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Is your Puppet a Chef?

Two weeks ago I wrote about the Single-Pain-Of-Glass and last week we talked about Herding Chicken instead of Managing Cats. What keeps coming back is that we as people and customers are just not ready for it. Yes, we want everything to be in one management location but if we would have one for all our current challenges it would never be sufficient for future challenges and we are back to square one. So a big missing part here would be flexibility and durability. Towards the second post everyone understood exactly where the challenge lies but we are not even close to this new way of managing services & applications.

When it comes to that higher level of managing infrastructure through abstraction and automation some new scripting platforms pop up. Whether or not you want to use OpenStack for example as the management platform as such, designing it to be a sustainable program requires the sysadmins to learn new languages. The two major names today are Puppet and Chef. While Puppet has a broader audience today and is probably closer to the sysadmin, Chef is stronger and would give more power and flexibility. The flipside to both is that you'll need some coding skills.

So who's already into these new programs? What's your experience? Do you even have the coding skills this could require?

swedishchef460.jpg

22 Replies
Level 10

We have barely started to go with cloud services, so these product are out of our scope. They seem very useful for there respective purposes.

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Level 21

Our Linux guru has been testing both but hasn't made a decision to move forward with either at this time.

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MVP
MVP

Look at the customer testimonials on the getchef.com page. All of the clients they list are high transaction entities. Same with Puppet. Big customers who process millions of transactions per day would be foolish to not automate the hell out of their IT. But smaller shops, with predictable workloads and low resource utilization, view automation as unnecessary complexity.

It's the same argument against automation that's been around for years, yes. Some shops are too small to automate. It's the truth. Even some large organizations (which may appear to be a single, centrally-managed entity from the outside, but is actually more like a Portuguese Man o' War than a jellyfish) aren't designed to leverage automation. Before forging ahead with any new technology, there needs to be a sound business case for it. Otherwise, you risk wasting dollars on the wrong investments.

HOWEVER, I personally think that automation is wonderful in that it forces IT shops to view their infrastructure and resources from a different perspective. Suddenly, cats become chickens.

When automation improves the quality of services delivered to customers, the challenge is to explain why automation ISN'T a good idea.

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I'll be honest, I'm not familiar with either.  I am however interested in anything that can reduce the number of man hours spent monitoring and tweaking our network, so I will be looking into them.

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Level 19

For everyone on this thread, one of the questions we have at SolarWinds is whether tools like Puppet and Chef are ever going to be simple enough for typical mid-market customers.  These tools were both built for bleeding edge cloud adopters, but as cloud moves into the mainstream, are these tools too much for that mainstream user.  Do you see a need for something more drag and drop, more push-button?  Sure, it would be less powerful and flexible, but the heart of the SolarWinds' product design philosophy is that not everyone needs power and would gladly trade some of it for simplicity.

Is there going to be a need for a SolarWinds-y deployment and orchestration product?

I have replaced my Symantec Server/Client/Notification Management Suite and HP Insight Control with Solarwinds and have begun replacing Altiris with Acronis. I would love to bring back some of the features I had and add a few key ones from DevOps in a more simple - manage provisioning mostly homogeneous Win/RHEL environment.

First place to start would be a self-service front end for operations/engineering that allows request of resources be it IP, switchports, imaging bare metal, deploy VM, add to monitoring (duh), and finally all that in reverse for decommission requests.

Easy to drive all VM environment when I can lock down the IP range, switchport needs and everything is managed by one system. I need something to handle it for bare metal as well - without costing me the last estimate I received - $7k per server!!!!

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bluefunelemental , if you had a self-service front end for devices, would you want it to handle access requests (i.e., onboarding and terminations of employees) as well?    

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I don't have that need and I would think WHD could handle that without much effort.

I know I am taking it off into left field abit but a big piece of provisioning for us is getting good information in the requests from operations/other engineering teams. Rather then multiple emails back and forth or giving ALL the control to the requestors it would be fine for me to have a front end for end users to select what we allow then feed into the provisioning be it automated or engineers fulfilling.

Since many of us cannot move off our current ITSM systems it would be best to have Solarwinds provide that front-end request system based on Solarwinds data.

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I think you know the answer to that...and it's yes.

rharland2012, if that's true, would you be willing to talk with me about what that might look like?  What are the core pains that have to be solved?

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Certainly.

As stated earlier in the thread, for Windows shops, the frameworks just aren't there. Granted, most mid- and small-market places might not be spinning up tons of boxes - and if they're virtualized, then Vmware or Hyper-V templates might sort of do the trick.

So you've spun up some Windows boxes, for example, and now you need to patch them on a regular basis. Easy, you think - we'll use WSUS, or SCOM, or whatever flavor of thing you're into. Maybe you're already leveraging Patch Manager - and maybe that does the trick.

So, is there really a core pain from this admin's limited perspective? Maybe. Maybe it's more of a core mild discomfort. Wouldn't it be nice if there was one place you could go, spin up intelligent boxes from simple choices, file those boxes in a repository where this same product keeps track of them and patches them, or fixes them, or just does convenient wholesale changes? What if this solution did a nice job of keeping track of licensing? That would be cool. (I realize I'm getting far afield from automation/orchestration here).

Does some combination of SW or other products perform all these actions quite nicely today? Sure. Is there value in a single solution that does these things, and just works for multi-hat-wearers who just do not have the spare cycles to massage the separate pieces? I think so.

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Level 17

Have neither from what I understand; there are single systems within each department that manage and automate processes, and software and OS delivery/implementation.

I think we are too big and divided to have a single app used by all. Too many Chef's in the kitchen, and a single Chef is hard pressed to get all the others to chow down on his setup unless they all have their input on where the mixer goes as well as when to add the salt.

The programming can be learned; just as all other system customizations are learned and figured out. In my mind if I want a job I will learn what is needed to complete the task.

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Level 10

our PlatOps dept is already using Chef and there's been talk about our NOC taking over that job so I've been looking into it, although I haven't needed to deploy anything. From what I've seen so far it seems like not a whole lot of programming skill is needed and if you understand the basics then you should be fine

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Level 10

Picked up a Puppet book (not cheap!) but I'm not 100% sure if it'll be a great fit for an environment where no two servers are really alike 😕

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Something akin to this here too... I fear we would be managing more exceptions than rules in our highly diverse environment.

Status quo for us until a proven solution arises. Not enough free time to go and implement a system we might regret later.

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I have put these on my list to-do, but I need to finish my Turbo Pascal training first... any day now... I hope...

MVP
MVP

We are exploring private cloud and the automation of server builds etc. But we are struggling with the apparent lack of tools that will easily support the build and maintenance of both windows and linux workloads. One without the other means duplicating tools - not something we have the bandwidth or inclination to do.:)

the chew toy for the dog of life
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Level 10

I have all the coding I can handle tweaking SAM monitors.

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Echoing Windows shop viewpoint - I understand Puppet and love what it does - I just don't have anything for that particular wrench to turn right now.

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Learning Puppet syntax but finding the framework lacking for windows which outnumbers my Linux 10:1.

How's Chef on windows?

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