The Library runs a modern, dynamic web presence, consisting of more than 40 sites, serving thousands of users on a daily basis. To support such a web presence, significant agility and responsiveness is required from the operations team that manages web, application, and database servers, and the associated server hardware and networks.
To build servers quickly and in a repeated, reliable, and consistent manner, we use a number of automation tools, principally Chef, an open source infrastructure automation application. Chef allows us to define the requirements, installation methods, and configuration parameters for applications and servers separately from the servers themselves.
This allows for servers to be build and destroyed very quickly, test platforms generated on the fly, and consistent infrastructure definition and documentation. Automation tools have greatly increased both the number of servers we can run, and the stability and reliability of our web services.