An article I wrote for InfoWorld’s New Tech Forum on all the various monitoring techniques: Know your options for infrastructure monitoring

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by | July 3, 2014 · 2:43 pm

DevOpsDays Silicon Valley 2014 Day Two Notes

Day Two

spam First, a public shaming. Some goober from Merantis left this spam on everyone’s car. Bah.

Presentations

@bridgetkromhout spoke on “how I learned to stop worrying and love devops” and @benzobot spoke on onboarding and mentoring apprentices. DoD SV certainly made a strong effort to get more female speakers this year!  We tried in Austin (I personally wrote like every local techie woman group I could find) but we only had like one.

Then there were two super bad ass presentations back to back. I can’t find the slides online yet.

The Future of Configuration Management

Mark Burgess (@markburgess_osl), aka “The CFEngine Guy” and noted Promise Theory advocate, spoke.  Chef and Puppet had eclipsed CFEngine for a while but it turns out as the Internet of Things and containers and stuff are arriving that maybe many of his design decisions were actually prescient and not retro. Here it is broken down into wise sayings.

  • Why do we not have CAD for IT systems?
  • Orchestration is not bricklaying.
  • We need the equivalent of style sheets for servers.
  • We are entering a world of decentralized smart infrastructure.
  • Scale, complexity, and knowledge increase as our desire for flexibility increases.
  • Separation of concerns adds complexity and fragility.
  • To handle complexity – atomize and untether.
  • 3D printed datacenters are coming.

DevOps as Relationship Management

James Urquhart (@jamesurquhart) spoke about the interconnectedness of our systems. The SEC, post flash crash, added circuit breakers, defined rollback protocols, inserted agents into the flow of the stock exchange trading systems to prevent uncontrolled cascading.

One simple rule – visualize the whole system (monitor your outside relationships) but take action at the agent level. “How are you doing today?” “Good.” Monitoring is going well, new approaches in the space look at policies and interactions and performance and business medtrics – but need to differentiate reductionist vs expansionist approaches.

Michal Nygard’s book Release It! is full of great patterns, and Netflix’ open sourced Hystrix is an example of the kind of relational system safeguards you can build off it.

Ignite Block

  • Tips for Introverts (at Conventions) by Tom Duffield – They include find a role, don’t fear failure, attend preconference activities, go to lunch early and sit, engage, share interests, find a comfortable setting, take time to recharge. As someone initially introverted myself (no one believes that now) I like that this has actual tips to get past it; in some circles “introversion” has become the new “Asperger’s” as a blanket excuse for not wanting to bother to relate to people.
  • Mike Place on scalable container management – Google kubernetes is an example. Don’t just provision your systems, you need to manage them too. Images came and went and came back now, but you also can’t ignore what’s onboard the image. It’s time to join image and config management.
    This was really good and the world should listen. On the one hand, conducting CM operations on 1000 servers in parallel is contributing unnecessarily to the heat death of the universe.  On the other hand, you need to build those images in a non-manual way in the first place! And too many systems worry about the configuration but not the runtime operation. Amen brother!
  • Finally (well, there were two more, but I didn’t care for them so took no notes), John Willis (@botchagalupe) did [Darwin to] Deming to DevOps, a burst-fire reading list of nondeterminism tracing from Darwin through various scientists to the Deming/TPS stuff through into the DevOps world with Gene Kim and Patrick Debois.  It was pimp. Here it is when he gave it at another venue:

Conclusions

Here’s some big themes from the week.

  • Deterministic, reductionist, and centralized are for suckers.
  • Complexity is the enemy.  Systems thinking is necessary.
  • We love continuous deployment.  But DevOps is not just about delivering code to production.
  • Women exist in DevOps and are cool.  More would be great.
  • Most vendors have figured out to just relax and talk to techies in a way they might listen to.  Some haven’t.

It was a great event, kudos to Marius and the other organizers who put in a lot of work to wrangle 500 people, nearly 30 sponsors, food, venue, and the like.  If you haven’t been to a DevOpsDays, look around, there may be one near you!  I help organize DevOpsDays Austin (just had our third annual) and there’s ones coming this year from Tel Aviv to Minneapolis.

If you went to DoD SV, feel free and comment below with your thoughts (linking any posts you’ve made, slides, etc. is welcome too)!

