by passion and love, while minimizing justification and self delusion.

I’m also going to try to be more balanced.

I like to move it move it

I like to move it move it

Not static balance, dynamic balance… Martha Graham mixed with Bruce Lee, float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. The balance that is throwing your center of gravity and not letting it get away. The balance of extremes, a swinging mobile with long levers sweeping through space and time, manifesting very little in the center, balanced duality, appropriately more kind and more fierce. 2009 will be more stillness when resting and more intensity when not. More exertion and more replenishment…

So far, so good, started off the year by making some new friends at the URUG hackfest. We had hoped to master Support Vector Machines, but that was a bit ambitious for an afternoon, but we did enough to get a handle on the problem, and liked the experience enough to commit to doing it regularly. Something good should come out of that. I’ve committed to learning LISP this year (maybe the dragon book next) and we’ll see if I can’t make just a bit of headway on some other languages as well. I’ve got a lot of different goals and responsibilities for Reductive Labs this year, definitely taking that into uncharted territory one way or another. 2009 is going to be a lot of things, not sure what exactly, but I’m not waiting to find out.

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly.

–Robert Heinlein

Let’s get this party started… The spice must flow

I’m ready for you 2009, bring it on…

Only I will remain…


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