DevOps “From the Trenches” Report – HomeAway

We were out at HomeAway for a technical discussion, and DevOps reared its head as it does so frequently nowadays.  In the context of talking about their preparation to scale up for their big Chevy Chase Super Bowl commercial, they were doing all kinds of stuff.  One of the things they noted was that the traditional dev and ops headbutting changed due to the long hours of work they had to put in together.  They tried going off and doing “their parts” separately – ops doing network, servers, load balancers, and hosting and developers doing coding, caching, tuning, and testing – but the time pressure, importance, and complexity of the project forced them together into a room, and once they started to collaborate they just stayed there, working in close proximity, for the duration.  When asked about the big takeaways from the entire project, the developers noted that “Leaning how everything interacts has changed how we build things” – for example, doing “pull the plug” fault testing has made for more resilient architectures and higher confidence and quality of life for both the dev and ops teams!  They didn’t describe it as “DevOps,” but that’s what it boils down to.

The more I talk to other successful Austin tech companies – HomeAway, BazaarVoice, Pervasive – the more that I hear DevOps concepts mentioned as keys to their success – and they didn’t do them because they “wanted to do this cool DevOps thing,” but they did what was needed to succeed and it turns out that a part of that is bringing development and operational concerns together into a whole.  It reminds me of the story behind the Visible Ops book, where the authors researched what high performing IT shops had in common and then realized those successful behaviors all mapped to certain ITIL areas (mainly change management).  That is a compelling validation of its efficacy.

Anyway, I urged them to consider doing that presentation in public venues; it really was a great story and hit on many of the best practices that have been emerging from the ops and performance world over the last few years.  They must be doing something right because they’re growing like gangbusters – if you want to take a vacation and rent someone else’s house/condo instead of going to a hotel, go try out!

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