Back to the Future

In September of 2007, I sat down at Three Cups, a coffee shop in downtown Chapel Hill, NC, with three friends from Red Hat: Michael DeHaan, Adrian Likins, and Seth Vidal. We’d all been lamenting the poor state of systems management tools, and figured that we could do better. Rather: they figured they could do better, but wanted me along to help them with the “community stuff”. I contributed exactly two things: a dogged insistence on simplicity and modularity, and the name: Func.

Here’s the blog post I wrote about it at the time:

https://gregdekspeaks.wordpress.com/2007/10/01/we-want-the-func-ow-gotta-have-the-func-ow/

The key quote from that blog post, which now looks prescient: “The takeaway: it’s not enough to write code and say ‘look, it’s open source.’ If you want to build communities around useful open source projects, you must architect them the right way to begin with.”

In February of 2012, Michael DeHaan started the Ansible project, building on the lessons he’d learned from Func and elsewhere. Here’s the very first check-in:

https://github.com/ansible/ansible/commit/f31421576b00f0b167cdbe61217c31c21a41ac02

The key quote from that check-in, which now looks prescient: “As Func, which I co-wrote, aspired to avoid using SSH and have its own daemon infrastructure, Ansible aspires to be quite different and more minimal, but still able to grow more modularly over time.”

Simplicity, modularity, community: tested in Func, perfected in Ansible.

* * *

In a little more than two years, Ansible has built one of the largest and most passionate communities of users in the open source world. Just a few examples of that passion (and really, just a few, because there are hundreds):

Pablo Roman
@pabloroman
.@TheNextWeb is moving to a brand new server infrastructure with the help of @ansible. I’ve never been so in love with a tool.
11:07 AM – 17 Jun 2014

Hart Hoover
@hhoover
OH: “if a vegan does crossfit and uses Ansible, what do they talk about first?”
8:57 AM – 18 Mar 2014

Florian Heigl
@FlorianHeigl1
I’ll have to admit I like watching this @ansible playbook updating servers a lot more than #soccer
Finals: “All patched”
4:13 PM – 12 Jun 2014

James Conroy-Finn
@jamesconroyfinn
How have I only just found out how awesome @ansible is?!
3:38 PM – 15 Jun 2014

Kozure Okami
@likwid
@ansible Thanks for making dealing with #Heartbleed extremely easy. Patched ~100 servers in no time at all. Deployed new SSL keys as well.
4:33 PM – 8 Apr 14

Erik Anderson
@erikanderson
Hey @ansible – you do most everything else I need except for completing my income taxes. Would you accept a pull request?🙂
3:43 PM – 7 Apr 14

That’s the kind of excitement you can’t buy with marketing dollars. It’s the kind of excitement you can’t manufacture with press releases and trade show gimmicks. It’s a genuine enthusiasm that people feel when they discover something insanely great that makes their lives easier.

To have a significant role in building such a thing would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for any technologist.

That is why, with humility and great excitement, I’m joining Ansible today. It’s literally a dream job for me, with a dream company and a dream community.

We’re going to accomplish great things together. I can’t wait to get started.

* * *

p.s. if you’re ever in Durham, stop by the office for a visit! Here are the directions:

* Drive to downtown Durham.
* Look up at the Lucky Strike smokestack.
* Park your car somewhere close to it.
* Walk towards it until you’re close enough to touch it.
* Walk through our front door.🙂

See you at a meetup soon.

Back to the Future

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