Title : Obsolete in the IT crossfire
Date : 09 July 2021
Tags : life linux unix openbsd
This is not an article about some tech but more me sharing feelings about my job, my passion and IT. I've met a Linux system at first in the early 2000 and I didn't really understand what this was, I've learned it the hard way by wiping Windows on the family computer (which was quite an issue) and since that time I got a passion with computers. I made a lot of mistakes that made me progress and learn more, and the more I was learning, the more I saw the amount of knowledge I was missing.
Anyway, I finally got a decent skill level if I could say, but I started early and so my skill is related to all of that early Linux ecosystem. Tools are evolving, Linux is morphing into something different a bit more every year, practices are evolving with the "Cloud". I feel lost.
# Within the crossfire
I've met many people along my ride in open source and I think we can distinguish two schools (of course I know it's not that black and white): the people (like me) who enjoy the traditional ecosystem and the other group that is from the Cloud era. It is quite easy to bash the opposite group and I feel sad when I assist at such dispute.
I can't tell which group is right and which is wrong, there is certainly good and bad in both. While I like to understand and control how my system work, the other group will just care about the produced service and not the underlying layers. Nowadays, you want your service uptime to have as much nine as you can afford (99.999999) at the cost of having complex setup with automatic respawning services on failure, automatic routing within VMs and stuff like that. This is not necessarily something that I enjoy, I think a good service should have a good foundation and restarting the whole system upon failure seems wrong, although I can't deny it's effective for the availability.
I know how a package manager work but the other group will certainly prefer to have a tool that will hide all of the package manager complexity to get the job done. Tell ansible to pop a new virtual machine on Amazon using Terraform with a full nginx-php-mysql stack installed is the new way to manage servers. It seems a sane option because it gets the job done, but still, I can't find myself in there, where is the fun? I can't get the fun out of this. You can install the system and the services without ever see the installer of the OS you are deploying, this is amazing and insane at the same time.
I feel lost in this new era, I used to manage dozens of system (most bare-metal, without virtualization), I knew each of them that I bought and installed myself, I knew which process should be running and their usual CPU/memory usage, I got some acquaintance with all my systems. I was not only the system administrator, I was the IT gardener. I was working all the time to get the most out of our servers, optimizing network transfers, memory usage, backups scripts. Nowadays you just pop a larger VM if you need more resources and backups are just snapshots of the whole virtual disk, their lives are ephemeral and anonymous.
# To the future
I would like to understand better that other group, get more confident with their tools and logic but at the same time I feel some aversion toward doing so because I feel I'm renouncing to what I like, what I want, what made me who I am now. I suppose the group I belong too will slowly fade away to give room to the new era, I want to be prepared to join that new era but at the same time I don't want to abandon the people of my own group by accelerating the process.
I'm a bit lost in this crossfire. Should a resistance organize against this? I don't know, I wouldn't see the point. The way we do computing is very young, we are looking for a way. Humanity has been making building for thousands and years and yet we still improve the way we build houses, bridges and roads, I guess that the IT industry is following the same process but as usual with computers, at an insane rate that humans can barely follow.
Please share with me by email or mastodon or even IRC if you feel something similar or if you got past that issue, I would be really interested to speak about this topic with other people.
# Readers reactions
# After thoughts (UPDATE post publication)
I got many many readers giving me their thoughts about this article and I'm really thankful for this.
Now I think it's important to realize that when you want to deploy systems at scale, you need to automate all your infrastructure and then you lose that feeling with your servers. However, it's still possible to have fun because we need tooling, proper tooling that works and bring a huge benefit. We are still very young in regards to automation and lot of improvements can be done.
We will still need all those gardeners enjoying their small area of computer because all the cloud services rely on their work to create duplicated system in quantity that you can rely on. They are making the first most important bricks required to build the "Cloud", without them you wouldn't have a working Alpine/CentOS/FreeBSD/etc... to deploy automatically.
Both can coexist, both should know better each other because they will have to live together to continue the fantastic computer journey, however the first group will certainly be in a small number compared to the other.
So, not everything is lost! The Cloud industry can be avoided by self-hosting at home or in associative datacenter/colocations but it's still possible to enjoy some parts of the great shift without giving up all we believe in. A certain balance can be found, I'm quite sure of it.