Disconsolate Puppeteering

The gross, the horror and the terror (basically a giant rant).

“The three types of terror: The Gross-out: the sight of a severed head tumbling down a flight of stairs, it’s when the lights go out and something green and slimy splatters against your arm. The Horror: the unnatural, spiders the size of bears, the dead waking up and walking around, it’s when the lights go out and something with claws grabs you by the arm. And the last and worse one: Terror, when you come home and notice everything you own had been taken away and replaced by an exact substitute. It’s when the lights go out and you feel something behind you, you hear it, you feel its breath against your ear, but when you turn around, there’s nothing there …” — Stephen King

Intro

There are numerous people out there who are better and more competent than me. I’m happy to have my mistakes corrected (maybe not ridiculed though, but hey — it’s the Internet) and hope to learn from them.

I’ve started working with Puppet around 5 years ago when I volunteered to fill the vacant position of “operations guy” at a small/mid sized company. Having some years of experience with Ruby, this opportunity was exciting and Puppet didn’t scare me much since I knew if worst comes to worst I can always throw in some binding.pry statements and feel very much at home.

Configuration management was a new field to me and major competitors at the time were (and still are) Puppet and Chef. After spending some time learning differences between the two, and even though Chef was pure Ruby inside-out, Puppet had won me over by virtue of using a declarative/ functional approach to describe infrastructure details and dependencies, and leaving the nitty-gritty details of OS-specific file/package/service management to the tool. Chef just felt much more mutable and procedural, maybe because Ruby inherently is (yes, yes, i know you can do functional Ruby) and people inescapably mess things up over time.

I firmly believe functional/declarative is the right approach to manage infrastructure, but after all these years I’ve witnessed how even this amazing idea can be horribly undermined by poor execution. This post has been brewing for the last ~4 years and spans multiple releases (0.28–4.5) and multiple minor and major upgrade events.

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puppet  rant