Tag Archive for DevOps

Answer Honestly: Are you Ersatz Cloud Native?

cloud

As we approach the middle of the year, I’ve been in the full-on strategic planning mode the last couple of weeks and cloud native is a major focus for me! As part of this, I was looking at industry trends and a particular type of organisation caught my eye.

Most organisations often aspire to increase agility, to respond quicker to their customers and market demands, to innovate. However, many organisations have years of technical debt, monolithic application stacks and shrinking IT budgets. IT is still too often seen as a cost centre instead of an opportunity to become a profit centre and agent for growth.

These organisations have one thing in common; they see lifting and shifting to the cloud as the silver bullet.

I thought Cloud was the silver bullet?

Now don’t get me wrong, cloud is AWESOME! It does help to address some of the challenges identified, but anyone who has been working in this space for any length of time will tell you cloud is an enabler, not the solution.

Moving your workloads to cloud is like moving your business from your garage to a shiny new workshop, with an array of amazing tools hanging on the wall just begging to help you with your next project.

You have room to breathe, so your innovation is now limited by your imagination, far more than your square footage! If you come up with an idea that turns out quickly to be garbage, there’s a handy industrial skip out the back, meaning you don’t have to wait 2 weeks until the next grey bin day to get rid of it!

Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all! You still need to understand the tools, how they work to achieve outcomes faster and what problems they solve, lest you accidently lop off a finger!

Sounds great! Am I Cloud Native now then?

Here’s the key – unless we re-evaluate everything we do today and adopt new ways of working, we are simply not going to realise the benefit of working out of our shiny new workshop, with our huge array of tools!

In the real world this means your entire process from whiteboard ideation to deployment, the ongoing lifecycle of applications and everything / everyone / every process that touches them!

To me, cloud native means a set of technologies, the methodologies and processes to manage them and a state of mind which needs to permeate an organisation!

If you’ve simply lifted and shifted your existing estate and dropped it into the cloud, you’re not cloud native, you’re simply running VMs in a different data centre.

Much like the famed elevator from Lemony Snicket, VMs in the cloud are simply playing at being Cloud, or more accurately, Ersatz Cloud Native.

Further Reading:

I wrote another brief post on cloud native considerations a while back:
The Complexity of Public Cloud Architecture

TekBytes #1 – CloudSpotting – A New Tech Podcast

CloudSpotting podcast

In the spirit of these new short-form blog posts (see TekBytes: A Blogging Experiment) it’s probably appropriate that I write a quick post on a new short-form podcasting project I am working on; CloudSpotting!

My day job is as a Solutions Architect at Rackspace, where I’m fortunate enough to work for one of the most tech-agnostic global service providers around! A typical week could include me talking about or designing solutions based on VMware, Hyper-V, AWS, Azure, GCP, OpenStack, or even just plain old dedicated servers! Add to that a swathe of security, networking and storage “stuff”, it all adds up to a pretty healthy mix.

CloudSpotting Time!

Myself and my colleague Sai Iyer thought it would be fun to share some of our learnings and experiences in designing and operating customer solutions. What better way (we thought!), than an easy-to-consume 30 minute monthly podcast for architects and engineers… In the first episode, we discuss scaling applications for peak periods and the insane growth of Kubernetes adoption! We already have episodes planned on phishing, cyber kill-chains, encryption, automation & DevOps along with a host of other topics, so watch this space!

Just to be clear though – No Kool aid, just cool tech! 🙂

For those of you who are also regular Open TechCast listeners, this doesn’t mean I am changing lanes in any way, there will just be more of my dulcet tones available on your favourite podcatcher (which may or may not be a good thing!).

Where can I find it?

If you want to catch the first episode, just search for “CloudSpotting” on iTunes or Stitcher, or catch the show on Soundcloud here:

CloudSpotting – Season 1 Ep 1 – Peaking Early – A discussion on Application Scaling

We have also settled on the Twitter hashtag #spottingclouds, as the reverse has lots of great photos, but not so much tech! 🙂cloudspotting-logo-horizontal

7 Reasons Why You Should Read The Phoenix Project

The Phoenix Project

I began reading The Phoenix Project with no preconceptions, other than having been told that it is a great book, and hearing it mentioned many times on Eric Wright‘s GC On Demand podcast.

