Using Open Source to Provide Infrastructure Services

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Operations Teams need to provide eight critical services to the developers and users of their environment.  At my current employer, I use open source software to provide these services that allow our developers to be more productive and our customers to experience stable, responsive service.

Source Code Management

Keep all of our bespoke software, configurations and notes under strict version control.

Sofware: Git
Pros: Fast
Many developers familiar with it due to Github’s popularity
Cons: Steep learning curve
Somewhat cryptic commands
Option: Subversion


Continuous Integration

Build, test, version and package our software so that it may be quickly and safely deployed to our staging environment

Sofware: Jenkins
Pros: Easy Integration with GIT
Nice GUI
Flexible enough to meet our needs
Cons: Configuration limited to GUI
Written in Java*
Option: Cruise Control



Spin up nodes to become part of the processing farm and decommission nodes no longer required

Sofware: Custom scripts using Fog
Pros: Simple scripts
Easy to customize
Support multiple cloud providers
Cons: Custom tool
Option: Cobbler, RightAWS


Configuration Management

Ensure that all nodes are automatically and correctly configured and remain in a known configured state

Sofware: Puppet
Pros: Easy configuration language
Well supported
Active community
Cons: Have to learn said configuration language
Requires serious investment of time
Option: Chef



Check on services and nodes to ensure that things are behaving as expected before the customer notices


Sofware: Icinga
Pros: Can be easily auto-configured by Puppet
Well understood
Nagios syntax
Works well with nagios checks and plugins
Cons: Requires serious investment of time and constant care
Option: Nagios, Zenoss


Capacity/Performance Management

Collect system metrics for assessing performance and capacity planning.  Some organizations have monitoring perform this role, but I have very strong opinions on this being kept separate.


Sofware: Collectd/Visage
Pros: Light, fast daemon on each box
Flexible server
Many plugins availble
Cons: Separate process to run
Requires a lot of disk and disk I/O
Option: Ganglia


Log Collection

Centrally collect, store and monitor system and application logs

Sofware: Rsyslog/Graylog2
Pros: Rsyslog provides flexible configs
MongoDB backed server performs well
Easy front end for log viewing
Cons: Takes a while to learn Mongo
Harder to pull/backup then text logfiles
Options: Syslog-ng Logstash


Deployment Management

Allow developers and technical staff to deploy and monitor application activity.  Since each infrastructure is unique, it makes sense to build a custom solution to this problem.


Software: Mcollective/Sinatra/ActiveMQ
Pros: Sinatra makes it easy to write simple web applications
Mcollective is extremely fast
ActiveMQ is very flexible and resilient
Cons: Sinatra is not a full featured as Rails
Mcollective requires a change of thinking about command/control
ActiveMQ is Java*
Options: Control Tier


* I list Java as a con because we do not have extensive in-house Java expertise and it rquires us to install something we would not have normally

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