Learning to cook

The chef satire will never die. Adam posted 9 things to like about chef today, which is an expanded and much better version of my original blog post on chef. AJ had an intermediate post that tried to summarize a lot of contraversy and drama. Hopefully that silliness is settling down.

I’ve been coding a lot lately, contributing to both chef and ohai. We’ve been talking about trying to use chef in the NOC at Shmoocon so that next year we can reuse the recipes rather than build the servers again by hand. Most everything runs on borrowed hardware at Shmoocon, so you’re not guaranteed everything is the way you left it a year later. We use FreeBSD for some monitoring at Shmoocon, so I’ve been spending a lot of time getting chef/ohai ready for FreeBSD.

I don’t think I’ve ever contributed to a project to this degree before. Ohloh doesn’t think so either. The last time I can recall really adding code to a project that was more than a couple files was at an ISP in Maine back in the early 00’s. It was called Panax, and there’s the usual pile of silly isp shop history. It’s funny that while it’s been sucked into an ISP conglomerate the old color scheme has been maintained. We had an in-house system for user/account management, written in Perl. It had a web front end so none of the tech support folks had to log in to any of the systems to add, remove or manage users. Usually I’m just writing glue scripts, like a good SA. Regardless, it’s been fun and I’ve been learning a lot about Ruby and rspec.

An SE at my last job (who subscribes to python and I still haven’t convinced that CM will change his live) said going into development would be a natural move as I got bored of SA work. Is it that, or is this a shift in being an SA will mean? Configuration Management is still young, despite cfengine being out for some time now, and puppet getting a good following. It may take time for the old SAs to retire and the new deal to take hold. I think more and more as people work in shops with CM implemented, they’ll start to find how hard it is to live without it once you’ve had it. I noticed recently that Slashdot lacks any coverage on Configuration Management in the last few years, but I realize Slashdot is mostly fluffy news these days. While Slashdot is still talking about SCO every day, there is of course talk of new technologies in the new mediums.

The next few months will be exciting to see people pick up chef. There’s a few very helpful individuals in #chef on freenode who want to see this used and are perfectly willing to fix any bugs you find. So give it a shot and let me know what you think.

1 thought on “Learning to cook

  1. jtimberman

    “Is it that, or is this a shift in being an SA will mean?”

    I’ve found that being a system administrator keeps me out of being a programmer, a discipline I wasn’t particularly well suited for.

    Since working on Chef (and also our legacy Puppet stuff), I learned that the problem was I didn’t want to be an application programmer. Business logic, databases full of customer tables, GUI’s, that sort of thing.

    Even then, this isn’t programming, it really is system engineering, which *is* the next step in the evolution of a system administrator.

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