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Feature: System Administration

Func team puts network management back in sysadmins' control

By Tina Gasperson on December 03, 2007 (9:00:00 PM)

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A handful of Red Hat engineers are excited about a new tool they've developed called Func, short for Fedora Unified Network Controller. They're pretty sure that once the rest of the community catches on to just how useful Func is, they'll be singing its praises too. Red Hat Community Development Manager Greg DeKoenigsberg says, "This is the kind of idea where everyone kind of nods and says, 'I meant to write that.'"

Big companies with big products, like Hewlett-Packard's OpenView and IBM's Tivoli, dominate the network management market. "They'll sell you lots of tools," says DeKoenigsberg. "But these are gigantic monolithic solutions costing millions of dollars." To get the feature you need, you have to buy into the massive infrastructure.

Func is different because it's tiny, customizable, and free. Func takes the most important functionality of network management infrastructures, namely task automation, strips away everything superfluous, and adds a simple programming interface. It's one of those things that seems so obvious that everyone just assumes someone else has already written something like it. But no one had, until now.

"We haven't found anything that lets people do things this simply," says developer Seth Vidal. "All the time, sysadmins run into the problem of needing to a certain set of tasks by communicating from one central server to all the others." Func provides the basic framework for secure communications between servers, allowing admins to focus on creating scripts to automate tasks that are relevant to their environments. "It can be as complex as someone wants it to be. With Func, you can hit the ground running and immediately get a result. It may not be perfect, but you can set it up today and 15 minutes later have a result to show [your manager]. If it's going to take you four or five days to set up an infrastructure just to get a 'hello world' back, that feels like a chore.

"But I can install Func on all my machines really easy, and to customize it, I can just drop in a new module, and they're very simple. For example, I wrote an inventory application using Func. It looks at what services I have configured and lets me know when they change. I wrote it in half a day using 200 lines of code." Anyone can now use the FuncInventory module with their own specific criteria. Other existing modules include hardware profiling and process info and killing. Administrators can write new modules and simply copy them into the modules directory of the Func installation.

"We're interested in building community around this," Vidal says. "The idea is that system administrators are very smart people, and we want to get all these people together to share ideas and code and software and scripts to build a more powerful system management tool. A lot of the big software applications are written without consulting the guys who have to use them. So we want to build something from the ground up based on the needs of the system administrator. We're a handful of smart guys, but we're not smart enough to write the thing that replaces OpenView. The entire world of sysadmins is smart enough, though, if they're given an ecosystem to develop that stuff together. They're going to work on the features that they would actually use."

The core developers of Func hope that it will become a commodity -- a "must have" for sysadmins that will greatly lower the cost of network management and increase automation capabilities. "How would it work if there was a community developing these tools as they needed them?" DeKoenigsberg asks. "The reality is that there are things sysadmins enjoy having available. They'll say, 'If this isn't on my system, it isn't ready. Func is that.'"

DeKoenigsberg envisions Func as an integral part of Red Hat's new Linux automation strategy of "certify once, deploy anywhere. This is another piece of that. We don't want to oversell this idea -- it's in its infancy -- but it does have the potential to be one of the things at the center of that automation strategy.

"Four years ago I started working on yum. People pointed at it and said, 'It's functional.' It probably wasn't what you necessarily wanted to run your enterprise systems. And now yum is the default updater. We made it not suck; we spent time to make sure it integrated. My point is that Func may not be in a place yet to replace [monolithic] systems, but we're excited because it's got all the right signs."

Tina Gasperson writes about business and technology from an open source perspective.

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on Func team puts network management back in sysadmins' control

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Python!

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 83.227.140.22] on December 03, 2007 11:39 PM
Some more fuel to Func and It might trigger to finally pickup python. (maybe)

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Sounds like Puppet

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 12.29.236.210] on December 04, 2007 01:35 AM
After reading the article and skimming the main page, I can't help but notice some similarities to Puppet. There are differences, the most obvious being Python vs Ruby, but you can probably get the same results from properly scripted recipes in Puppet. It will be interesting to see how this develops.

