Click here to close now.




















Welcome!

Microservices Expo Authors: Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, VictorOps Blog, SmartBear Blog, Liz McMillan

Related Topics: Containers Expo Blog, Java IoT, Microservices Expo, Open Source Cloud, @CloudExpo

Containers Expo Blog: Article

Visible Ops' Success Leads to a Vblock

Why the key to a successful Visible Ops framework is a Vblock

Love it or hate it, ITIL and Change Management will always be an integral part of any IT set up with regulations such as BASEL II, FISMA, SOX (Sarbanes-Oxley) and HIPAA constantly breathing down the neck and conscience of organization leaders. Having once had a "purple badge" wearing ITIL guru for a manager, it always fascinated me how he'd advocate the framework as the solution to all our IT problems. While he'd hark on about defining repeatable and verifiable IT processes, it always ended up being theoretical as opposed to practical, often emphasized by his own IT competency, "Err, Archie how do I save this Word document and what on Earth is that SAN thing you keep going on about?"

That distinction between theory and practice was never more apparent than in the almost pointless CAB (Change Advisory Board) meetings that took place on a weekly basis. While the Change Management processes themselves were painfully bureaucratic and often a diversion from doing actual operational work, the CAB meetings were a surreal experience. With barely anyone in attendance the CAB would ask for a justification to each change, with a response of "approve" or "rejected" when it was clear that they had little or no idea of the technical explanation or implication that was given to them.

Then there was the Security/Risk Compliance chap who'd lock himself in his room glued to his Tripwire dashboard carefully spying on any unapproved changes. Such was his fascination with Tripwire that he too barely attended the CAB meetings, instead indirectly emphasizing his lack of trust and relevance of the Change Management system.  So imagine his amazement when I introduced him to a new product we had implemented for our WINTEL environment called VMware and its feature VMotion.  The fact that I had been seamlessly migrating VMs across physical servers without raising a change and without him being able to pick it up on Tripwire sent him into a perplexed frenzy. Somewhat amused by his constant head shaking, I decided to disclose that I had also been seamlessly migrating LUNs across different RAID Groups with HDS' Cruise Control to get more spindles working, upon which like Batman he'd rushed back to his cave to check whether "Big Brother" Tripwire had picked it up.  Was I really supposed to raise a change for every VMotion or LUN migration?

Several years later after moving from being a customer to a technical consultant my impression of the effectiveness of the CAB failed to improve. Midweek and late in the day in the customer's data center with their SAN Architect, I'd pointed out that they had cabled up the wrong ports in their SAN switches and that this would require a change to be raised. "No need for that" replied the SAN architect, "I'm one of the CAB members". He then to my shock and in true Del Boy fashion, duly proceeded to pull out and swap the FC cables to his production hosts with a big grin on his face. Several minutes later his phone rang, to which he replied, "It's okay, I've resolved it. There was a power failure on some servers." Then with a cheeky grin, a swing of the head and a wink of an eye, he turned to me and said, "There you go sorted, lubbly jubbly!".

While my initial skepticism to ITIL's practicality was centered around my personal experiences it was only embellished by the number of long white bearded external auditors that would supposedly check whether proper controls existed within the many firefighting and cowboy organizational procedures I witnessed. Like a classroom of kids hearing the teacher coming up the corridor and scurrying to get to their desk to present a fabricated impression of discipline and order, I never ceased to be astounded by the last minute changes and running around of our compliance folk to ensure we successfully passed our audits. Despite having more daily Priority 1s than the canteen was serving decent hot meals, we still inexplicably passed every audit with flying colours, which in turn emboldened the rogue "under the radar" operational practices that served to keep the lights on.

So with such a tarnished experience of ITIL, it was with great curiosity and interest that led me to look closer at the movement and initiative of ITPI's Visible Ops.  While still mapping its ideas to ITIL terminology, the onus of Visible Ops is on increasing service levels, decreasing costs and increasing security and auditability. In simplest terms, Visible Ops is a fast track / jumpstart exercise to an efficient operating model that replicates the researched processes of high-performing organizations in just four steps.

To summarize, the first of these four steps is what is termed Phase 1 or "Stabilize the Patient". With the understanding that almost 80% of outages are self-inflicted, any change outside of scheduled maintenance windows are quickly frozen. It then becomes mandatory for problem managers to have any change related information at hand so that when that 80% of "unplanned work" is initiated a full understanding of the root cause is quickly established. This phase starts at the systems and business processes that are responsible for the greatest amount of firefighting with the aim that once they are resolved they would free up work cycles to initiate a more secure and measured route for change.

