Episode 9: Why I'm excited about Usenix LISA: Puppet vs. CFEngine3

There were a couple years where Cfengine didn't have many new releases. During that period Puppet was created. But now Cfengine has had a big, big new release: Cfengine 3. CF3 was "hot off the presses" during last year's LISA and now it has been around for a full year. With a full year under it's belt, I look forward to seeing how it has stacked up.

What are these programs I'm talking about? They are utilities that do "configuration management" or "CM". CM tools are for maintaining many machines from a single information base. For example, you define "a web server has these files" and "a database server has these files". Now you can define certain machines as web servers and others as database servers; run the CM tool and machines get properly configured; machines that someone messed up gets fixed, and machines that didn't need any changes are verified to be good. CM systems are often used for all kinds of configuration: from making sure netmasks are correct, to installing security patches, to deploying massive numbers of complicated servers. This isn't just for servers, by the way, I know one company that uses Puppet to make sure thousands of Mac laptops stay properly configured and stay patched.

If you think CM will be useful in your...

wait a sec....

"IF"??? "IF"?? There is no "if" about CM. All sites need some kind of CM. In fact, all sites DO some form of CM, you just might be doing it manually or... or badly. So, SINCE your site needs CM, what does LISA have for you:

A mini-conference: On Sunday there is a full-day workshop (think of it as a "mini-conference") called "Real-World Configuration Management". This is a yearly event and is a "meeting of the minds" about CM. Many major innovations have been announced and/or birthed here.

Two ways to learn Cfengine 3: Tuesday there is a half-day tutorial: "Configuration Management Solutions with Cfengine 3" by the creator of Cfengine 3 himself and all around amazing guy: Mark Burgess Wednesday there is a half-day tutorial: "Cfengine 3 for Cfengine 2 Users" by the prolific and amazing Æleen Frisch. So if you've used Cfengine 2 and want to upgrade, this is the place for you.

Both Cfengine and Puppet communities have gatherings to meet and hang out during "BoF" sessions at night: Cfengine 3: Tuesday, November 9, 7:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m, hosted by Aleksey Tsalolikhin of VerticalSysadmin. Puppet: Wednesday, November 10, 7:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m., hosted by Nan Liu of Puppet Labs.

During the technical sessions there is a paper co-authored by Mark Burgess: "Troubleshooting with Human-readable Automated Reasoning". I haven't read the paper yet, but I bet it is of interest to CM fans of all stripes.

And last but not least, Usenix veteran D. Brent Chapman has started a company that does CM for your network. Now you can be sure that your firewalls, routers, and switches are all orchestrated as well as your Puppetized or Cfengined servers thanks to his open source project "Netomata". There is a half-day tutorial about it and other similar tools by Brent himself on Friday entitled "Automating Network Configuration and Management"

{ Usenix LISA is in San Jose, CA from November 7-12, 2010. Register now! }

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Conferences

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