I love the notion of a clean, repeatable install. In my side projects, I've historically accomplished this through strict documentation practices and directory organization. However, this process inevitably breaks down for me when a machine becomes multi-purpose.
Either locally or in the cloud, I'll end up installing packages, hacking together configuration, or otherwise making the environment murky. In fact, the server that currently hosts this blog is a perfect example. This instance hosts this site, riiga.net, and has been a sandbox for toy projects I've worked on over the past two years.
While I'm reasonably confident I can redeploy this machine within a couple of hours, it would be far more flexible if I could do this in minutes. Or even better, selectively re-deploy projects to alternate hosts.
For this reason, Vagrant has become my new favorite toy. Vagrant provides simple VM construction and provisioning. This enables easy provisioning of development environments, testing large system upgrades, and migrating projects to alternative cloud providers.
To begin exploring the world of automated provisioning, I decided to create a VM that would serve the Mozilla Sync server. I've hosted the Vagrant Mozilla Sync Configuration on my GitHub. (Disclaimer: this was a warm-up project. All dependencies are automatically pulled from other source controls. Meaning, this will likely break in the future.)
Isn't this overkill? It certainly seemed so... that is, until the first VM corrupted. When that happened, I simply re-provisioned a new instance. About an hour later, I was back up and running with minimal engineering effort.
What next? I've been itching to try Linux Mint. And what better way than to automatically provision my standard desktop deployment!