Update: Digg on their choice and use of Puppet. They chose puppet over cfengine, and bcfg2 because they liked Puppet's resource abstraction layer (RAL), the ability to implement configuration management incrementally, support for bundles, and the overall design philosophy.
Puppet implements a declarative (what not how) configuration language for automating common administration tasks. It's the system every large site writes for themselves and it's already made for you! Ilike was able to "easily" scale from 0 to hundreds of servers using Puppet. I can't believe I've never seen this before. It looks really cool. What is Puppet and how can it help you scale your website operations?
From the Puppet website:
Puppet has been developed to help the sysadmin community move to building and sharing mature tools that avoid the duplication of everyone solving the same problem. It does so in two ways:
* It provides a powerful framework to simplify the majority of the technical tasks that sysadmins need to perform
* The sysadmin work is written as code in Puppet's custom language which is shareable just like any other code.
This means that your work as a sysadmin can get done much faster, because you can have Puppet handle most or all of the details, and you can download code from other sysadmins to help you get done even faster. The majority of Puppet implementations use at least one or two modules developed by someone else, and there are already tens of recipes available in Puppet's CookBook.
This sound good. But does it work in the field? HJK Solutions' Adam Jacob says it does:
Puppet enables us to get a huge jump-start on building automated, scaleable, easy to manage infrastructures for our clients. Using puppet, we:
1. Automate as much of the routine systems administration tasks as possible.
2. Get 10 minute unattended build times from bare metal, most of which is data transfer. Puppet takes it the rest of the way, getting the machines ready to have applications deployed on them. It’s down to two and a half minutes for Xen.
3. Bootstrap our clients production environments while building their development environment. I can’t stress how cool this really is. Because we are expressing the infrastructure at a higher level, when it comes time to deploy your production systems, it’s really a non-event. We just roll out the Puppet Master and an Operating System auto-install environment, and it’s finished.
4. Cross-pollinate between clients with similar architectures. We work with several different shops using Ruby on Rails, all of whom have very similar infrastructure needs. By using Puppet in all of them, when we solve a problem for one client, we’ve effectively solved it for the others. I love being able to tell a client that we solved a problem for them, and all it’s going to cost is the time it takes for us to add the recipe.
Puppet, today, is a tool that is good enough to handle the vast majority of issues encountered in building scalable infrastructures. Even the places where it falls short are almost always just a matter of it being less elegant than it could be, and the entire community is working on making those parts better.