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DevOpsDays Silicon Valley 2014 Day One Notes

I have more notes from Velocity, but thought I’d do DevOpsDays first while it’s freshest in my brain. This isn’t a complete report, it’s just my thoughts on the parts I felt moved to actually write down or gave me a notable thought. More notes when I was learning, less when I wasn’t (not a reflection on the quality of the talk, just some things I already knew a bit about).

DevOpsDays Silicon Valley 2014 was June 27-28 at the San Jose Computer Museum. 500 people registered; not sure how many showed but I’d guess definitely in excess of 400.

Day One

State of the Union

First we had John Willis (@botchagalupe) giving the DevOps State of the Union. Here’s the slides (I know it says Amsterdam, he gave it there too.) This consisted of two parts – the first was a review of Gene Kim et al’s 2014 State of DevOps Report – go download it if you haven’t read it, it’s great stuff.

The second part is about how we are moving towards software defined everything – robust API driven abstractions decoupled from the underlying infrastructure. John’s really into software defined networking right now as it’s one of the remaining strongholds of static-suckiness in most infrastructures. A shout out to the blog at networkstatic.net and tools like mesos and Google’s kubernetes that are making computing even more fluid (see this article for some basics). “Consumable, composable infrastructure.”

Saying No

Next, our favorite Kanban expert Dominica DeGrandis (@dominicad) spoke on “Why Don’t We Just Say No?”  Here’s the slides. As a new product manager, and as a former engineering manager who had engineers that would just take on work till they burst even with me standing there yelling “No!  Don’t do it!”, it’s an interesting topic.

Why do you take on more work than you have capacity to do? She cites The Book Of No by Susan Newman, Ph. D and a very recent Psychology Today “Caveman Logic” post called Why So Many People Just Can’t Say No. She proposes that it is easier for devs to say no; ops have more pressing demands and are forced into too much yes. Some devs took exception to this on twitter – “our product people make us do all kinds of stuff we don’t like to” – but I think that’s different from the main point here. It’s not that “you have to do something you don’t like and are overruled when you say no” but that “you become severely over-committed due to requests from many quarters and being unwilling to say no.”

She goes through a great case study of changing over a big ops shop to a more modern “SRE” model and handle both interrupt and project work by getting metrics, having a lower WIP limit, closing out >90 day old tickets, and saying no to non-emergency last minute requests. In fact, the latter is why I prefer scrum over kanban for operations so far – she contended that devs have an easier time saying no to interrupt work because of the sprint cadence.  OK, so adopt a sprint cadence! Anyway, by having some clear definitions of done for workflow stages they managed to improve the state of things considerably. Use kaizen.  The book about the Pixar story, Creativity Inc., talks about how the Pixar folks were running themselves ragged to try to finish Toy Story, till someone left their baby in a car because they were too frazzled. “Asking this much of people, even when they wanted to give it, was not acceptable.” What should your WIP level be? The level of “personal safety” would be a great start!

It’s interesting – I did some of these things at Bazaarvoice and tried to do some other ones too. But often times the resistance would be from the engineers that the current process was working to death.  “We can’t close those old tickets!  They have valuable info and analysis and it’s something that needs to happen!” “Yes, but our rate of work done and rate of work intake proves mathematically that they’ll never get done. Keeping them open is therefore us making a false promise to whoever logged those tickets.” Not everyone is able to ruthlessly apply logic to problems – you’d think that would be an engineer attribute but in my experience, not really any more than the general population. But given that “not acceptable” quote above, I really struggled with how to get engineers who were burning themselves out to quit it.  It’s harder than you’d think.

Agile at Scale

Next was a fascinating case study from Capital One’s transformation to an agile, BDD, devops-driven environment given by Adam Auerbach (@bugman31). The slides are available on Slideshare.  They used the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) and BDD/acceptance test driven development with cucumber as well as continuous integration. In a later openspace there were people from Amex, city/state/federal governments, etc. trying to do the same thing – Agile and DevOps aren’t just for the little startups any more! He reported that it really improved their quality. Hmm, from the Googles it looks like the consulting firm LitheSpeed was involved, I met one of their principals at Agile Austin and he really impressed me.

Sales and Marketing Too

Sarah Goff-DuPont (@devtoolsuperfan) spoke about having sales and marketing join the agile teams as well.  Some tips included cross-pollinating metrics and joining forces on customer outreach.

Ignites

Just some quick thoughts from the day one Ignites.

