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Why Puppet?

Seems like the only thing everybody has to comment on my previous post was to ask me why I haven’t used $this, $that and ${the kitchen sink}. Or to be precise they asked about cfengine, chef and bcfg2. I have to say I don’t really like being forced into justifying myself but at this point I couldn’t just avoid answering, or I would keep getting the same requests over and over again.

So first of all, why a configuration management system? I have three production vservers at IOS (one is this, another is xine, and another is a customer’s of mine). I have a standby backup server at OVH. And then there’s excelsior, which has four “spacedocks” (containers that I use for building binpkgs for the IOS servers), three tinderbox (but only two usually running), and a couple of “testing” containers (for x32 and musl), beside the actual container I use in it to maintain stuff.

That’s a lot of systems, and while they are very similar between themselves, they are not identical. To begin with, they are in three different countries. And they us three different CPUs. And this is without adding the RaspberryPi I set up with the weather station for a friend of mine. The result is that trying to maintain all those systems manually is a folly, even though I already reduced the number of hosts, since the print shop customer – the one I wrote so often about – moved on and found someone else to pick up their sysadmin tasks (luckily for both of us, since it was a huge time sink).

But the reason why I focused almost exclusively onto Puppet is easy to understand: people I know have been using it for a while. Even though this might sound stupid, I do follow the crowd of friends of mine when I have to figure out what to use. This is because the moment when I have no idea how to do something, it’s easier to ask to a friend than going through the support chain at the upstream project. Gentoo infra people are using and working on Puppet, so that’s a heavy factor to me. I don’t know why they chose puppet but at this point I really don’t care.

But there is another thing, a lesson I learned with Munin: I need to judge the implementation language. The reason is simple, and that’s that I’ll find bugs, for sure. I have this bad knack at finding bugs in stuff I use… which is the main reason why I got interested in open source development: I could then fix the bugs I found! But to do so I have to understand what’s written. And even though learning Perl was easy, understanding Munin’s code… was, and is, tricky. I was able to get some degree of stuff done. Puppet being written in Ruby is a positive note.

I know, chef is also written in Ruby. But I do have a reason to not wanting to deal with chef: its maintainer in Gentoo. Half the bugs I find have to do with the way things are packaged, which is the reason why I became a developer in the first place. This means though that I have to be able to collaborate with the remaining developers, and sometimes that’s just not possible. Sometimes it’s due to upstream developers but in the case of chef the problem is the Gentoo developer who’s definitely not somebody I want to work with, since he’s been “fiddling” with Ruby ebuilds for chef messing up a lot of the work that the Ruby team, me included, kept pouring to improve the quality of the Ruby packages.

So basically these are the reason why I decided to start using Puppet and writing Puppet modules.

Comments 2
  1. Thanks, that’s a perfectly valid and satisfying response (I was 0x2 on Twitter asking about Cfengine, as that is the only thing I’ve used myself).

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