September 19, 2014
In a world dominated by cloud and scale the traditional snowflake of a sysadmin will be an increasingly rare breed. Sysadmins will basically use the community, hivemind, whatever as an outsourced resource to help them get jobs done. They will not feel the need to customize every tidbit out of their OS (Linux, BSD, etc.) because they will have tens of VMs (or more) running in private and public clouds controlled with config management and orchestration tools. Even if their Python is compiled with stuff they don’t need they wouldn’t care as much as they did a decade ago.
Any work done at scale will require pre-built binary packages instead of loving custom compiles on each server. Think of it as Ubuntu versus Gentoo. More teams will use Ubuntu to serve their needs because with a smaller team size their work has actually increased instead of decreasing. Their concerns have moved away from extracting every ounce of speed from one physical machine to extracting value out of $X.xx they are spending in their cloud assets.
It’s hard to change your ways but you just have to if you want to keep up. The ports collection in FreeBSD is a fantastic idea; I love the idea. But when you are creating and dropping VMs in your lab at the speed of your users’ requirements you can’t afford to wait for a VM to be usable in 10 minutes instead of 2. I believe the FreeBSD folks have realized this and have taken steps to rectify this. Poudriere is an example of this realization and effort.
Sysadmins who still want snowflake systems will now instead have to be happy with snowflake package repositories. Their level of focus has zoomed out a bit. Such sysadmins have two primary worries: setup proper config management and setup required package repositories. Gone will be the days when each server was handcrafted. Now servers will serve a purpose for a while and then be replaced by something else as soon as requirements change. The loving handcraftiness will instead need to be directed at service orchestration. The snowflake-loving sysadmins will need to become snowflake-loving service admins instead.