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November 2011 Archives

http://www.google.com/latitude to sign up.

It will be particularly fun at LISA to see everyone on the map!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Misc

Google's tech blog posted info about the many things that Google is presenting or doing at Usenix LISA. Beer and ice cream on Thursday night. A "ask an SRE anything" booth in the vendor show. Presenting papers, talks and tutorials and much more! Check it out!

http://goo.gl/XXkpK

P.S. I'll be at the Google Vendor Booth Wed, noon-1pm.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in ConferencesLISA11

That's right, folks! Book your room today!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in ConferencesLISA11

We have three keynotes this year: Wednesday morning, Thursday morning, and the closing keynote Friday afternoon.

Our closing keynote speaker is Michael P. Perrone, Manager, Multicore Computing, IBM T.J. Watson Research Center

I've been a sysadmin for long enough that not much impresses me any more. Watching IBM's "Watson" computer play Jeopardy! and beat the human contestants was, in a word, flabbergasting. Doug and I immediately began a quest to find someone from IBM that could talk about this amazing accomplishment at LISA. His talk, "What is Watson?" will be the final presentation of the conference.

The talk will be 50 minutes long followed by 10 minutes of A&Q.

Usenix LISA 2011 is Dec 4-9 in Boston. You can register any time, but you get a discount if you register by Nov 14. I look forward to seeing you there!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in CommunityLISA11

CHIMIT Workshop

I am fascinated by the fact that there are researchers that study system administrators and how to make their work easier/better/etc. The #1 thing they tell me is "we need more interaction with more sysadmins to help guide our research!"

The "CHIMIT workshop" at Usenix LISA 2011 is an opportunity to interact with these researchers.

Read about it here and register to attend!

We have three keynotes this year: Wednesday morning, Thursday morning, and the closing keynote Friday afternoon.

Our Thursday keynote speaker is Andy Palmer, Global Head of Software and Data Engineering, Novartis Institute for Biomedical Research

We invited Andy because he deals with peta-scale data warehousing, big databases and all that fun stuff. I love hearing talks about big big big data. There are always plenty of surprises when things get that big. As conference co-chair, I can't wait to meet him in person!

Usenix LISA 2011 is Dec 4-9 in Boston. You can register any time, but you get a discount if you register by Nov 14. I look forward to seeing you there!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in ConferencesLISA11

"Google engineer: What I learned in the war"

Dan and I have worked at two employers: Google and Cibernet. He's a great guy and I'm proud to know him. In addition to Dan, I have 2 other friends that have served in the Iraq and Afganistan wars. I was relieved and thankful (and a whole bunch of other adjectives and emotions) they all made it all home alive.

Tom

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Misc

You can save big $$$ by registering for LISA on or by midnight tonight! (California time)

Usenix LISA 2011 is Dec 4-9 in Boston.

I look forward to seeing you there!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in ConferencesLISA11

You can save big $$$ by registering for LISA on or by Nov 14th.

Usenix LISA 2011 is Dec 4-9 in Boston.

I look forward to seeing you there!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in ConferencesLISA11

11/11 is the date that looks most like corduroy and 11/11/11 makes it especially special!

Wear them 'cords with pride!

Sincerely, Tom

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Time Management

Tools vs. Automation

Sysadmins talk a lot about "automation" but I think a more specific definition is needed.

"Tool writing" is when we create a program (script, whatever) that takes a task that that we do and does it better/faster/more accurately. For example, creating a new account used to take 10 or more manual steps (creating the homedir, setting permissions, adding a line to /etc/passwd, /etc/group, etc). Good examples include: FreeBSD "pw adduser" or Linux "useradd". In short, a tool improves our ability to do a task.

"Automation" is when we create a system that eliminates a task. Continuing with our example, if we "automate" account management we might build a system that polls our HR database and creates an account for any new employee and suspends accounts for anyone terminated. This eliminates our need to create/delete accounts completely.

A conflict arises when sysadmins on a team are used to using tools and someone creates automation. The people that are used to tools create accounts the old way which confuses the automation. It might delete the account because it doesn't see it in the HR database. Or, new features might be added to the automation and therefore might not be communicated to the system administrators. For example, the automation might be extended to create a default WWW homepage for new users; the sysadmins that work around the automation may not be aware of this and the new users they create "on the side" find themselves without the internal home page that other new users receive.

While I encourage the creation of tools to make sysadmins tasks easier, the creation of systems that eliminate tasks is much more important. While automating our tasks often involves creating tools, writing tools does not automate our work.

There's a difference.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Ideas

You can save big $$$ by registering for LISA on or by Nov 14th.

Usenix LISA 2011 is Dec 4-9 in Boston.

I look forward to seeing you there!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in ConferencesLISA11

Fabric is a new tool for ssh'ing to many hosts. It has some nice properties, such as lazy execution. You write the description of what is to be done in Python and Fabric takes care of executing it on all the machines you specify. Once you've used it a bunch of times you'll accumulate many "fab files" that you can re-use. You can use it to create large systems too. The API is simple but powerful.

The tutorial gives you a good idea of how it works: http://docs.fabfile.org/en/1.2.2/tutorial.html

It is written using the Paramiko module which is my favorite way to do SSH and SSH-like things from Python.

The Fabric homepage is: http://www.fabfile.org

Thanks to Joseph Kern for this tip!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Technical Tips

Please wish him a happy birthday by posting a comment here or on the band new "G+ Page" for Usenix: https://plus.google.com/108588319090208187909/posts

Doug: Working with you on the LISA 2011 conference has been a blast. I can't believe it is less than a month away! It is going to be the best LISA ever! Have a great day! -Tom

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Misc

To help us celebrate Usenix LISA's 25th conference, we are looking for stories!

