Welcome!

Microservices Expo Authors: Stackify Blog, Aruna Ravichandran, Dalibor Siroky, Kevin Jackson, PagerDuty Blog

Related Topics: @DevOpsSummit, Microservices Expo, Linux Containers, Containers Expo Blog, @CloudExpo

@DevOpsSummit: Article

State of 5th DevOps Report By @RealGeneKim | @DevOpsSummit #DevOps

As I have mentioned many times, I've learned more doing this project than any project in my professional career

Behind the Scenes of the 5th State of DevOps Report

As I have mentioned many times, I've learned more doing this project than any project in my professional career. This has been a four-year collaboration with Jez Humble and Dr. Nicole Forsgren, as well as Nigel Kersten and Alanna Brown from Puppet Labs.

"I only got four hours of sleep last night. I woke up after an anxiety dream about deadlocks in the database."

Anyone who has run an online service probably knows this feeling. And this is what Jez Humble wrote on our Slack channel, 24 hours before the launch of the 5th annual State of DevOps Survey. As I have mentioned many times, I've learned more doing this project than any project in my professional career. This has been a four-year collaboration with Jez Humble and Dr. Nicole Forsgren, as well as Nigel Kersten and Alanna Brown from Puppet Labs.

This year Jez, Nicole, and I created DevOps Research and Assessment (DORA) with the goal of taking what we've learned from analyzing over 20,000 respondents that we've collected over the last four years and using it to help organizations assess and improve how their teams are performing, both in terms of practices and performance.

If you're interested in survey design or survey analysis, you can read more in the 2014 State of DevOps Report: Statistics Class Edition.

In this post, I want to give you a behind-the-scenes look at the 24 hours leading up to the survey launch of a survey tool we built, as well as some of our lessons learned. In previous years, we used a fantastic tool called SurveyGizmo to execute the survey. Puppet Labs had uses SurveyGizmo for all their internal and external surveys, so it made sense to use something that was familiar.

However, this year, we decided to use a survey engine that Jez Humble wrote. The DORA team has been using this tool for our customers, and Jez persuaded the rest of us that we should use it for the 2016 State of DevOps research. Nigel Kersten, a former Google SRE and now CIO at Puppet Labs, and I both thought this was a preposterous idea because we had never tested the survey engine at scale, but Jez can be very convincing.

I wanted to share with you what that 24 hours before our launch was like, focusing on how we shored up our production telemetry and did some last-minute contingency plans, as well as some of our top lessons learned. I realize that compared to the stories one hears about at Velocity or DevOps Enterprise Summit, our launch is small potatoes, but for us, the stakes were high, with over six months of preparation depending on how the next few days went.

(And to be perfectly honest, one of my biggest fears was the reputational fallout of screwing this up. I could just imagine the headlines: "co-authors ofThe Phoenix Project and Continuous Delivery totally screw up, doing a Phoenix Project to themselves.")

The TL;DR version:

  • Even last-minute preparations can pay off
  • Production monitoring can compensate for many shortcuts necessitated by real-world constraints
  • Hosted Graphite and New Relic APM are amazing

Take the Survey! >>>

The 24 Hours Before Launch
The launch of the State of DevOps survey was Tuesday, March 22, 2016. This is when tens of thousands of emails would go out, announcing that the survey was live, from IT Revolution, Puppet Labs, and fellow sponsors, Atlassian,AutomicCA TechnologiesHP EnterpriseSplunk, and ThoughtWorks.

One minor complication: that week, everyone was scattered around the globe. Jez was working full-time at the amazing 18F organization inside the US Federal Government, but was in London doing a speaking engagement, having just been in India. As the sole engineer, he was doing all the last-minute work during his evenings.

Nicole, our resident researcher and protector of the sanctity of the survey instrument, was in the middle of a weeklong trip to India for her work at Chef, with unreliable hotel internet access.

And me? I was under the gun finishing up the developmental editing work for the upcoming DevOps Handbook (Yes, it's coming!), to stay ahead of the copy editors. I was also down with pneumonia.

