Archives For sysadmin

Be the automator!

30 November 2014 — Leave a comment

Today I saw an awesome video of a presentation by Glenn O’Donnell.

In his presentation, Glenn states that it’s not about technology, it’s about services. Service design is modular with a logical structure. Approach it as a system and try to improve it as a whole, not just tiny pieces of it. To do that, you need systems engineers. Although most are lazy, or, as Glenn puts it: “Locally brilliant, globally stupid”.

Accept we have no full control
The whole eco system includes a lot of infrastructure and application components. Including services from third parties. We tend to zoom in a lot but then we miss the point: it’s not about the servers, the storage and the network. It’s about how it all works together. And let’s face it, we’ll not have full control over the eco system because it contains components managed by third parties.

We IT people have a hard time accepting we have no control. We think we’re the only one that can maintain that server. But in fact, software can do better and will put us out of business. That software is already out there today.

In this new world, we need people with a different skill set that can manage this complex eco system. It’s all software these days. Obviously the application is software, but so is the infrastructure on which it runs. Cloud infrastructure is all software defined. Even physical servers should be software controlled, instead of manipulating them manually.

How? Well, you can automate if you have a model. The model is a software description of reality. Tools consume this model and create reality out of it.

 ne the automator model

Software Model drives Automation Tool that produces the Service.

Glenn compares this with building a plane: first models are build and simulated before they ever put a plane in the air. Makes sense, right?

We should not be on the command line
This means we should not be on the command line. Let’s get away from the command line! We should manipulate the model instead, and let the model create or change reality. This model is our system software, which we should treat the same way as we treat application software. It’s software, and we can automate software.  By the way, no automation means no DevOps because it’s gonna be too slow.

You’ll also get a better quality because human beings are bad at repetitive tasks. And it’s a waste having smart people do repetitive work. Software can do that instead. The model is the language, the secret code.

Automate yourself out of your job
Although this is cool, it does render some jobs obsolete. Glenn states that if you have “administrator” in jour job title, you’ll be replaced by software (that can do better). But don’t worry, there will be other, more interesting jobs, instead. Automate yourself out of your job. It’s fun! In short: be the automator, not the automated.

be the automator jobs

To drive this movement, we need innovators! Geeks are innovators 🙂 Geeks love change, they automate, they create, and they want to move on to the next interesting thing to discover.

Next to Geeks, there are also Geek Imposters. They might do the same job, but they hate change and want to keep everything as it is. To them, Glenn has a nice advice: “Learn to say: Would you like fries with that?“.

View the video of Glenn’s presentation:

Geeks are changing the world. If you think you are a Geek that loves change and loves automation, you could be what we call a Cupfighter at Schuberg Philis.

Are you a Cupfighter?

If you think you are a Cupfighter, please contact me and we’ll change the world 😉

Today while I was running I realized I’ve been doing a lot of coding lately. Coding our new infrastructure to be exact. I remembered Kris Buytaert’s talk about DevOps back in February when I was in Antwerp. One of the key statements is that there are ‘sysadmin coders’ and not ‘sysadmins’ and ‘coders’. The only way to achieve great results, is when these two work together and communicate with each other. The idea’s behind this are called DevOps. IT Operations starts using code to manage configurations and infrastructure instead of doing it by hand over and over again. Thanks to CloudStack and Puppet this is now possible. Ideally, you would not have two groups, but one. Stephen Nelson-Smith from describes it like this:

So, the Devops movement is characterized by people with a multidisciplinary skill set – people who are comfortable with infrastructure and configuration, but also happy to roll up their sleeves, write tests, debug, and ship features. These are people who making connections, because they can – because they have feet in multiple camps, they can be ambassadors, peace makers, facilitators and communicators. And the point of the movement is to identify these, currently rare, people and encourage them, compare ideas, and start to identify, train, recruit and popularize this way of doing IT.

More on Stephen’s blog..

I didn’t realize back then what this would mean because I was focused on CloudStack and the tools around it. But it is not only about the tools, it’s the way you look at managing infrastructure and development. What we’re doing looks like DevOps but we’re not there yet ;-). In the coming weeks I’ll spend some more time reading about DevOps to see how we can implement this in our organization. Because I really believe this is the way to go..