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PuppetConf 2014

Wow, so many conferences lately! Fortunately for me, PuppetConf was local so I didn’t need to catch any flights or deal with hotel hassle, it was just a 2 block walk from home each day.

My focus for this conference was learning more about how people are using code-driven infrastructures similar to ours in the OpenStack Infrastructure project and meeting up with some colleagues, several of whom I’ve only communicated with online. I succeeded on both counts and it ended up being a great conference for me.

There was a keynote by Gene Kim, he is one of the authors of the “devops novel” The Phoenix Project, which I first learned about from my colleague Robert Collins. His talk focused around the book, as The Phoenix Project: Lessons Learned. In spite of having read the book, it was great to hear from Kim on the topic more directly as he talked about technical debt and outlined his 4 top lessons learned:

  • The business value of DevOps is higher than we thought.
  • DevOps Is As Good For Dev… …As It Is For Ops
  • The Need For High-Trust Management (can’t bog people down)
  • DevOps is not just for the unicorns… DevOps is for horses, too. (ie – not just for tech stars like Facebook)

Talk slides here.

The next keynote was by Kate Matsudaira of Popforms who gave a talk titled Trust Me. I wasn’t sure what to expect with this one, but I was pleasantly surprised. She covered some of what one may call “soft skills” in the tech industry, including helping others, supporting your colleagues and in general being a resourceful person who people enjoy working with. Over the years I’ve seen far too much of people assuming these skills aren’t valuable, even as people look around and identify folks with these skills as the colleagues they like working with the most. Huge thanks to Kate for bringing attention to these skills. She also talked a lot about building trust within your organization as it can often be hard for managers to do evaluations of employees who have the freedom to work unobstructed (as we want!) and mechanisms to build that trust, including reporting what you do to your boss and team mates. Slides from her talk available here: Keynote: Trust Me slides

After the keynote I headed over to Evan Scheessele’s talk on Infrastructure-as-Code with Puppet Enterprise in the Cloud. He works in HP’s Printing & Personal Systems division and shared the evolution and use of a code-driven infrastructure on HP Cloud along with Puppet Enterprise. The driving vision in his organization was boiled down to a series of points:

  • Infrastructure as “Cattle” not “Pets”
  • Modern configuration-management means: Executable Documentation
  • “Infrastructure as Code”
  • Focus on the production-pattern, and automate it end-to-end
  • Everything is consistently reproducible

He also went application-specific, discussing their use of Jenkins, and hiera and puppetdb in PE. It was a great talk and a pleasure to catch up with him afterwards. Slides available here.

Thanks to Evan Scheessele for the photo

My talk was on How to Open Source Your Puppet Configuration and I brought along Monty Taylor and James E. Blair stick puppets I made to demonstrate the rationale of running our infrastructure as an open source project. I walked the audience through some of the benefits of making Puppet configurations public (or at least public within an organization), the importance of licensing and documentation and some steps for splitting up your configuration so it’s understandable and consumable by others. My slides are here.

On Wednesday I attended Gareth Rushgrove’s talk on Continuous Integration for Infrastructure as Code. He skipped over a lot of the more common individual testing mechanisms (puppet-lint, puppet-syntax, rspec-puppet, beaker) and dove into higher level view things like testing of images and containers and test-driven infrastructure (analogous to test-driven development). Through his talk he gave several examples of how this is accomplished, from use of Serverspec, the need to write tests before infrastructure, writing tests to enforce policy and pulling data from PuppetDB to run tests. Slides here.

After lunch I headed over to Chris Hoge’s talk about Understanding OpenStack Deployments with the Puppet modules available. In spite of all my work with OpenStack, I haven’t had a very close look at these modules, so it was nice meeting up with him and Colleen Murphy from the puppet-openstack team. In his talk he walked the audience through some of the basic design decisions of OpenStack and then pulled in examples of how the Puppet modules for OpenStack are used to bring this all together. Slides here.

Two talks I’ll have to catch once the videos are online, Continuous Infrastructure: Modern Puppet for the Jenkins Project – R.Tyler Croy, Jenkins (slides) and Infrastructure as Software – Dustin J. Mitchell, Mozilla, Inc. (slides). Both of these are open source infrastructures that I mentioned during my own talk! I wish I had taken the opportunity while we were all in one spot to meet together, fortunately I was able to chat with R.Tyler Croy prior to my talk, but his talk conflicted with mine and Dustin’s with the OpenStack talk.

In all, this was a very valuable event. I learned some interesting new things about how others are using code-driven infrastructures and I made some great connections.

More photos from PuppetConf here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157648049231891/