SSH in a for loop is a solution…

I just read an article by Jay Valentine on LinkedIn where he talks about Puppet and how they were not profitable, and also noted that Chef is not, and has never been, profitable. That got me to thinking, why are IT professionals investing in these technologies (time, knowledge, effort…).

As an IT pro, it’s tempting to become a “fan boy” — someone who learns something difficult to use, and then because so much has been invested (time, effort, knowledge), it benefits the IT pro to evangelize the tool or software to make it more relevant (and thus make the IT pro’s skills more valuable and relevant).

This happens to me all the time, Linux, cfengine, puppet, ruby, etc… With little regard for objective analysis of what would work best. I had switched to puppet, from cfengine, when I heard Redhat had adopted Puppet. That was long ago, and they have since switched to Ansible — time to focus more on containers and, when necessary, Ansible. (Although I will continue to support my clients in whatever technology they desire, like any good consultant.)

While this is not a complete waste and is, most of the time, a very good thing, since it will enable quick execution on projects with known skills and tools, it is not ideal in the long run. The reason for this is that all of these projects and tools become very complicated over time. Take puppet or chef — they do require a significant amount of knowledge to effectively deploy. Even worse, they change rapidly. A system deployed one year could require a major re-write (of the manifest/recipe) the following year, if it were upgraded. Many deployments of these configuration management tools go for years without major updates because the effort in upgrading large numbers of services, servers, and configurations is incredible.

This is a huge amount of technical debt. I’d now venture to say that the more time you must spend deploying a configuration management solution, the more technical debt you will incur, unless you do have a very focused plan to upgrade frequently, and maintain a dedicated “puppet/chef/xxxx” IT pro.

I recall reading and/or hearing the famous Luke Kanies (of Puppetlabs) quote where he says, “ssh in a for loop is not a solution”… This has always bothered me, and I couldn’t quantify the reason very well, but it’s similar to the basic text processing argument in old school linux circles — text output is universal. Any app, tool, utility, can process text. Once you move to binary or other output, you lose the ability to universally process the output. It may be more efficient to process it in other manners, but it’s no longer universal.

“SSH in a for loop” is universal.


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