Phase 2, which is termed "Catch & Release" and "Find Fragile Artifacts", is related to the infrastructure itself with the understanding that it cannot be repeatedly replicated. With an emphasis on gaining an accurate inventory of assets, configurations and services, the objective is to identify the "artifacts" with the lowest change success rates, highest MTTR and highest business downtime costs. By capturing all these assets, what they're running, the services that depend upon them and those responsible for them, an organization ends up in a far more secure position prior to a Priority 1 firefighting session.

Phase 3 or "Establish Repeatable Build Library" is focused on implementing an effective release management process. Using the previous phases as a stepping stone, this phase documents repeatable builds of the most critical assets and services enabling their rebuilding to be more cost effective than to repair. In a process that leads to an efficient mass-production of standardized builds, senior IT operations staff can transform from a reactive to a proactive release management delivery model. This is achieved by operating early in the IT operations lifecycle by consistently working on software and integration releases prior to their deployment into production environments. At the same time a reduction in unique production configurations is pushed for, consequently increasing the configuration lifespans prior to their replacement or change which in turn leads to an improvement in manageability and reduction in complexity.  Eventually the output of these repeatable builds are "golden" images that have been tried, tested, planned and approved prior to production. Therefore when new applications, patches and upgrades are released for integration these golden builds or images need merely updating.

The fourth and last phase, entitled "Enable Continuous Improvement" is pretty self explanatory in that it deals with building a closed loop between the release, control and resolution processes. By completing the previous three phases, metrics for the three key process areas (release, controls and resolution) are focused on, specifically those that can facilitate quick decision making and provide accurate indicators of the work and its success in relation to the operational process. Drawing on ITIL‘s resolution process metrics of Mean Time Before Failure (MTBF) and Mean Time to Repair (MTTR), this phase looks at Release by measuring how efficiently and effectively infrastructure is provisioned. Controls are measured by how effectively the change decisions that are made keep production infrastructure available, predictable and secure, while Resolution is quantified by how effectively issues are identified and resolved.

So while these four concise and particular phases look great on paper what really differentiates them from potentially just being another theoretical process that fails to be delivered comprehensively in practical reality? If the manner in which IT is procured, designed, configured, validated and implemented remains the same there is little if any chance for Visible Ops to succeed any much further than the Purple Badge lovers of ITIL. But what if the approach to IT and more specifically its infrastructure was to change from the traditional buy your own, bolt it together and pray that it works method and instead transferred to a more sustainable and predictable model? What if the approach to infrastructure was one of a green fields approach or seamless migration to a pretested, pre-validated, pre-integrated, prebuilt and preconfigured product i.e. a true Converged Infrastructure? What impact could that possibly have on the success of Visible Ops and the aforementioned four phases?

If we look at phase 1 and "stabilizing the patient" this can be immediately achieved with a Vblock where an organisation no longer has to spend time investigating and worrying about the risk and impact of change. By having a standardized product based approach as opposed to a bunch of components bundled together, thousands of hours of QA testing and analysis work can be performed by VCE for each new patch, firmware upgrade or update on a like for like product that is owned by the customer. With this acting as the premise of a semi-annual release certification matrix that updates all of the components of the Converged Infrastructure as a comprehensive whole, risks typically associated with the change process are eliminated. Furthermore as changes are dictated by this pre-tested and pre-validated process and need to adhere to this release certification matrix to remain within support, it helps eradicate any rogue based changes as well as inform problem managers comprehensively of the necessary changes and updates. Ultimately phase 1's objective of stabilization is immediately achieved via the risk mitigation that comes with implementing a pre-engineered, pre-defined and pre-tested upgrade path.

The challenge of phase 2, which in essence equates to an eventual full inventory of the infrastructure, is a painful process at the best of times especially as new kit from various vendors is constantly being purchased and bolted on to existing kit. Moving to a Vblock simplifies this challenge as it's a single product and hence a single SKU at procurement. Akin to purchasing an Apple Macbook that is made up of many components e.g. a hard drive, processor, CD-ROM etc., the Converged Infrastructure's components are formulated as a whole to provide the customer a product. The parts of the product and all of their details are known to the manufacturer i.e. VCE and can easily be transferred as a single bill of materials to the customer with serial numbers etc. thus ensuring an up to date and accurate inventory and consequently simplified asset management process. When patches, upgrades and additions of new parts and components are required they are automatically added to the inventory list of the single product, thus ensuring up to date asset management.

