Rob Nelson’s 2015 Goals

On January 19th, I graded my efforts in 2014 and promised to document my technical goals for this year.

Learn Ruby

I spend a lot of time with Puppet and R10k and while I’m a decent enough programmer to pick up on what’s going on in general, I really need to grok Ruby at an advanced level. I bought a copy of Eloquent Ruby for the theoretical and I’ve eyeballed a few projects to work on for the practical.

Blog more about Security

One of my primary functions at work is related to security, but I rarely blog about it. That needs to change.

Home Network

1) After moving, I have my servers in a temporary space. Complete the finished space and migrate all the hardware there. Parts are on order and I’m going to add to the breaker box soon!

2) Stand up a complete environment. I’m missing vCO, an IPAM solution, and monitoring. Yes, it’s just my home network, but if I can’t monitor a handful of devices, I can’t monitor hundreds or thousands.

Expand Puppetinabox

Two weeks ago I released my first solo software project, puppetinabox. I’ve laid out some enhancements for it and I’m sure there are deficiencies I’m not aware of. I need to practice some good software development patterns both for myself, and if I want it to be used by others.

Propose a VMworld Talk

Last year, I proposed an Auto Deploy talk. It was not accepted. I won’t make it a goal to have an accepted talk – I have no control over it, after all – but I’d like to put a proposal in again. Topic undecided.

Propose a PuppetConf Talk

As the year progressed, I became more interested in submitting a talk to PuppetConf than VMworld. This appears to have been the right choice, as my talk proposal was accepted. Mission accomplished!


Last year, I obtained by VCP5-DCV. This year, I need to at least get my VCAP-DCA. That means a new study guide, some time in the lab, and a plan to prep, study, take, and pass the exam.

These are goals that are important to me. I’m documenting the goals so I can hold myself accountable come next January and see how I progressed.

2014 Recap: How did I do?

Inspired by Scott Lowe’s goals for 2015, I’ve decided to be more rigorous about my own work-related goals. In this post, I’ll give a recap of my unofficial plans for 2014. I never wrote these down or otherwise formalized them, so they are a bit rough.

  • Start a blog

This one I achieved pretty early in the year. I started collecting material during the holiday and started publishing content on February. Grade: Pass

  • Post a Monday morning blog article every week

I had mixed success here. My initial aim really was to have one article a week and I made it for about 10 months, with the help of Jason (@hawkbox), who contributed some Hyper-V content during August. Things started to fall apart in November, though. I participated in the 30in30 challenge for November and didn’t quite make the mark, and it got me away from the weekly post. In December, I didn’t post weekly. So I failed, only hitting this about 70% of the time. Grade: C

However, I consider the results a success. I learned a few things. One, how difficult it is to get content ready every week without fail. I would have done much poorer if Jason had not helped me in August, as I was reaching burnout. Learning new things can be fun, but the pressure to do it continually does suck some of the enjoyment out. It also has a high cost on your free time, you need to spend a lot of it on the blog and it can intrude upon time with family and friends (you’ll note that blog content has been almost nil since the holiday season began, for this reason). Second, a weekly article isn’t needed. I managed to have 100 blog articles in 11 months, which is more than one per week. Some were really short, some very lengthy technical articles, and some were opinion pieces. People found the articles and I get a note from readers once in a while. Thank you all for reading, it really makes it worthwhile.

Even though I missed my original mark, I’ll regrade it as a B as I met the real, unwritten goal – create helpful content and post it on my blog frequently.

  • Learn Puppet

On this goal, I did very well. I wrote some 35+ articles, created three forge modules, and it spawned a project ‘Puppetinabox’. It also had some unrecognized synergy with using and learning Git, which I now feel adept with. I still have a lot of things to learn about Puppet, but my efforts clearly paid off. Grade: A

  • Present publicly

A goal I added midway through the year was to present something publicly. It didn’t matter what, but it had to be in front of real live human beings. I had done an Auto Deploy Deep Dive on the vBrownBag podcast earlier in the year and loved it. A podcast can make you nervous, but no-one can see you and you can’t see the attendees. I wanted to really push myself as I know I’m not good at public speaking. I ended up giving two public presentations. The first was a Virtual Design Master followup at the annual Indianapolis VMUG conference in July and the second was about DevOps for SysAdmins in November at a regular VMUG meeting. I had a lot of fun with both and I think I got past much of my stage fright. I also presented with Byron Schaller both times, who really helped with getting the presentations together. Of course, both presentations were to small groups. I had applied to give my Auto Deploy presentation at VMworld and presenting to (hopefully!) a few hundred people would have been a much different experience. There’s always next year! Grade: B+

For someone without a solid set of goals for the year, I think I did fairly well! I’m going to try and improve on this for 2015 by documenting the goals publicly and posting them here. Stay tuned.

Introducing ‘puppetinabox’: bootstrap a lab setup with Puppet

Over the past few days, I’ve been working on a project. I call it puppetinabox and it includes a consolidate controlrepo with a Puppetfile of curated collection of forge modules and config repository. If you have an existing Linux OS template and basic skills with linux and git, you can quickly deploy a network managed by puppet and r10k. This curated collection can be used as is, to learn Puppet or stand up a basic network, or fork the code and start customizing your network, using it as the foundation for a more complex configuration.

This project grew out of the 12 Days of Commitmas and my own desire to puppetize my home network. Over the holiday break, there was a lot of streaming media going on and I started to see failures on my services. Refreshing the services, which were entirely too coupled on mostly one VM, was looking pretty daunting. Puppetizing the network was slightly daunting, but far preferable to doing it by hand. I decided to put what I had learned and practiced to good use and thus, puppetinabox was born!

Puppetinabox includes everything required to provide puppet, puppetdb, r10k, dns and dhcp services, a yum repository, and a build server. The only thing you need to provide is a gateway device and you have a functional network. If you already have a working network and you want to puppetize it, never fear – you can tweak the provided material to fit or use puppetinabox to start refreshing the services one at a time.

I created the puppetinabox GitHub organization to house all the repositories. You can read the documentation here. I’d love to hear what you think, whether this will help you or what improvements might make it better. Let me know in comments, on twitter, or as a GitHub issue. If anyone is graphically inclined, I could really use a nice looking avatar for the organization, too!

If you’d like some more information, I presented on the 1/15/2015 vBrownBag DevOps Series. Watch the video and check out the slides!