[python-committers] I've got a surprise for you!

Trent Nelson python-committers-list at trentnelson.com
Tue Jan 27 00:32:46 CET 2009

    Catchy subject eh?  Unless, of course, you've seen Forgetting Sarah
    Marshall, in which case, it's probably a tad disturbing.

    Nevertheless, I do have a surprise for everyone.  I spent a lot of
    time early last year trying to keep the buildbots green, especially
    the x64 Windows ones.  This was quite enjoyable, at least initially.

    By the time I got back to London after PyCon last year, the buildbot
    honeymoon was wearing off.  As there's usually only one person that
    has access to a given buildbot, and that person is rarely you, it 
    can be a right pain in the ass trying to debug problems you can't
    reproduce on platforms you don't have access to (especially if all
    you've got is an error message that doesn't make sense).  

    I was convinced there must be a better way.

    Around mid-April, the buildbot on my FreeBSD 6.x box I had recently
    set up kept failing on on setitimer tests.  I received an email from
    a chap named Guilherme Polo who had seen the buildbot test failures
    and wanted to assist.  I was swamped with client work at the time; I
    wasn't able to run any of the test scripts he sent me, but, hey, he
    seemed like a nice chap, so I thought what the hell, and just gave
    him an account on the box and checked out a copy of trunk in his
    home directory.

    Now, mind you, this was before Guilherme was a committer; I didn't
    know the guy from a bar of soap.  For all I knew, he could have been
    using the shell account to launch a massive DDoS or phishing scam.

    However, no more than five minutes after I created his account, he'd
    diagnosed the problem, replicated the behaviour in a C program, and,
    with a bit of googling, figured out what was wrong and proposed a

    And that's when it hit me.  Buildbots are fine when everything is
    running smoothly, but nothing compares to actually having access to
    a system when you're trying to debug something. 
    So, I thought to myself, why not buy a couple of clunky old boxes
    off eBay and donate them to the PSF, such that all developers had
    access to them?  I dropped a note to Guido and Neal, they put me
    in touch with Titus, who had just accepted a position at Michigan
    State, and, well...

    Ten months, seven trips to MSU, six blown fuses and about $60,000
    later, I'm proud to introduce you all to Snakebite: The Open Network!
    A network of around 37-ish servers of all different shapes and sizes, 
    spread over three sites, specifically geared towards the needs of
    open source projects like Python.

    Every CPython, Jython, IronPython and PyPy committer will have access 
    to every development server on the network.  I've also extended the
    offer to prominent Python projects like Django and Twisted.
    Eventually, I'll invite other open source projects to participate
    (Apache, Subversion, MySQL, Postgres, etc), but the network is my 
    gift to All Things Python, first and foremost, so Python projects
    will always get preferential treatment.
    Support for the initiative so far has been nothing short of sublime.

    Microsoft jumped on board and provided unlimited MSDN licenses in
    less time than it took me to write them an e-mail asking for stuff.

    I sent HP an e-mail asking if they could spare a Tru64 license, and
    maybe 2GB of RAM for an extremely crappy Itanium box I bought off
    eBay.  They saw my Tru64 license request and raised with media and
    licenses to the latest version of HP-UX.
    Unfortunately, it was too much trouble for them to try and source
    2GB of RAM for the Itanium I bought.  So, instead, they shipped two
    massive quad Itanium 2 RX-5670s, chock full of 73GB 15k disks and
    no less than 78GB of RAM between the two servers; 32GB in one and
    46GB in the other.  Well then.
    (I'd hate to think what would have turned up had I asked them for
    two quad Itanium monsters.)

    Sun, Google and Canonical have also expressed a lot of interest in
    the project -- I stopped asking for hardware a while back though as
    we've literally run out of space to host it all.

    The website is live, but the content is a bit sparse at the moment,
    excluding the poorly worded front page and the reasonably accurate
    network page:

    It'll probably be a few weeks before you can start logging in and
    doing stuff.  The HPCC/CSE server room at MSU is about to have walls
    knocked in and ramps built in order to accommodate a giant PDU that
    has been sitting outside it for about six months; the Snakebite rack
    is going to get shuffled around a bit so I figure there's not much
    point going live before that's taken care of.

    Other than that, I'm just happy to get this off my chest, ten months
    is a freakin' long time to try and keep something like this a secret

    Thanks to everyone who has contributed so far.  Titus, Bill, Adam,
    Kelly, George: Snakebite wouldn't be anything more than a twinkle
    in my eye if it weren't for the support MSU has thrown behind the
    project, thank you for all your efforts to date.  Hank, Garrett and
    Sam: having the support of Microsoft from very early on has been a
    huge boost and the MSDN licenses have already been invaluable.  Bob,
    well, what can I say, there was a period there where every e-mail
    thread between us seemed to result in something being shipped from
    HP to MSU; thanks to you and HP's open source labs.

    And last but not least, thanks to Guido and all the Python committers
    for their tireless efforts to date.  Although the sheer elegance of
    the language is what initially attracted me to Python, it was the 
    developer community that made me want to stick around.

    Snakebite is my gift to you! 


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