My first devopsdays

Last week I went to my  first-ever devops event in The Netherlands. I vividly remember the first devops meetup I went to -- about 25 developers and opsers, 1 projector, pizza, and beer. How very different was this event! With scheduled sessions and workshops, badges and t-shirts, 300 attendees, it was pretty much a proper conference. Kudos to the organizers for making all that happen, _and_ then maintaining a cordial and open atmosphere throughout! Thanks :-D

I arrived on Thursday morning to help  Hugo out a bit with his cloudstack workshop. He chose the highest possible difficulty, and guided about a dozen people through a live installation and configuration of cloudstack, running xenserver nested within our academy cloud. Given a group where some people learned about ssh port forwarding for the first time, and others had detailed questions around VPC choices, before the session I was concerned whether everyone would get enough out of it. Fortunately, Hugo knows this stuff quite well and so he had seemingly no difficulty at all switching mode of conversation even mid-sentence. Main lesson learned: people are really interested in how to build a cloud, i.e. what hardware, what software, and why. Perhaps a how and why we built our Mission Critical Cloud would be well-received?

Skipping out of the afternoon program to do some other work, Friday morning brought a keynote from citrix https://twitter.com/mrhinkle">Mark Hinkle. Mark was obviously pretty jet-lagged but still told a personal and engaging story about his personal devops journey and taking culture seriously. Great to see user friendly comics used with appropriate context (Mark was also at an ISP).

Next up was Jos Houtman from bol.com. On the surface to me this was yet-another-talk-about-how-we-started-devopsing, but, knowing just a little more of their backstory still made this very interesting to me. Basically, if they had to do it (start up to running their own infrastructure) all over again they would take more time and plan a bit more. The key takeaway is that theyve used their devops approach to drive improvements to the quality of their application software, though they have had to create a pressure cooker environment to do it.

Probably the most experienced speaker was up next Jeff Snover from microsoft very clearly explained the why'ss and what's of powershell before describing equally clearly their approach to declarative datacenter automation, building on top of the abstractions introduced with powershell. Its a good story, though as a developer I do wonder whether Data and similar approaches will see any actual adoption: it smells like another attempt at CORBA, err COM, err SOAP. I don share the skepticism of microsoft that was very much there in the audience. For many people this was a wakeup call: microsoft has been changing, and is doing some pretty cool less-than-evil things.

Hmm, significant thought number one: most presenters at the conference seemed to be thinking of declarative everything, where declarative &gt&gt imperative. In software architecture, I think the general term is model-driven architecture (or model-driven design). From diagrams to code to running software and databases, and back again, with appropriate standards-based visualization at any stage. Its a dream thats been chased for at least 20 years...but we still write (mostly imperative, only a small part of it functional) code in text editors. So I am very skeptical about achieving declarative-everything, regardless of whether it is microsoft coming up with the declarative model, or opscode.

Just before lunch was my favorite presentation of the conference. Our friends from ING gave a perfectly validated and measured ITIL-style assessment of their transition to agile/devops. They were very honest and open about their findings. They spelled out very clearly that having individuals with job descriptions that match ITIL roles, guiding things in a mature and super-controlled process, does not work as well as an agile/scrum/devops approach. With charts to prove it!

I dont remember much of the ignite talks that came next, but I did attend an interesting open space. Someone had asked: how do you do devops if you are an ops shop? In the session, among others, there were several medium and low budget app and web hosters who had difficulty figuring out how to do devops with their customers third party developers. I think between Gert and me we gave them some good ideas (most revolving around go talk to them).

Which brings me to thought number two: we are lucky here in that we have people specializing in are quite good at/see as part of their job), ehm, communication, who get it and are on board with devopsing. It seems like a lot of the conference visitors could do with very concrete how-to-do-it advice (role playing workshop?) around communication as much as around IT, and that the program could benefit from having subject matter experts on those soft topics. Its probably tricky to get people to show up for those, so you might need to trick em into it...

...one session during day two was perhaps a good illustration of what I mean the power to change. Mark Colemans talk first reduced culture to influence, and then gave a simplistic description of how to use power to influence people. I thought the result was a bit unfortunate, coming across a bit like a partial introduction to NLP -- I very much doubt youll create healthy devops culture that way. Thinking about it more, I guess this may be a common pattern when you apply an engineering approach to a soft/social topic: cut away the soft/unclear/undefined until something very crisp, and so rather abrasive remains. On the other hand, most of the audience seemed to like the talk, and in any case, a little controversy is also good :-)

What made the dynamic around this even better was that Mark&rsquos talk came right after Leslie Hawthorn s talk about how to make and keep culture, which was full of all the soft stuff&rdquo Mark was skipping&hellipgreat contrast&hellipbut my train is now rolling into Schiphol so thats the end of this story!

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