The Release Management requirement of Phase 3 offers a challenge that is not only embroiled with risk but also takes up a significant amount of staff and management time cycles to ensure that technology and infrastructure remain up to date. This entails the rigmarole of downloading, testing and resolving interoperability issues of component patches and releases and relies heavily on the information sharing of silos as well as the success of regression tests. The unique approach of a Vblock meets this challenge immediately by making pre-tested, validated software and firmware upgrades available for the end user enabling them to locate releases that are applicable for their Converged Infrastructure system. With regards to the rebuild as opposed to repair approach stipulated in phase 3, because a Vblock can be deployed and up and running in only 30 days, the ability to have a like for like standardized infrastructure for new and upcoming projects is a far easier process compared to the usual build it yourself infrastructure model. On a more granular level, by having a management and orchestration stack with a self service portal, golden image VMs can be immediately deployed with a billing and chargeback model as well as integration with a CMDB. The result is a quick and successful attainment of phase 3 of the Visible Ops model via a unified release and configuration management methodology that is highly predictable and enhances availability by reducing interoperability issues.

Measuring the success of metrics such as MTTR and MTBF as detailed in Phase 4 is ultimately linked to the success of the monitoring and support model that's in place for your infrastructure. With a product based approach to infrastructure the support model will also be better equipped to ensure continuous improvement. Having an escalation response process that is based on a product, regardless if resolving a problem requires consultation with multiple experts or component teams, ultimately means a seamless and single point of contact for all issues. This end-to-end accountability for an infrastructure's support, maintenance and warranty makes the tracking of issue resolution and availability a much simpler model to measure and monitor. Furthermore with open APIs that enable integration with comprehensive monitoring and management software platforms, the Converged Infrastructure can be monitored for utilization, performance and capacity management as well as potential issues that can be flagged proactively to support.

As IT operational efficiency becomes more of an imperative for businesses across the globe, the theoretical practices that have failed to deliver are either being assessed, questioned or in some cases continued with. What is often being overlooked is that one of the key and inherent problems is the traditional approach to building and managing IT infrastructure. Even a radical and well researched approach and framework such as Visible Ops will eventually suffer and at worse fail to succeed if the IT infrastructure that the framework is based on was built by the same mode of thinking that created the problems. Fundamentally whether the Visible Ops model is a serious consideration for your environment or not, by adopting the framework with a Vblock, the ability to stabilize, standardize and optimise your IT infrastructure and its delivery of services to the business becomes a lot more practical and consequently a lot less theoretical.

More Stories By Archie Hendryx

SAN, NAS, Back Up / Recovery & Virtualisation Specialist.

@MicroservicesExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that G2G3 will exhibit at SYS-CON's @DevOpsSummit Silicon Valley, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Based on a collective appreciation for user experience, design, and technology, G2G3 is uniquely qualified and motivated to redefine how organizations and people engage in an increasingly digital world.
Any Ops team trying to support a company in today’s cloud-connected world knows that a new way of thinking is required – one just as dramatic than the shift from Ops to DevOps. The diversity of modern operations requires teams to focus their impact on breadth vs. depth. In his session at DevOps Summit, Adam Serediuk, Director of Operations at xMatters, Inc., will discuss the strategic requirements of evolving from Ops to DevOps, and why modern Operations has begun leveraging the “NoOps” approa...
Puppet Labs has announced the next major update to its flagship product: Puppet Enterprise 2015.2. This release includes new features providing DevOps teams with clarity, simplicity and additional management capabilities, including an all-new user interface, an interactive graph for visualizing infrastructure code, a new unified agent and broader infrastructure support.
Early in my DevOps Journey, I was introduced to a book of great significance circulating within the Web Operations industry titled The Phoenix Project. (You can read our review of Gene’s book, if interested.) Written as a novel and loosely based on many of the same principles explored in The Goal, this book has been read and referenced by many who have adopted DevOps into their continuous improvement and software delivery processes around the world. As I began planning my travel schedule last...
Several years ago, I was a developer in a travel reservation aggregator. Our mission was to pull flight and hotel data from a bunch of cryptic reservation platforms, and provide it to other companies via an API library - for a fee. That was before companies like Expedia standardized such things. We started with simple methods like getFlightLeg() or addPassengerName(), each performing a small, well-understood function. But our customers wanted bigger, more encompassing services that would "do ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that DataClear Inc. will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. The DataClear ‘BlackBox’ is the only solution that moves your PC, browsing and data out of the United States and away from prying (and spying) eyes. Its solution automatically builds you a clean, on-demand, virus free, new virtual cloud based PC outside of the United States, and wipes it clean...
Docker containerization is increasingly being used in production environments. How can these environments best be monitored? Monitoring Docker containers as if they are lightweight virtual machines (i.e., monitoring the host from within the container), with all the common metrics that can be captured from an operating system, is an insufficient approach. Docker containers can’t be treated as lightweight virtual machines; they must be treated as what they are: isolated processes running on hosts....
Culture is the most important ingredient of DevOps. The challenge for most organizations is defining and communicating a vision of beneficial DevOps culture for their organizations, and then facilitating the changes needed to achieve that. Often this comes down to an ability to provide true leadership. As a CIO, are your direct reports IT managers or are they IT leaders? The hard truth is that many IT managers have risen through the ranks based on their technical skills, not their leadership ab...
SYS-CON Events announced today that HPM Networks will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. For 20 years, HPM Networks has been integrating technology solutions that solve complex business challenges. HPM Networks has designed solutions for both SMB and enterprise customers throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
SYS-CON Events announced today the Containers & Microservices Bootcamp, being held November 3-4, 2015, in conjunction with 17th Cloud Expo, @ThingsExpo, and @DevOpsSummit at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. This is your chance to get started with the latest technology in the industry. Combined with real-world scenarios and use cases, the Containers and Microservices Bootcamp, led by Janakiram MSV, a Microsoft Regional Director, will include presentations as well as hands-on...
The pricing of tools or licenses for log aggregation can have a significant effect on organizational culture and the collaboration between Dev and Ops teams. Modern tools for log aggregation (of which Logentries is one example) can be hugely enabling for DevOps approaches to building and operating business-critical software systems. However, the pricing of an aggregated logging solution can affect the adoption of modern logging techniques, as well as organizational capabilities and cross-team ...
DevOps has traditionally played important roles in development and IT operations, but the practice is quickly becoming core to other business functions such as customer success, business intelligence, and marketing analytics. Modern marketers today are driven by data and rely on many different analytics tools. They need DevOps engineers in general and server log data specifically to do their jobs well. Here’s why: Server log files contain the only data that is completely full and accurate in th...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Pythian, a global IT services company specializing in helping companies leverage disruptive technologies to optimize revenue-generating systems, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Founded in 1997, Pythian is a global IT services company that helps companies compete by adopting disruptive technologies such as cloud, Big Data, advance...
In today's digital world, change is the one constant. Disruptive innovations like cloud, mobility, social media, and the Internet of Things have reshaped the market and set new standards in customer expectations. To remain competitive, businesses must tap the potential of emerging technologies and markets through the rapid release of new products and services. However, the rigid and siloed structures of traditional IT platforms and processes are slowing them down – resulting in lengthy delivery ...
In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Ernest Mueller, Product Manager at Idera, will explain the best practices and lessons learned for tracking and optimizing costs while delivering a cloud-hosted service. He will describe a DevOps approach where the applications and systems work together to track usage, model costs in a granular fashion, and make smart decisions at runtime to minimize costs. The trickier parts covered include triggering off the right metrics; balancing resilience and redundancy ...
Skeuomorphism usually means retaining existing design cues in something new that doesn’t actually need them. However, the concept of skeuomorphism can be thought of as relating more broadly to applying existing patterns to new technologies that, in fact, cry out for new approaches. In his session at DevOps Summit, Gordon Haff, Senior Cloud Strategy Marketing and Evangelism Manager at Red Hat, discussed why containers should be paired with new architectural practices such as microservices rathe...
Whether you like it or not, DevOps is on track for a remarkable alliance with security. The SEC didn’t approve the merger. And your boss hasn’t heard anything about it. Yet, this unruly triumvirate will soon dominate and deliver DevSecOps faster, cheaper, better, and on an unprecedented scale. In his session at DevOps Summit, Frank Bunger, VP of Customer Success at ScriptRock, will discuss how this cathartic moment will propel the DevOps movement from such stuff as dreams are made on to a prac...
It’s been proven time and time again that in tech, diversity drives greater innovation, better team productivity and greater profits and market share. So what can we do in our DevOps teams to embrace diversity and help transform the culture of development and operations into a true “DevOps” team? In her session at DevOps Summit, Stefana Muller, Director, Product Management – Continuous Delivery at CA Technologies, answered that question citing examples, showing how to create opportunities for ...
What does “big enough” mean? It’s sometimes useful to argue by reductio ad absurdum. Hello, world doesn’t need to be broken down into smaller services. At the other extreme, building a monolithic enterprise resource planning (ERP) system is just asking for trouble: it’s too big, and it needs to be decomposed.
The Microservices architectural pattern promises increased DevOps agility and can help enable continuous delivery of software. This session is for developers who are transforming existing applications to cloud-native applications, or creating new microservices style applications. In his session at DevOps Summit, Jim Bugwadia, CEO of Nirmata, will introduce best practices, patterns, challenges, and solutions for the development and operations of microservices style applications. He will discuss ...