DISCLAIMER: “Abstractions are helpful till they are not” rant about using the right tools for the job follows…
I’ve been hearing the Hindu phrase “turtles all the way down” very often lately to describe the practice of using products to try and install themselves (my original posting attributed this to Dr Seuss) . This seems especially true of the container platforms that use containers to install containers that manage the containers. Yes, really – I don’t make this stuff up.
While I’m a HUGE fan of containers (RackN uses them like crazy with Digital Rebar), they do not magically solve operational issues like security, upgrade or networking. In fact, they actually complicate operational concerns by creating additional segmentation.
Solving these issues requires building a robust, repeatable, and automated underlay. That is a fundamentally different problem than managing containers or virtual machines. Asking container or VM abstraction APIs to do underlay work breaks the purpose of the abstraction which is to hide complexity.
The lure of a universal abstraction, the proverbial “single pane of glass,” is the ultimate siren song that breeds turtle recursion.
I’ve written about that on DevOps.com in a pair of articles: It’s Time to Slay the Universal Installer Unicorn and How the Lure of an ‘Easy Button’ Installer Traps Projects. It seems obvious to me that universal abstraction is a oxymoron.
Another form of this pattern emerges from the square peg / round hole syndrome when we take a great tool and apply it to every job. For example, I was in a meeting when I heard “If you don’t think Kubernetes is greatest way to deploy software then go away [because we’re using it to install Kubernetes].” It may be the greatest way to deploy software for applications that fit its model, but it’s certainly not the only way.
What’s the solution? We should accept that there are multiple right ways to manage platforms depending on the level of abstraction that we want to expose.
Using an abstraction in the wrong place, hides information that we need to make good decisions. That makes it harder to automate, monitor and manage. It’s always faster, easier and safer when you’ve got the right tool for the job.