Tagconfiguration management

CERN & Puppet

A presentation from CERN during the PuppetConf. Some very interesting items in there:

  • I was somewhat surprised at how much diversity they have. I thought they ran what effectively is a grid compute network with identical nodes.
  • They operate at huge scale. It requires a completely different way of thinking about power and data and resource management.
  • “Evaluate solutions, identify functional gaps and challenge them” – a very succinct way to describe a core IT function.
  • I like the analogy of thinking of your machines as pets and cattle. You care for your pets, but you shoot your cattle if something is wrong. Your infrastructure should be made out of “cattle”.
  • Their tool chain (puppet/foreman/openstack/mcollective/bamboo/git) is accessible to anyone and they understand the value of active community.

The overview is here. If you want to skip the CERN background, the technical part of the talk starts at ~11:00 minutes. This follow up talk gets into more technical detail of their puppet use.


TripAdvisor’s architecture

A long and a very informative post about what TripAdvisor found out when they tested out AWS for their infrastructure. There are a lot of interesting tidbits in there, some of which are hard to analyze without seeing precise numbers. What I find interesting is that they essentially ported their existing datacenter setup to AWS. Granted, their stated goals were to really look at a cost/performance and not change the operational model. However, in my experience with AWS, simply reusing your datacenter architecture isn’t sufficient and will likely lead to a lot of disappointments. There are couple of things that stood out that would have likely improved their experience:

  • “Cloudwatch/monitoring was sufficient” – that was said with a caveat that it was enough for scaling decisions and detailed monitoring would be more helpful. I would disagree there. Even in their results they didn’t have enough visibility to figure out what was wrong with GC, so they couldn’t see inside the JVM. As far as scaling decisions go, it depends on the complexity of the application and underlying architecture. If you can make the decision simply based on the CPU load of a given instance, then CloudWatch is great. However, in a lot of cases you need far more detail to understand which tier to scale and if that’s even going to help. Also, depending on the availability tolerance of your application, 5 minute intervals might not be good enough.
  • Log collection – that seems to be done in pretty antiquated way and clearly it’s not real time and heavily dependent on local instance storage. Something like Graylog2/Logstack or Flume/Hadoop is far better.
  • Configuration management – they use a custom in-house solution with a naming database. That is usually very difficult to change for historical reasons, but something along the lines of puppet/chef/salt will give better results. The process is somewhat reversed too with an instance responsible for figuring out what it needs to be, though it’s arguable which is the better approach.
  •  Use of ELB – ELB is relatively cheap and pretty fast. Using something like HAProxy would give them far more granularity, visibility and better balancing overall.

In any case, it’s a worthy read if you’re considering AWS.


System definitions

I’ve ran into another example of this recently. I really don’t get why this concept so hard for so many people. You have to have a definition of your system in some form that can be consumed or taken as an input. No automation will happen without it. It doesn’t really matter what it is. You can use Puppet or Chef or CFengine or VMWare templates or SCCM or even Visio…..the list is endless. What you absolutely don’t do is have a form asking someone to fill out their system details in a free text box. That scales to about 4 systems. Hell, just type it like this in a word processor of your choice:


“servername”: “MySuperSever”

“OS”: “Favorite Linux distro”

“APP”: “Super Widget for TPS reports”


Even as a completely stand-alone approach, at the very least you’re creating a blueprint of your systems and a foundation for the future. Something that can be replicated, analyzed, plugged in, transformed and consumed down the road.




Came across this today. Looks like a nifty little configuration management tool. Certainly far more basic than Puppet or Chef, but might be a decent way to get started with configuration management if you’re not there yet.



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