LISA’14, the Large Installation System Administration conference, was held in Seattle last week. I had the opportunity to give a talk on Server Management – if you are interested, the slides are available here.
One of the questions caught me completely off guard: “Aren’t you afraid that you are making system management too simple and that people won’t learn how to really manage Linux? They will just learn a few simple commands and not go any further. Today, they have to learn how Linux works and how to solve problems. OpenLMI will leave them unprepared.”
Wow… Where to start?
Thinking about this further, it could happen. In fact it will happen! Many people are looking for the quickest fix to a problem – a common way of working is to Google what you need, find something that looks like it should work, try a quick cut and paste, and move on.
OpenLMI is designed to support this. The LMI CLI is task oriented, simple, and easy to use. All you really need to use the LMI CLI is “LMI help”. The LMIShell scripts are designed to do useful work, to be easy to read, and to be modified for specific tasks.
If someone is simply looking for a way to perform a specific task, use it, and move on the the next problem, OpenLMI is a good way to go. You can use OpenLMI at a shallow level, even use it to avoid having to learn how Linux really works.
On the other hand, OpenLMI can also be used to ease into a deep knowledge of Linux: Start with the LMI CLI and use it to perform tasks. Move into LMIShell and start using and developing scripts. From there it is straightforward to develop custom automation tools. You have several ways to dive deeper into Linux administration, perhaps even developing custom OpenLMI Providers.
I would suggest that OpenLMI makes Linux more approachable. Some people will only use OpenLMI, and will never go deeper – if they can do what they need to do, this seems like a reasonable approach. Some people will use OpenLMI as a tool and and entry point to mastering Linux administration; this is great.
I don’t believe everyone needs to master Linux to use it. Consider the car analogy: All some people want to do is drive a car – automatic transmissions are perfect for them. Some people want to be able to do light repairs such as oil changes. Some want to rebuild engines and repair major subsystems of the car. And some people want to design the eight speed computer controlled automatic transmissions that are part of the integrated drive train of modern cars!
What do you think? Do we face a real risk of making Linux “too easy”, or should we try to make Linux more approachable?