Written by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, and George Stafford, it is told as a first-person narrative from the perspective of Bill, a middleware team manager who is promoted into a senior IT management role for a business in jeopardy. Through his experiences and a guiding hand from another key character, together we work through the problems facing the business, the IT department and the individuals within.

The story is told in an easy to read, informal style, and I made quick work of it over the course of just a few days. I really enjoyed it on numerous levels:

  1. I recognised every single character in the book as somebody I have worked with (or indeed currently work with!). I guarantee you will feel the same!
  2. The book was pretty well written, and the story arc itself was compelling. I was really rooting for Bill to succeed in his endeavours! (But did he? You will have to read the book to find out!)
  3. The authors obviously have a great sense of humour! Quotes such as “Show me a dev who isn’t crashing production systems, and I’ll show you one who can’t fog a mirror. Or more likely, is on vacation.” had me laughing out loud on the train in front of other passengers!
  4. The book is approachable and not elitist. You could pick it up as a cable monkey or an IT director (or maybe even a Sales person!!!), and relate to the concepts and methods described.
  5. I learned a huge amount about different methods for handling and improving processes around WIP (Work in Progress), such as the Theory of Constraints or the use of Kanban boards (I am currently testing this with my pre-sales customer workloads using Trello, but I’m told Kanbanize is also very good). Resilience Engineering (think Netflix Simian Army) and numerous other techniques are also covered, along with the overarching “Three Ways” (very Zen!).
  6. I actually picked up a few key tips which could be applied directly to my pre-sales design and requirements gathering workshops with my customer stakeholders.
  7. Finally, it didn’t feel “preachy”, which is always a risk when trying to sell an idea / concept as your main theme and I was initially concerned that the book would be ramming DevOps culture down my neck throughout. This could not be farther from the truth, and the full DevOps concepts do not come into play until the story is almost complete. There are many lessons to be learned throughout the story, which could be applied to any organisation!

The Phoenix Project Cover

Here are another few choice quotes from The Phoenix Project, both humorous and insightful:

“The only thing more dangerous than a developer is a developer conspiring with Security. The two working together gives us means, motive, and opportunity.”

“How can we manage production if we don’t know what the demand, priorities, status of work in process, and resource availability are?”

“You just described ‘technical debt’ that is not being paid down. It comes from taking shortcuts, which may make sense in the short-term. But like financial debt, the compounding interest costs grow over time. If an organization doesn’t pay down its technical debt, every calorie in the organization can be spent just paying interest, in the form of unplanned work.”

“On the other hand, if a resource is ninety percent busy, the wait time is ‘ninety percent divided by ten percent’, or nine hours. In other words, our task would wait in queue nine times longer than if the resource were fifty percent idle.”

In case you hadn’t felt like I was positive enough about The Phoenix Project yet, I would say that this book should be provided as mandatory training to every person working in every IT department today, from the guys plugging in cables to the CIO!

If you do read and enjoy the book, I highly recommend also reading The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt. I was a little surprised, to say the least, that this appears to be a very similar story, following a similar arc and some almost identical characters to The Phoenix Project. That said, I am half way through it at the moment and still thoroughly enjoying it, though I am not too worried about missing the movie version!

The Goal by Eli Goldratt CoverThe Goal delves even deeper into the Theory of Constraints and explains some of the tools we can use to mitigate, bypass or remove constraints in a system. All of these tools and methods can be applied as easily to IT as they can to production lines, which (without stating the bleeding obvious) is exactly the point of The Phoenix Project!

Anyway, if you want to do yourself a favour both in terms of your career development, but also a really compelling story and a thoroughly decent book, you could do a lot worse than spending £5 on the Kindle Edition of The Phoenix Project!

