July 22, 2015

Devopsdays 2015 wrap-up

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Hugh McManus – Senior DevOps Engineer – was one of a large contingent of Odecee team members at this year’s Devopsdays in Melbourne. In this blog, he takes a look at some of the highlights of the event…

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Devopsdays is a community event run by volunteers with an interest in promoting the tools, technologies and practices that make up DevOps. The 2015 Devopsdays – held at Melbourne’s Exhibition Centre on July 16-17 – was my first experience of the event. It was a different format than I’d been used to at previous conferences: two days made up of presentations in the morning, ‘ignite’ (15-minute lightning talks) in the afternoon and finally ‘Open Space’, where topics are suggested and voted on by attendees and the most popular topics discussed in an open format.

DAY 1

Presentations

Nigel Dalton – REA – Keynote 
Nigel’s Dalton’s presentation focused on REA’s journey towards DevOps from a management point of view. This was underpinned by a treasure hunt competition based around an IP address on Nigel’s shirt; while this was an interesting idea, it seemed to split the audience a little – those tapping away on laptops trying to solve the treasure hunt, and those listening to the talk. As one of the ‘listeners’, a key takeaway for me was his discussion of the value of mixing your own teams and processes to find a setup that works for you, rather than trying to buy something off the shelf.

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Javier Turegano – The DevOps Lab
This talk was all about changing team structure to introduce a mix of ‘dev’ and ‘ops’ into product teams. Although I had seen this presentation previously, I still found something to take away from it – the importance of experimentation. Javier encouraged the audience to experiment with teams and figure out what works for your company – don’t be afraid to learn and shake things up.

Lindsey Holmwood – Continuous deployment for infrastructure
Lindsey Holmwood’s talk started with the principles underpinning DevOps with some examples – such as the CI/CD pipeline, code as infrastructure, testing as a first class citizen and measurement. Lindsey spoke about changing and testing one thing at a time – for example: change web tier, test the web tier – however, he didn’t touch on how this is completed when there is a dependency between tiers. He also discussed fast feedback – specifically, that it’s required and necessary to make sure your changes are validated.

Ignite

  • Accenture touched on maturity models, and how they allow you to focus on where you efforts will be best spent. Odecee’s maturity assessments are central to our DevOps practice, so it was interesting to hear their take on this area.
  • IOOF spoke about centralised logging, in particular using logstash and the scaling problems associated with that. Nothing really new here, they just emphasised that logging is very necessary (but we already knew that, right?).
  • Thoughtworks’ lightning talk on mobile dev and microservices was interesting in the fact that the focus was on the development of a new product and how different versions of the code can work by ignoring events it doesn’t recognise – no automation of infrastructure.
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Open Space
There wasn’t a large number of talks on day 1; I think the audience took a while to warm up to the format of the Open Space. I suggested a topic myself – microservices – and it was scheduled towards the end of the day. A number of people came to my room, and I was able to get some information from people on how they were solving problems such as monitoring and issues associated with versioning and dependencies between services.

Afterparty
This was great – having a chance to relax and mingle with the audience and talk about some of the presentations that day. All coupled with good pizza and arcade games – bonus nerd points.

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DAY 2

Presentations

Panel – The platform roadmap
In this panel, questions were posed by a facilitator and answered by representatives from a number of companies around Australia, who detailed how they were solving the problems raised.

One of the key takeaways – and indeed one that was shared around on Twitter – was that security is not only a problem for the security team; it’s a shared responsibility owned by everyone.

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Steve Pereira – DevOps Traction
I really enjoyed this talk; it was all about the relationships you need to be successful in DevOps. I found it particularly interesting that it didn’t concentrate on the tools, more the cultural significance of DevOps, which in my opinion is not given enough attention. Quote of the conference came from this one as well: “Empathy is a large part of DevOps”, demonstrating the importance of trying to understand another person’s point of view, whether it’s dev or ops.

Mujtaba Hussain – Quit your job as a dev and go do ops
Mujtaba was a very good speaker – a funny guy that kept everyone engaged. His talk was a good mix of his own experiences and a call-to-action to the audience – put yourself outside your comfort zone and do something you’re not good at in order to learn and become a better engineer.

Shiva Narayanaswamy – Event driven infrastructure
This talk focused on FAAS (Function As A Service), where you just write code (functions) that doesn’t have dedicated servers but is run on services by which the whole infrastructure is managed. Very much tailored for the AWS set of services, specifically AWS Lambda. The most interesting thing here was a look at the potential of infrastructure to quickly respond to events.

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Open Space
There was certainly more interest in the second day of Open Space, with about three times as many talks proposed and multiple people suggesting several topics. There were two topics I was really interested in. The first was “DevOps can’t work from the ground up, it has to come from the top down” – a provocative title and something I don’t particularly believe in. This was a good session talking about how we can start to implement DevOps practices even if it’s between two small teams – it’s still dev and ops working together more closely.

The other interesting talk was around leadership and how technical people can struggle with leadership and management when stepping into that role. Some interesting points of view and a book recommendation – Dan Pink’s Drive will be the next thing I read!

Conclusion
Overall, I had a great experience at this conference. Personally, there was nothing overly eye-opening in terms of what is out there, but I think this is mostly because the company I work for – Odecee – is very mature in terms of DevOps practices. For me, it was worth attending devopdays for the ‘spur on’ I got from knowing that others in the group were having (and solving) the same problems I am.

The format worked well; even Open Space – which was slow to start on the first day – was hugely popular on the second day as everyone got more comfortable with the format. A great event overall, and I have certainly come away with some ideas to use on my DevOps journey.

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Photos courtesy of David Ng – Odecee’s resident photographer and DevOps expert!

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