When I first started as a sysadmin many years ago, I quickly realized what a daunting task was before me. Like any good engineer, I took to finding the right tools to keep at hand to make light work out of the most difficult situations. This in itself was quite an endeavor, as over the years there has been a proliferation of tools and scripts. Many are of the artisanal, organic, hand-crafted variety, forged out of bash pipelines by our forefathers.
Much of that has changed now as the DevOps movement strengthens. With closer interaction between developers and operations, or even operations teams composed of developers, the tools have significantly improved. Treating infrastructure as code with automated configuration management and provisioning tools have freed many from the menial tasks of creating snowflake systems, and we’ve turned our attention to the more important matters of scaling and optimizing our systems.
In my Velocity report, 5 Unsung Tools of DevOps, I highlight a few of the tools that have gone unnoticed—or at least unrecognized—for some time. These are but a few of the tools that recognized needs early on and that successfully solve real-world problems that you’re likely to encounter today. Here is a brief synopsis:
- RANCID: The Really Awesome New Cisco confIg Differ is a utility that enables automation retention of network device configurations in revision control. It supports multiple vendors, including Cisco, Juniper, and F5. No more copying your configs over tftp for backups, and no more forgetting to do it, either.
- Cacti: A round robin database-based statistics graphing tool primarily targeted at network equipment using SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol). While this is an older utility, it has a long and stable history and is still in active development. Ease of deployment and statistic collection makes it one of the go-to tools for getting information quickly.
- lldpd: One of the most underutilized—yet extremely useful—networking protocols that allows you to quickly identify the network topology from any server. Bonus: it’s simple to set up and easy to use.
- IPerf: Having been told that there isn’t a network problem, or that it’s always a networking problem, I turn to IPerf for the answer. As a network throughput testing tool, it’s ideal for diagnosing networking issues between any two points over TCP or UDP. It’s especially useful in trying to reproduce intermittent problems.
- MUltihost SSH Wrapper: If you’ve ever SSH’d to run the same command on a bunch of servers, the mussh is for you! As a wrapper around SSH, it allows you to execute the same command across multiple hosts either in sequence or parallel.
Many of you will recognize them, some of you may use them, but I encourage all of you to take a deeper look and see what needs you have that these tools fill. I use many of them daily to overcome problems because they are easy, familiar, and just plain work.
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