Do you have a favorite LISA story?

  • Something you learned at the conference
  • A contact you made that really had an impact on your career
  • A funny event that still makes you laugh?
  • Nostalgic (remember facesaver?) and contemporary too!

We are also looking for photographs! (Even if you don't know someone in the picture.) If you have an old Facesaver picture - even better!

Please send your story or photos by Sunday, November 20 to [email protected].

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in ConferencesLISA11

You can save big $$$ by registering for LISA on or by Nov 14th.

Usenix LISA 2011 is Dec 4-9 in Boston.

I look forward to seeing you there!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in ConferencesLISA11

If you are coming to Usenix LISA, why not come a day early and go to CHIMIT? CHIMIT is for people that study system administrators (how they work, how they communicate, how to make tools better for them) but they can't exist without sysadmins also attending their conference!

Call For Papers: 5th ACM Symposium on Computer Human Interaction for Management of IT
December 4-5, 2011 - Boston, MA
chimit.acm.org

Information Technology (IT) is central to modern life. We are surrounded by software and hardware systems that support our work and personal lives. The size and complexity of modern infrastructures is increasing rapidly; and we are now at a turning point where we need new approaches to IT system design,management, and services. Clearly, successful systems management involves a complex blend of technical and human issues.

Since 2007, the ACM CHIMIT symposium has provided a unique opportunity for researchers, in fields such as human-computer interaction, human factors, and management and service sciences, and for practitioners in the management of large IT systems to meet, share, and explore new approaches to IT management.

The symposium program will include one day of technical presentations and papers followed by a one-day workshop in conjunction with the LISA 2011 conference, which will provide an opportunity for in-depth discussions with highly experienced system administrators.

Submission topics include, but are not limited to:

  • User studies of IT infrastructure management
  • Design of human-centered IT systems
  • Experience reports by IT practitioners and researchers
  • Case studies on specific aspects of IT management
  • Experimental studies on the usage of new or existing IT systems
  • Tools and techniques incl. system visualizations, collaborative interfaces
  • Automation approaches to reduce administration workload
  • Collaboration within an organization, community of practice
  • Organizational knowledge - knowledge management for IT
  • Processes and practices - best practices and processes in IT management
  • IT beyond the enterprise - at home, on the road, etc.
  • New technologies - incl. cloud computing, mobile devices

CHIMIT is sponsored by ACM SIGCHI in cooperation with USENIX.

See chimit.acm.org for more information.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Conferences

We have three keynotes this year: Wednesday morning, Thursday morning, and the closing keynote Friday afternoon.

The Wednesday keynote speaker is Ben Rockwood from Joyent who's talk is titled "The DevOps Transformation".

DevOps has a lot of buzz, but Ben will separate the hype from the reality. DevOps may be a new term, but it's not a new idea. He will deconstruct DevOps into its three transformation phases, look back at the often referenced but rarely explained history that influences it, and see how it is a catalyst that is changing the craft of system administration.

I'm really excited we were able to book Ben for the conference and can't wait to see the talk!

Usenix LISA 2011 is Dec 4-9 in Boston. You can register any time, but you get a discount if you register by Nov 14. I look forward to seeing you there!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in ConferencesLISA11

Looking at the Usenix LISA 2011 conference program I'm excited we could book some really powerful "what will I need to know next year" kind of talks. This is what first brought me to LISA many years ago... the fact that by attending I'd be one step ahead of my co-workers as far as what's new in system administration.

Some example talks:

  • "What Will Be Hot Next Year?" with moderator: Narayan Desai, Argonne National Lab. Panelists: Kris Buytaert, Inuits; John D'Ambrosia, Force10 Networks; Jacob Farmer, Cambridge Computer
  • "Ethernet's Future Trajectory" with John D'Ambrosia, Force10 Networks
  • "IPv6, DNSSEC, RPKI, etc.: What's the Holdup and How Can We Help?" with Richard Jimmerson, IETF ISOC
  • "DevOps: The past and future are here. It's just not evenly distributed (yet)." with Kris Buytaert, Inuits

Usenix LISA 2011 is Dec 4-9 in Boston. You can register any time, but you get a discount if you register by Nov 14. I look forward to seeing you there!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in ConferencesLISA11

Looking at the Usenix LISA 2011 conference program I'm proud that we have the three major configuration management systems covered: CFEngine3, Chef and Puppet:

Full-day classes:

  • "Puppet" with Nan Liu
  • "Configuration Management Solutions with CFEngine 3" with Mark Burgess

Invited Talks:

  • "3 Myths and 3 Challenges to Bring System Administration out of the Dark Ages" with Mark Burgess (CFEngine Inc)
  • "Building IronMan, Not Programming" with Luke Kanies, Founder, Puppet and Puppet Labs
  • "Converting the Ad-Hoc Configuration of a Heterogeneous Environment to a CFM, or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Chef" with Dimitri Aivaliotis
  • "Choose Your Own Adventure" with Adam Jacob

Experience Reports:

  • "Getting to Elastic: Adapting a Legacy Vertical Application Environment for Scalability" with Eric Shamow (Puppet Labs)

The Guru is In: (Q&A sessions)

  • "Chef" with Aaron Peterson

Refereed Papers:

  • Fine-grained Access-control for the Puppet Configuration Language Bart Vanbrabant, Joris Peeraer, and Wouter Joosen, DistriNet, K.U. Leuven

Pretty awesome, eh?

Usenix LISA 2011 is Dec 4-9 in Boston. You can register any time, but you get a discount if you register by Nov 14. I look forward to seeing you there!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in ConferencesLISA11