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We have, at last count, 335 questions tagged .

As far as I know, for the most part this is a tool used by developers to create developer environments, and not something that is useful in creating production environments. (I could be wrong about this, though.)

Should Server Fault accept questions about Vagrant?

32

I would say yes. Systems administrators can also use vagrant for testing our own environments. Say you want to test your puppet manifests against a known standard configuration - you could vagrant up an entire testing system environment.

Additionally, part of a systems administrators job is supporting the systems that the staff use. Vagrant still falls within this scope.

So a blanket ban on vagrant is not a good idea. As with most things, looking at the question in-context before making a decisions is the way to go.


As per our very own on-topic FAQ:

If your question is about:

  • managing the hardware or software of servers, workstations, storage or networks
  • tools used for administering, monitoring, or automating these
  • deployment to and management of third-party provided information technology platforms

I believe that Vagrant fits these three requirements. It's software for workstations, it's a tool for automation, and it's about deployment and management of third party technology platforms!

and is not about:

  • consumer workstations or networking (which belong on our sister site, Super User)
  • working with a service provider's management interface, such as cPanel
  • product, service, or learning material recommendations product licensing inquiries or legal advice
  • career, salary, personnel, employment, or formal education
  • unauthorized use or misuse of IT systems

It is none of those things either.

  • however is "•managing the hardware or software of servers, workstations, storage or networks" something a developer does? I completely agree with your points, my only issue is that most of the time the person using vagrant is not going to be a sysadmin. Remember that on SF we don't talk about bluescreen debugging because users might do that. – Jim B Sep 23 '15 at 17:25
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    @JimB you are correct, which is why I wrote As with most things, looking at the question in-context before making a decisions is the way to go. - I don't support a blanket ban, but I also do not support making anything vagrant on-topic – Mark Henderson Sep 23 '15 at 17:36
  • since we're in agreement which site should own vagrant, I'd suggest we simply move them to SO where the folks that use vagrant tend to gravitate. – Jim B Sep 24 '15 at 13:56
  • For the reasons you state, Vagrant is clearly moving fast into sysadmin territory, just like Docker will with the coming of Windows Server 2016 by the sound of it. I don't side with @JimB about a specific site owning a product such as Vagrant with its wide range of application, but rather with Mark in it all being about context. – ErikE Sep 27 '15 at 14:18
  • @erike unfortunately we've made the decision a long time ago to be extremely specific on what's on topic. I'd be completely happy to start allowing questions that might be of value to a business environment. Instead we've closed or migrated questions that are primarily user or dev oriented regardless of the usage by admins. I'm only looking for consistency. – Jim B Sep 27 '15 at 18:11
  • @JimB if you would then provide the "extremely specific" list of "products owned" by SF? It would simplify all discourse. – ErikE Sep 27 '15 at 18:17
  • @erike •managing the hardware or software of servers, workstations, storage or networks •tools used for administering, monitoring, or automating these •deployment to and management of third-party provided information technology platforms if you are interested in looking you'll notice that the mean mention of development, home, or any possible use other than specifically primarily admin use is migrated (and probably why there are over 4k questions on vagrant on SO) you can examine the data here archive.org/details/stackexchange – Jim B Sep 28 '15 at 10:30
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    @JimB I do not support a blanket ban/migration of any question based solely on its tags and/or technology. Of anything. Even cpanel. I believe that every single question needs to be judged on its own merits. Thus I can't support your plan to "just migrate them to SO". I would suggest migrating them to SO if they fit within SO's boundaries and are off-topic based on SF boundaries - but then and only then. – Mark Henderson Sep 28 '15 at 12:59
  • I'd like to substantiate this answer - I've personally used vagrant for quite literally the exact purpose of running CMS system configurations through a battery of tests. – Mikey T.K. Oct 4 '15 at 20:18
9

This is a topic I've been mulling over for quite some time, and I'm not sure I have a good answer.

Nonetheless...

The vast majority of vagrant usage is by developers, orchestrating development environments or to otherwise automate the handling of VirtualBox VMs. Yes, vagrant can be used with vSphere or any number of other public clouds, but as womble mentioned, it fails on many accounts to provide meaningful functionality in those environments outside of development.

That said, just because a tool is used predominantly by developers doesn't mean that it should be thrown out the window altogether. There are indeed uses for vagrant that IMHO fit right in Server Fault's wheelhouse. Some examples of these uses are:

  • testing and debugging configuration management manifests
  • building "golden" server images
  • building OS packages (I use vagrant for this extensively, to build custom debian packages)
  • etc.