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Re: Sounds like Puppet

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 99.132.142.197] on December 04, 2007 03:21 AM
Func isn't a configuration management service. Thats a pretty fundamental difference right there. Also, as someone that has run both func and puppet, func doesn't slowly eat up all of my memory over time :)

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Re(1): Sounds like Puppet

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 83.228.9.167] on December 04, 2007 10:43 AM
OK, then what is it? How is it different from configuration management software like cfengine? How is it different from network monitoring software like Nagios? I guess I expected a bit more in examples. Right now, the bulk of the article is mostly marketing talk from Red Hat about how nice their product is, but why should I use it? The only example given about the FuncInventory module is not specific at all and makes it look a lot like monitoring software, putting Func in the same league as Nagios.

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Re(2): Sounds like Puppet

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 76.237.205.79] on December 04, 2007 02:54 PM
Lets say you need to run an arbitrary command on 5000 servers across your environment. Are you going to use cfengine? are you going to use nagios? What if you need a full audit on who initiated that command? First it sounded like puppet, now it sounds like nagios :) just download it and give it a try, all will be made clear.

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Re(1): Sounds like Puppet

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 136.168.10.65] on December 05, 2007 07:52 PM
My puppetd instances max out at 40MB after running over a month without a restart.

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Re: Sounds like Puppet

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 66.187.233.201] on December 04, 2007 01:01 PM
Puppet is not 'Ruby'. Puppet is implemented in Ruby, but it is a language in its own right.

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Actually, this sounds like Capistrano

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 66.187.233.201] on December 04, 2007 01:00 PM
Distributed SSH. Not all that new of a concept.

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Re: Actually, this sounds like Capistrano

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 69.2.96.40] on December 04, 2007 02:47 PM
No, more like distributed anything-you-can-think-of via the secure channel that func provides. You drop your module(s) in and don't have to worry about xmlrpc and ssl certs. func provides the certificate management and framework for building just about any distributed process imaginable.

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Re(1): Actually, this sounds like Capistrano

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 66.187.233.201] on December 04, 2007 03:32 PM
I'll definitely take a look at Func, but I actually like the fact that Capistrano simply relies on SSH for all encryption and authentication (there's no xmlrpc involved). What server isn't already using SSH? The only real difference I'm seeing so far is that Func is for people who prefer python and Capistrano is for people who prefer Ruby (and that Capistrano has been heavily used for a couple of years now). Dropping in modules doesn't really make sense for Capistrano because Ruby already has nice tooling for redistributing libraries (RubyGems). It's trivial to build reusable capfiles.

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Re(2): Actually, this sounds like Capistrano

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 66.187.233.201] on December 04, 2007 03:34 PM
Maybe some of the confusion people have about Capistrano is that they think it's only for Rails. While the Rails team did create it, I've actually never used it with Rails. It's definitely usable for anything you want to distribute.

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Still sounds like Puppet (Re(1): Actually, this sounds like Capistrano)

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 164.53.42.129] on December 05, 2007 06:11 AM
Still sounds like Puppet. Puppet does all that including cert management, it is modular, allows building distributed processes... I don't see the difference.

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Re: Still sounds like Puppet (Re(1): Actually, this sounds like Capistrano)

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 76.237.205.79] on December 06, 2007 06:14 AM
What do you mean it still sounds like puppet? Paste a copy of your inventory (including cpu specs, memory, etc) that you some how magically got out of puppet.

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Func team puts network management back in sysadmins' control

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 85.98.240.247] on December 15, 2007 09:30 PM
<a href="http://www.rizecity.com/">Youtube, film indir, rize</a>

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Func team puts network management back in sysadmins' control

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 85.98.240.247] on December 15, 2007 09:37 PM
<a href="http://www.rizecity.com/">Youtube, film indir, rize</a>

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Func team puts network management back in sysadmins' control

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 66.187.233.201] on January 13, 2008 08:15 PM
Read the project page, not the article.

Func establishes a secure XMLRPC API for communication and writing any kind of app on top of it, and uses SSL certs rather than SSH because SSL certs are much easier to deploy ... SSH deployment sucks.



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Func team puts network management back in sysadmins' control

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 75.60.226.212] on January 29, 2008 11:29 PM
FUNC has been a hot topic at work the last few days, after discovering it on http://openmanagement.org/message/1162 . Aside from being a good idea. The marketing opportunities are just a boatload of fun. I love the management server being the "funcmaster". Every product needs a theme song, like the Parliament "Give Up the Funk" (owww, we want the Func, gotta have that func...). Develop a self-service application, call it "GoFuncYourself".

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