Techniques and Tools for Literate DevOps

Short Form


Lacking the Hermetic knowledge required to administrate servers, we take judicious notes and hyperlinks. Why not combine those written thoughts with the commands we enter to configure and tame our digital beasties? We have a tool for that.


Maintaining servers falls into two phases:

  1. Bang head until server works
  2. Capture effort into some automation tool like Puppet or Chef.

Recently, Howard has been playing around with making the first phase closer to the second. For lack of a better word, we call it literate devops (see this essay for details).

Howard has talked previously about using org-mode’s literate programming model to investigate new ideas and crystallize thoughts, and this approach appears to work well for system administration, since he lacks those esoteric sysadm skills. Think of the code you use containing links back to `Server Fault’ where you first found the solution.

After showing his results, Kasey started to build a more general tool that can be used by any one who has to take care of servers, but not in a full-time capacity. We call this open source project rex (for remote execution).

This session explains the advantage of applying literate programming concepts to the dangers of system administration and then showing off the usefulness of the rex project.



system administration, shell, devops, linux

Speaking experience

Howard has spoken previously at Open Source Bridge (see "Literate Programming":1 as an example) and other conferences (like "jQuery Summit":2), but this talk includes mentoring a first time speaker, Kasey Alusi.



  • Elfyme


    With over thirty years of programming experience from C to Clojure, he enjoys mentoring younger colleagues as well as teaching the next generation. He hosts a local computer programming club at his local middle and high schools as well as mentoring the local robotics team. Oh, and he does have a day job, working on the software defined networking team at Workday.

  • Biography

    A recent graduate from the University of Washington in Informatics, Kasey is now working on a private Openstack cloud project. Work threw many different assignments at him over the past year, causing him to adopt a new toolset for rapid development followed by fine tuning and refinement. He wants to share with other newbies and undergrads the power of a well stocked and tuned toolbelt, thoughts on the industry, and getting involved in open source projects in a panel-style discussion.