Vagrant can be used for all of these, and can accomplish the tasks in a 100% programmatic and repeatable manner, which is where the value comes from.

To sum up my views on this, it would be silly to take a black-and-white stance on this. Like so many topics on Serverfault determining topicality requires a bit of nuance. We need to examine whether or not the OP is using vagrant for appropriate purposes as part of their professional systems/network administration job. If so, and if it's a good question, then I will welcome it.

7

It's kind of the same as VirtualBox or *AMPP. If you are preparing/deploying for other people then yes, on topic. Otherwise you are running close to development and SO is likely a better place. It's not like they don't have a body of vagrant knowledge, they have 4000+ questions tagged as such.

Sure we can and do use vagrant for a variety of sysadmin tasks but the majority of questions we see clearly don't fall into that category.

4

I haven't reviewed all the questions, but I think one of the issue is in this:

If a SysAdmin has a question regarding Vagrant, it will probably be on-topic. Like Mark Henderson states, it may be used by Sysadmin to test a configuration management and many more scenarios.

However, if a end-user comes and ask a question, then he thinks SF is his SysAdmin and he is asking a user question to a SysAdmin group hoping some sysadmin will kindly do the missing job in his business. Or his question is more pertinent to other developers to answer.

So I think it comes down to the usage scenario, not the particular software/tool.

If I ask a grep question, is it on topic? Or I can't figure out why my awk script isn't processing the syslog entry correctly... But if I say "I am writing a wrapper around grep to make it easier to use by housewifes", then that's off-topic...

  • "writing a wrapper around grep to make it easier to use by housewifes" Now that's got to be a gap in the market! Someone's gonna do that one day and make gigabucks! – Michael B Nov 6 '15 at 3:08
1

I've tossed enough comments in so I thought I'd summarize my arguments in one place.

Pro argument: Vagrant is an admin tool for managing environments

My response

  • Nonsense- out of all the admins here we have slightly over 300 Qs. Over in the SE site for developers they have 4000+. Our FAQ says Server Fault is for Information Technology Professionals needing expert answers related to managing computer systems in a professional capacity", it is not "questions from professional sysadmins" nor is it "questions from full time sysadmins". While you can show that there are some very few admins that might be using vagrant in a professional capacity (much like Cpanel on Linux systems) the vast majority are not. Admins using Vagrant would be best served by asking in the community with the larger userbase

Pro argument: Questions should be handled case by case

  • in an ideal world I'd agree with you. In an ideal world we'd not need money we'd all just seek to better ourselves and each other. In the world we have, people have to make decisions, and instead of whatever feels right there should be a guideline. That guideline is currently fairly exclusive. As an example if you even mention the word home in a question, even if it's a very good DNS question that an admin in a business would in fact do, it gets migrated to SU. If it's something that a user could do, even if an admin would also do it, it's been migrated. This completely makes sense to me since we are trying to attract experienced professional admins. I certainly agree that we should not be looking a products/solutions/tools on a product by product basis and I think that we could consider changing the FAQ to "questions from professional admins" as opposed to a professional capacity in a business.

To be completely clear vagrant, as a product, I do not see as an issue per se. I do see the larger question of "what's the difference between SF and other sites". If you start taking questions about non "admin in the enterprise" solutions/products then we've gone off target

0

I say this as a frequent user of Vagrant, and as someone who develops Vagrant-based (dev) systems for others to use: I think Vagrant, in general, isn't on-topic for SF. It really isn't a systems management tool. I've seen a few people try to use Vagrant as their "cloud orchestration platform"; it goes about as well as you'd think... that is to say, not at all.

It's true that it can be used by sysadmins to create ops testing (and training) environments, but just because a sysadmin uses it doesn't make it a suitable topic for SF (otherwise would be a top-voted tag, no doubt).

Also, I really think that "support the systems that the staff use" is a bad criteria. Sysadmins have to deal with all sorts of end-user applications, and if questions about using Visual Studio are off-topic, Vagrant is equally off-topic. The day shows up will be a sad day for us all...

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    Respectfully disagree. As per our very own much fought about on-topic FAQ I believe Vagrant falls under all three of the on-topic bullet points. – Mark Henderson Sep 23 '15 at 12:15
-2

Generally:

A topic of an useful, healthy, friendly site should be interpreted as wide as possible, and should always contain what is the "common sense".

