A few years ago, you would have been hard-pressed to have an entire conference dedicated to configuration management. Now, we have several conferences happen throughout the year. This is not only because we now have several new configuration management systems, but because they've become a staple of IT and server infrastructure. Config Management Camp 2014 (cfgmgmtcamp) in Gent, Belgium, was one such conference that I had the opportunity to go to this past February.
cfgmgmtcamp featured a half-day of keynote talks and then another day and a half of parallel tracks, each dedicated to a particular configuration management system. These tracks included Puppet, CFEngine, SaltStack, Juju, Foreman, Chef, and Ansible (here is the archived schedule for Monday and Tuesday).
While having such a diverse set of tracks alone would have made a great conference, what really set cfgmgmtcamp apart was the keynote talks. The conference organizers were able to book Mark Burgess, Luke Kanies, and Adam Jacob: the creators of the three most popular configuration management systems today (CFEngine, Puppet, and Chef, respectively).
I'm usually not a fan of keynote talks. I find they're usually very high-level and are more about marketing a product. These three keynotes, however, were some of the best, if not the best, I've seen.
Mark Burgess was the first speaker, since his CFEngine is the oldest out of the bunch. Titled 'The Collapse of Complex Infrastructures' (a reference to the book "The Collapse of Complex Societies") his talk illustrated how complex server infrastructures fail the same way as complex societies do.
Luke Kanies's talk was a personal reflection on the current state of Puppet Labs and configuration management. He was engaging and definitely worth listening to.
Adam Jacob's keynote at first looked like it would be a run-of-the-mill 'this is what DevOps is and this is how it can save the world' talk. Fortunately, he made some interesting comments that saved it from such a fate. (I'll have another blog post about one specific comment soon.)
After the keynotes, I decided to attend a session track on something that I have no experience with: Juju. (I figured what better way to leave the conference than with knowing something new!) I'm not sure if Canonical chose the name 'Juju' as a tongue-in-cheek reference to other configuration management systems' naming schemes (Puppet and Puppet Masters, Chef with Recipes and Cookbooks) or if they are serious about it. Fortunately, the corny name is the only bad part of Juju.
One current pain point with modern configuration management systems is the difficulty they have with sharing information between servers and services. Juju is an attempt to resolve this. While it could be used as simply a configuration management system, Juju's biggest strength is in its ability to orchestrate the communication between servers and services. I was very impressed and will be looking at Juju in more depth in the future.
As a side note, I'd also like to make special mention to the two developers who ran the Juju track: Marco Ceppi and Martin Packman. They answered my numerous questions and even did some live coding of the Juju system to help make it run on Cybera's Rapid Access Cloud.
cfgmgmtcamp 2014 was great conference. By attending it, I was able to hear three great keynotes, learn a new technology, and spend three days in a nice little city. And to top it all off, the event was free to attend! I definitely would not object to travel across the ocean for the next one in 2015.