Where To Get Them

For anything technical, I like to buy ebooks these days for both portability and the fact that I wont be chopping down trees needlessly. Both of the above titles are available very inexpensively on Kindle:

And Finally…

Sincerest apologies for one of the most click bait-y blog titles I’ve ever posted! Even worse than this one. Honestly, I feel ashamed!

I’ll get my coat…

VMworld Europe 2015 Day Three Roundup

Day three was quite simply Cloud Native Apps day for me!

I began in the morning with an internal partner briefing with some of the guys in the CNA team. Needless to say this was really interesting and for me it was a total nerdgasm! I did get a real sense that VMware are certainly not planning to get left behind in this new era, in fact far from it as some of their future plans will push the boundaries of what is already bleeding edge today. For the Pratchett fans amongst you, I would suggest that we are indeed living in Interesting Times!

Immediately following this I legged it down to Hall 8 for the CNA panel session, hosted by VMware CTO Joe Baguley, and featuring some regular faces from the London VMUG including Robbie Jerrom and Andy Jenkins. One of the interesting discussions which came up was about DevOps. DevOps is a nice vision, but developers today understand code, point them at a faulty storage array and they will look at you blankly… There is a skills gap there!

If the entire world is expected to become more DevOps focussed, Infrastructure will have to become a hell of a lot easier, or everything will need to just move to the public cloud. The reverse holds true of course, point most infra guys at something much more complex than a PowerShell / Bash / Perl script and you’re asking for trouble.

A true DevOps culture will require people with a very particular set of skills. Skills they have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make them a nightmare for… (ok I’ll stop now!).

Next was a wee session on the performance of Docker on vSphere. This actually turned out to be a stats fest, comparing the relative performance of Docker running on native tin and virtualised. The TLDR for the session was that running docker in a VM provides a minimal overhead to most things. Slightly more impact on network latency than other resources, but depending on the scale out nature of the solution it can actually perform better than native due to optimal NUMA scheduling.

Consider requirements over performance when looking at how to roll out your container platform. If you are running to performance margins of sub 5-10% on any resource then you have under-designed your infrastructure!

The final session of the day (INF5229) was actually probably my favourite of the whole week. If this is released on youtube I recommend you catch it above any other session! Ben Corrie (Lead Engineer on Project Bonneville) took us through a clear and detailed explanation of the differences between running Docker on Linux inside of a standard VM compared to running vSphere Integrated Containers and Photon.

After a quick overview of some of the basics, Ben then proceeded to do several live demos using a one day old build, inside of his Mac Mini test lab (with he appropriate nod given to Mr William Lam of course)! I’m convinced he must have slaughtered many small animals to the gods of the Demos, as the whole thing went off without a hitch! Perhaps Bill Gates could have done with his help back in 1998!

Most importantly, Ben showed that via the use of vSphere Integrated Containers, you are no longer limited to simply containerising Linux, and the same process can be applied to virtually any OS, with his example being MS-DOS running Doom in a container!!! When cloning Windows VMs, the same technology will be used as last year, which enables the ability to generate a new SID and do a domain join almost instantly.

It’s also worth noting that this is not based on the notoriously compromised TPS, and is all new code. Whether that makes it more secure of course, is anyone’s guess! 🙂

MS-DOS Container under Docker and VIC, running Doom!

MS-DOS Container under Docker and VIC, running Doom!

Once the sessions were all done for the day I wandered down to the Solutions Exchange for the annual “Hall Crawl”, where I was admiring Atlantis Computing CTO Ruben Spruijt’s Intel NUC homelab, running in a hyper converged configuration. The only negative I would suggest is that his case is the wrong way round!

IMG_0103

The day finished off with the VMworld party, and a great performance from Faithless on the main stage. As a Brit, this was a great choice, but I did see a few confused faces from many of our EU counterparts, at least until Insomnia started playing!

Day Three QotD

Robbie Jerrom produced Quote of the Day for me on the CNA panel (which was where my Quote of the Event came from, but more of that later). It is very simple but succinct in getting across a relatively complex subject:

A micro service does one thing, really well.