It is because new people won't know all of the relevant meta posts about the site topic, years retroactively. In most cases, they don't even know that a meta site exists.

And closing - destructing their content isn't a happy first experience. With their loss, the site loses all of the content as well, what they could have constructed later.

The content of the site should be filtered by quality, and not by an irrationally narrowed topic.

It is especially bad thing to use rules retroactively, it is the worst of all worst. Going years back on the site and deleting hundreds of questions on newly invented rules, it is simply... sulphuric, on my opinion. Instead of it, if such an intent comes forth, first it should be discussed, what is the real reason.

It is highly unrealistic, that something were about professional system administration years ago, and now it isn't. If you now want to kill year-old content, then something is nearly surely not okay.

Second important thing, that for such cases there is a healthier solution: using a tag with "historical" or similar name, to differentiate the old, but once allowed content.


Specifically to Vagrant:

First, constructing environments by Vagrant is a border case between the development and the administration. It shouldn't be offtopic, especially not on SO and SF, it should be ontopic on both sites. I don't think that a little bit of overlap with the SO would be a problem or even harmful.

There is a lot of cases where professional software developers need to work in environments constructed by system administrators for them. The difference between our common skills and viewpoints, it is big and highly visible. And, honestly, it is not always a good experience if both of us need to maximize our work quality, but on different measurements. Having "vagrant" content on the SF would be a help to build a bridge between the worlds.

But, if the vagrant content should be exterminated, it should be done on such a way:

  • already existing, but migratable Vagrant posts should be migrated to SO
  • non-migratable Vagrant posts get a "historical" tag
  • new questions about Vagrant would be also migrated to SO (with the exception if they are crap. Then they would be only closed)

On my opinion, this is what should be done, but unfortunately the well-known, SE-wide disdain of the mods from the question migrations probably avoids the migration part.

But destroying content retroactively, it is always bad and it could be avoided.

  • 1
    We've said it before, and I'll say it again: "We don't care about crappy, off-topic content." If someone comes and asks a well-researched, useful, but off-topic question, by all means, I'll migrate it. In 99% of the cases, though, people that can't be bothered to understand topicality here also don't take the time to write a good question. We don't migrate crap, so the question get closed and eventually auto-deleted. – EEAA Sep 29 '15 at 19:01
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    Can you please try to explain to me how you come to the conclusion that closing an old question that is now off-topic is "destroying" content? It is just a strong sign for everybody that we don't see this question as topical anymore and prevents people from claiming "but this wasn't closed" on a six year old question. – Sven Sep 29 '15 at 19:01
  • Thank you, @Sven. I was just about to write another comment addressing that. – EEAA Sep 29 '15 at 19:04
  • @Sven Closed questions will be deleted with time. It shouldn't be so, but it is how things are going. Maybe you won't delete it now, but can you guarantee it for the mods of the future in the next 10 years? "It was old and offtopic, so I deleted it" - so will sound the justification. And no power on the Earth will avoid this. 10k- users won't even know, what had they lost. We don't know, what have the site already lost. The damaged closing/delete policy is currently to strongest argument for me to work for the 10k. I want to see, what is lost. – peterh Sep 29 '15 at 19:08
  • Questions with an answer will not be autodeleted, and "what about another mod in a few years" is beyond a straw mans argument. With that mindset, we would need to accept every question, because maybe 10 years from now, the community magically decides that knitting has become on topic. – Sven Sep 29 '15 at 19:10
  • @Sven To me, it is a very strong argument, because I've seen too many good and useful content waiting its removal. Because 10k- users don't even know, what is missing, thus you can't want from them to trust the deletion policy, especially if the closing policy is also highly problematic from many viewpoints. – peterh Sep 29 '15 at 19:13
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    Again: Questions with answers will not be deleted, except they are really insanely bad or spammy. Period. This was never different and will not be different. – Sven Sep 29 '15 at 19:14
  • @Sven You have access to the "deleted" (=made invisible) content of the site, could you sort it by decreasing votecount? Doing similarly with the closed questions doesn't make me happy (not only on the SF, nearly nowhere). – peterh Sep 29 '15 at 19:18
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    No. It's a waste of time to feed your conspiracy theories. – Sven Sep 29 '15 at 19:20
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    @Sven Of course knitting is on-topic. Especially when you're using multiple yarns, where you can run into all sorts of threading issues. (Badum-tish!) – Jenny D Sep 29 '15 at 19:21
  • @EEAA It is wonderful. I would suggest to get a list of the (deleted or not) questions closed as offtopic, and sort them by decreasing votecount. There is the content which should have been migrated, but somehow it didn't happen. But anyways if you try to save which seems good content, it is a very good deed. – peterh Sep 29 '15 at 19:21
  • @JennyD: Of course you are right. Forgot about the whole threading issues :) – Sven Sep 29 '15 at 19:22
  • @Sven I didn't asked to show it to me, I suggest for you to see them. At least, see them. – peterh Sep 29 '15 at 19:24
  • @peterh Be my guest. – EEAA Sep 29 '15 at 19:58
  • @EEAA Thank you, but as I know, deleted content can't be shown on the data SE, and even its metadata since only a short time. – peterh Sep 29 '15 at 20:07
-3