  • @eriksowa on OODA and front end ops and screaming at your team in German (I am in favor of it)
  • Aater (futurechips) on data acquisition and multitenancy with docker
  • Jason Walker on LegoOps
  • Ho Ming Li on Introducing DevOps
  • @seemaj from Enstratius on classic to continuous delivery – slides. Pretty meaty with lots of tool shout-outs – grunt, bowler, angular, yo, bootstrap, grails, chef, rundeck, hubot, etc. I don’t mind a good laundry list of things to go find out more about!
  • Matt Ho on Docker+serf – with Docker there is a service lookup challenge. AWS tagging is a nice solution to that. Serf does that with docker like a peer-to-peer zookeeper. Then he used moustache to generate configs. This is worth looking at – I am a big fan of this approach (we did it ourselves at National Instruments years ago) and I frankly think it’s a crime that the rest of the industry hasn’t woken up to it yet.

Openspaces

If you haven’t done openspaces before, it’s where attendees pitch topics and the group self-organizes into a schedule around them. Here’s some pics of part of the resulting schedule:

openspaces3 openspaces1 openspaces2

I went to two.  The first was a combination of two openspace pitches, “Enterprise DevOps” and “ITIL, what should it be?”  This was unfortunately a bad combination.  Most folks wanted to talk about the former, and the Capital One guy was there and people from Amex etc. were starting to share with the group. But the ITIL question was mostly driven by a guy from the company that “bought ITIL” from the UK government and he had a bit of a vendory agenda to push.  So most of the good discussion there happened between smaller groups after it broke up.

The second was a CI/CD pipeline one, and I got this great pic of what people consider to be “the new standard” pipeline.

Generally Accepted Continuous Integration and Delivery Pipeline

Generally Accepted Continuous Integration and Delivery Pipeline

Next, Day 2 and wrap-up!

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Opening Velocity 2014

All right, I’m here in sunny San Jose for Velocity, the three-day Web operations and performance conference.  It’s my first time attending as a sponsor type which is interesting. We have a whole cadre going; I flew in with Jenny and Lauren from Copperegg as part of the advance squad.  Because I just got in on this gig recently, I am out at the Avatar while they’re at the Hilton nearby.  On the cab ride, they got a bit agitated over a tweet claiming we’re being exclusionary over our “The Dude” promos; I guess I can see the misunderstanding but it’s a Big Lebowski theme specifically cooked up by the women in our Marketing department.

Some IHOP breakfast, a long walk from the Avatar to the convention center, and then speaker checking, where I got to chat with Mandy Walls, Vladimir Vuskan, and Andrew “Clay” Shafer.  Apparently there’s a two person limit on booth setup so I don’t have to help with that. I’ll go report on Andrew’s talk, though will have to duck out early for speaker orientation for my talk.

Remember, if you can’t make it they’ll be streaming the morning keynotes on Wed/Thurs.  If you are here, grab me and say “Hi!”

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Meet The Agile Admins At Velocity/DevOpsDays Silicon Valley!

Three of the four agile admins (James, Karthik, and myself) will be out at Velocity and DevOpsDays this week. Say hi if you see us!

James will be doing a workshop with Gareth Rushgrove on Tuesday 9-10:30 AM, “Battle-tested Code without the Battle – Security Testing and Continuous Integration.” Get hands on with gauntlt and other tools! [Conference site] [Lanyrd]

Ernest is doing a 5 minute sponsor keynote on Thursday, “A 5 Minute Checklist for Application Monitoring.” OK, so it’s during the USA vs Germany game – come see me anyway!  I hate keynote sales pitches so I’m not doing one, I’ll be talking about a Lean approach to monitoring and stuff to cover in your MVP. There’s a free white paper too since what can you really say in 5 minutes? And so you know what to expect, the hashtag you’ll want to use is #getprobed! [Conference site] [Lanyrd]

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Monitoring and the State of DevOps

If you haven’t read the new  2014 State of DevOps Report from Puppet Labs and other luminaries, check it out now!

I also pulled out some of their findings on monitoring to inspire a post for the Copperegg blog, Monitoring and the State of DevOps, which I thought I’d mention here too.

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Filtering Your Datadog Event Stream

At both NI and Bazaarvoice I was a Datadog user; I wrote a piece for them on filtering the event stream that has just been published on the Datadog blog.  Check it out!

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