Brussels / 1 & 2 February 2020


Interview with James Shubin
Over Twenty Years Of Automation

Photo of James Shubin

James Shubin will give a talk about Over Twenty Years Of Automation at FOSDEM 2020.

Q: Could you briefly introduce yourself?

Hi, I’m James (@purpleidea), the primary author of mgmt config. My bio probably says it best, but in short, I’m a Free Software hacker who got convinced he had a good idea for a new automation tool, and I’ve been taking some time off from paid work to try and build it out. Living off your savings isn’t awesome, but I’m trying to follow my passions and dreams.

Q: What will your talk be about, exactly? Why this topic?

I’m going to attempt to show everyone how far we’ve come, in part as a retrospective, and in part to prove that everyone needs and is using some kind of automation, and that a modern world can’t live without it.

The move to “the cloud” is primarily because our own existing automation tools have failed to deliver sufficiently advanced infrastructure automation. So we outsourced it.

The Starship Enterprise will never exist if it depends on a hosted “cloud” datacentre. The latency alone would kill us.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish by giving this talk? What do you expect?

I’d like to demonstrate that “Config Management” is at a very nascent stage in its lifetime. There are a few naysayers who either don’t believe this, or think that different technologies will replace it, but I believe that’s usually due to a problem of either not understanding the terminology correctly, or a lack of vision. I hope to get everyone on the same page.

Q: What has changed over the last 20 years in the automation domain?

People are actually using automation tools now, and if you don’t, then I think you’re ultimately either guaranteed to fail or will be unable to scale.

I’ll add a question: What hasn’t changed? I don’t think anyone out there has any fully automated infrastructure, or fully disaster recovery capable infrastructure. I’ll try and define these terms more explicitly in my talk.

Q: 2020 marks the 20th anniversary of (F)OSDEM. What contributions has FOSDEM made to the advancement of FOSS, or in your particular domains of expertise?

The obvious answer is that it has provided me with a world-class hallway track and ecosystem for the FOSS world. I need a community and this is it!

The less obvious (but more important) answer is that FOSDEM reminds me that Free Software isn’t dead.

It can sometimes be discouraging to see so many corporate players get involved in open source for the benefits, but not give much back in return. Some behave badly, some use it as a marketing ploy and some use it as an on-ramp into their proprietary products.

This community still knows what’s right and wrong, and who is authentic. We’re not dead. I just wish we had a bigger campus for our growing community!

Q: Have you enjoyed previous FOSDEM editions?

Yes definitely. I’ve been coming all the way from Canada each year, and it’s always a treat!

Creative Commons License
Creative Commons License

This interview is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Belgium License.