I say we answer them.

I use Vagrant for testing my config management and other automation tooling all the time.

I use it to provide a prod-like environment on which the dev teams can test their code so I don't have to hear "it works on my machine".

I use it to evaluate new tools without having to install it on the shared-infrastructure (which - depending on your environment - may incur additional work or cost).

I use it to run services that I may want to have around, but don't necessarily want running all the time, and may not want on shared infrastructure (short lived or seldom-used webserver or database instances, for example.)

If you don't want to answer them, then dont. If you don't want to see them, add a filter.

add Ignore Filter

By default, filtered tags are greyed out. If you don't want to see them at all...

Hide Filtered Tags

  • Can you explain how to add a filter so that you don't see stuff please ? – Iain Oct 6 '15 at 22:03
  • It's not about not wanting to see or answer them - it's about consistency- in the past the criteria for moving/closing questions was because we specifically said it's off topic (cpanel) OR the question was about something a user or developer would do. Vagrant is beyond a doubt (even if all you do is look at where questions go) a developer tool and by past standards off topic- if now the bar is anything an admin might do, I'm happy with that but then we should bring back cpanel, bluescreen, etc. – Jim B Oct 7 '15 at 8:09
  • Demonstrated being helpful by answering a question, the example being how to use the ignore tags and hide-ignored tags features. @Iain – gWaldo Oct 8 '15 at 13:46
  • @JimB You are, of course, welcome to continue playing Whack-a-Mole with products that you don't want to support. It's probably fine. – gWaldo Oct 8 '15 at 13:47
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    @JimB As is evidenced in my answer above, vagrant has a valid use case in pro sysadmin. cPanel does not. Those two topics cannot be grouped into the same bucket. – EEAA Oct 8 '15 at 16:56
  • @EEAA so the questions (numbered in the low thousands prior to the deletion) by admins forced to manage servers with cpanel installed is not a valid sysadmin question BUT the questions on a tool that's aimed at development system design and by our (SE) evidence is primarily a developer tool is somehow directly on point? I'm not trying to pick on you personally I'm simply advocating that we should be able to have a consistent, repeatable stance on what's allowed. The only stance on this I oppose is the "it depends" stance. – Jim B Oct 8 '15 at 21:07
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    @JimB You're missing the point. There is no sane way to do sysadmin with cPanel. We don't need to hash out that discussion yet again. Vagrant, while primarily a dev tool, does have legit use cases in systems administration. cPanel does not. It does not work to create classes of tools and define everything as "developer centric" to be off topic. Each product deserves its own nuanced approach, especially for those like vagrant that fall into a grey area. – EEAA Oct 8 '15 at 21:11
  • @gWaldo, its not about whack a mole, there is a vibrant well established development community SE that supports its primary user base, and has over 4k answers on the topic. Why would we not want to migrate the questions over to that community- if only for consistency. – Jim B Oct 8 '15 at 21:15
  • @EEAA I do not disagree with your point about cpanel, yet admins are often forced to use it (much like the question on legacy software) While vagrant isn't cpanel, its not a tool primarily used by admins, which was the bar. If you are lowering the bar to anything that could used by an admin, that's fine wth me but it should not be a "I like that tool so its in" policy. We should have a clear policy. Since SO have clearly concluded that vagrant is not an admin tool, since most of the questions are not from admins at all, IMHO the consistent answer to the question is migrate. – Jim B Oct 8 '15 at 21:26

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