Awesome Conferences

August 2014 Archives

I'll be the speaker at the September LOPSA-NJ meeting. My topic will be the more radical ideas in our new book, The Practice of Cloud System Administration. This talk is (hopefully) useful whether you are legacy enterprise, fully cloud, or anywhere in between.

  • Topic: Radical ideas from The Practice of Cloud Computing
  • Date: Thursday, September 4, 2014
  • Time: 7:00pm (social), 7:30pm (discussion)

This is material from our newest book, which starts shipping the next day. Visit for more info.

The Practice Of Cloud System Administration is featured in the InformIT Labor Day sale. Up to 55% off!

Here is the link

Buy 3 or more and save 55% on your purchase. Buy 2 and save 45%, or buy 1 and save 35% off list price on books, video tutorials, and eBooks. Enter code LABORDAY at checkout.

You will also receive a 30-day trial to Safari Books Online, free with your purchase. Plus, get free shipping within the U.S.

The book won't be shipping until Sept 5th, but you can read a recent draft via Safari Online.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli

PuppetConf 2014 is the 4th annual IT automation event of the year, taking place in San Francisco September 20-24. Join the Puppet Labs community and over 2,000 IT pros for 150 track sessions and special events focused on DevOps, cloud automation and application delivery. The keynote speaker lineup includes tech professionals from DreamWorks Animation, Sony Computer Entertainment America, Getty Images and more.

If you're interested in going to PuppetConf this year, I will be giving away one free ticket to a lucky winner who will get the chance to participate in educational sessions and hands-on labs, network with industry experts and explore San Francisco. Note that these tickets only cover the cost of the conference (a $970+ value), but you'll need to cover your own travel and other expenses (discounted rates available). You can learn more about the conference at:

To enter, click here.

Even if you aren't selected, you can save 20% off registration by reading the note at the top of the form.

ALL ENTRIES MUST BE RECEIVED BY Tue, September 3 at 8pm US/Eastern time.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Puppet


The schedule for 2014 has been published and OMG it looks like an entirely new conference. By "new" I mean "new material"... I don't see slots filled with the traditional topics that used to get repeated each year. By "new" I also mean that all the sessions are heavily focused on forward-thinking technologies instead of legacy systems. This conference looks like the place to go if you want to move your career forward.

LISA also has a new byline: LISA: Where systems engineering and operations professionals share real-world knowledge about designing, building, and maintaining the critical systems of our interconnected world.

The conference website is here:

I already have approval from my boss to attend. I can't wait!

Disclaimer: I helped recruit for the tutorials, but credit goes to the tutorial coordinator and Usenix staff who did much more work than I did.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in LISA

So, you've heard about Burning Man. It has probably been described to you as either a hippie festival, where rich white people go to act cool, naked chicks, or a drug-crazed dance party in the desert. All of those descriptions are wrong..ish. Burning Man is a lot of things and can't be summarized in a sound bite. I've never been to Burning Man, but a lot of my friends are burners, most of whom are involved in organizing their own group that attends, or volunteer directly with the organization itself.

Imagine 50,000 people (really!) showing up for a 1-week event. You essentially have to build a city and then remove it. As it is a federal land, they have to "leave no trace" (leave it as clean as they found it). That's a lot of infrastructure to build and projects to coordinate.

We, as sysadmins, love infrastructure and are often facinated by how large projects are managed. Burning Man is a great example.

There is a documentary called Burning Man: Beyond Black Rock which not only explains the history and experience that is Burning Man, but it goes into a lot of "behind the scenes" details of how the project management and infrastructure management is done.

You can watch the documentary many ways:

There is a 4 minute trailer on (warning: autoplay)

The reviews on IMDB are pretty good. One noteworthy says:

I cannot say enough about the job these filmmakers did and the monumental task they took on in making this film. First, Burning Man is a topic that has been incredibly marginalized by the media to the point of becoming a recurring joke in The Simpsons (although the director of the Simpsons is at Burning Man every year), and second, to those who DO know about it, its such a sensitive topic and so hard to deliver something that will please the core group.

Well, these guys did it, and in style I must say. This doc is witty, fast moving, and most importantly profoundly informational and moving without seeming too close to the material.

I give mad props to anyone that can manage super huge projects so well. I found the documentary a powerful look at an amazing organization. Plus, you get to see a lot of amazing art and music.

I highly recommend this documentary.

Update: The post originally said the land is a national park. It is not. It is federal land. (Thanks to Mike for the correction!)

Posted by Tom Limoncelli

they wouldn't let me wear ear plugs.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli

Someone recently asked how to take a bunch of numbers from STDIN and then break them down into distribution buckets. This is simple enough that it should be do-able in awk.

Here's a simple script that will generate 100 random numbers. Bucketize them to the nearest multiple of 10, print based on # of items in bucket:

while true ; do echo $[ 1 + $[ RANDOM % 100 ]] ; done | head -100 | awk '{ bucket = int(($1 + 5) / 10) * 10 ; arr[bucket]++} END { for (i in arr) {print i, arr[i] }}' | sort -k2n,2 -k1n,1

Many people don't know that in bash, a single quote can go over multiple lines. This makes it very easy to put a little bit of awk right in the middle of your code, eliminating the need for a second file that contains the awk code itself. Since you can put newlines anywhere, you can make it very readable:


while true ; do
  echo $[ 1 + $[ RANDOM % 100 ]]
done | head -100 | \
  awk '
        bucket = int(($1 + 5) / 10) * 10 ;
      END {
        for (i in arr) {
          print i, arr[i]
' | sort -k2n,2 -k1n,1

If you want to sort by the buckets, change the sort to sort -k1n,1 -k2n,2

If you want to be a little more fancy, separate out the bucket function into a separate function. What? awk can do functions? Sure it can. You can also import values from the environment using the -v flag.


# Bucketize stdin to nearest multiple of argv[1], or 10 if no args given.
# "nearest" means 0..4.999 -> 0, 5..14.999 -> 10, etc.

# Usage:
# while true ; do echo $[ 1 + $[ RANDOM % 100 ]]; done | head -99 | 8

awk -v multiple="${1:-10}" '

function bucketize(a) {
  # Round to the nearest multiple of "multiple"
  #  (nearest... i.e. may round up or down)
  return int((a + (multiple/2)) / multiple) * multiple;

# All lines get bucketized.
{ arr[bucketize($1)]++ }

# When done, output the array.
  for (i in arr) {
    print i, arr[i]
' | sort -k2n,2 -k1n,1

I generally use Python for scripting but for something this short, awk makes sense. Sadly using awk has become a lost art.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli

As you know, I live in New Jersey. I'm excited to announce that some fine fellow New Jerseyians have started a DevOps Meetup. The first meeting will be on Monday, Aug 18, 2014 in Clifton, NJ. I'm honored to be their first speaker.

More info at their MeetUp Page:

DevOps and Automation NJ Group

Hope to see you there!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in CommunityDevOps

U Penn's Wharton School of Business has one of the best Operations Management classes in the world, and for the last few years it has been available as a MOOC. They've announced a new session starting on September 29 2014.

I've been watching some of the video lectures and Christian Terwiesch is an excellent lecturer.

What is learned in the class applies to system administration, running a restaurant, or a hospital. I think that system administrators, DevOps engineers, and managers can learn a lot from this class.

Sign up for An Introduction to Operations Management or just watch the videos. Either way, you'll learn a lot!

Highly recommended.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Career Advice

Tom will present "Highlights from The Practice of Cloud System Administration" at the Philadelphia area Linux Users' Group meeting in October. They meet at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia (USP).

For more info, visit their website:

Hope to see you there!