So, 24 hours before launch, the entire team was scattered around the globe, each with lots of daytime obligations. Alanna and I had just finished reviewing the survey instrument, and we had a list of issues that we needed to fix.

It was at this moment, pondering the implications of potential code changes to the survey engine, when I realized all of the incomplete things that I personally wanted to do for this project, such as writing a testing harness in Ruby and Nokogiri so that we could do load testing, etc. But with only 24 hours to launch, there are only so many corrective actions you can take.

The mental checklist that I felt like we had to get through was along the following lines, all based on what could go wrong and how we could best mitigate those risks:

  • What production metrics were we tracking?
  • Approximately how many concurrent sessions should we be able to handle?
  • How exactly will we know if the survey engine falls over? (Besides Twitter, that is...)
  • What are the exact steps we need to take to failover onto a backup service?

We had the entire project team assembled in Slack, and we started going through these questions.

Last-Minute Production Metrics
On the subject of performance, Jez walked us through his rationale for confidence in his app's ability to handle the expected load. "Even if we had 50K respondents go through in the next month, that's still only 74 respondents per hour, or 1 completed survey per hour, or 8 survey pages per hour. That is nobody's idea of a high load."

Jez further opined that the app runs on the ever-sturdy and well-understood LAMP stack (Linux/Apache/MySQL/PHP), and "there's only one database connection per page load, there are no sessions, and each database call is fast, so we should be clear of any of the classic performance risks."

Good enough for me.

To track how the application was performing, we decided to post the following metrics to a Slack channel every 30 minutes:

  • Number of surveys started and completed
  • Average survey completion time

On top of this, we needed some earlier indicators of problems so that we could take any corrective actions before something catastrophic occurred, and we discussed how to shore up our production metrics. Earlier in the year, I had worked on a fun book tracking project with Tom Limoncelli, and we used a great service called Hosted Graphite.

Hosted Graphite is incredibly simple to use - it's basically Graphite and Grafana as a service. They have many libraries available, such as for Ruby, PHP, Python, etc. Literally, within a couple of minutes, you can see metrics displayed in a new Hosted Graphite account. (Bonus: there's a free 14-day trial, and it only takes a minute to sign up. It's a fantastic service.)

Once you have an account set up, you write one line of code to send a metric, like this:

HostedGraphite.send_metric("surveys.completed", 1)

Within an hour, we had the following metrics displayed in a nice dashboard.

  • The number of milliseconds to render each web page (which includes any database queries)
  • Number of people completing each survey: registration page, page 1, page 2, ... page 8

(Quite frankly, I was blown away that any of the metric events got displayed at all. Hosted Graphite lets you send via TCP or UDP. Jez was so paranoid about blocking network calls that he insisted on using UDP. To my amazement, the metric events were actually received. I always assumed UDP packets were doomed to get dropped somewhere, especially since I think the Hosted Graphite servers are in Germany. Although looking at the graphs now, I'm pretty sure many of our UDP events aren't actually making it to Hosted Graphite servers - but some data is better than no data, right?)

Hosted Graphite also has an Alerting module that is in Beta, so we set an alert to post to our Slack channel if any web page took more than 10 ms to render.

Jez also installed New Relic APM, which has saved the butts of an entire generation of programmers who need to figure out "Holy crap, why are all our database calls taking so long?" New Relic would allow us to have lots of telemetry if something started going wrong with our database calls.

(Incidentally, the fact that we were working in Slack not only made it possible for a team scattered around the world to work effectively, it also makes it easy to recover accurate timelines, after memories fade.  I referred to the channel history constantly while writing this article, and all the screenshots came from our Slack channel, as well.  Seriously, if you're not using something like Slack,FlowdockHipChat, you need to try it! Trust me, once you do, you'll never go back!)

Planning for Failure
As a fallback, Alanna also replicated the entire survey in SurveyGizmo. If something went wrong, Jez would redirect all traffic to our SurveyGizmo site. Although as I write this, I now realize that the only person who knows how to do this and has the relevant login credentials is Jez. Given that he was going to be on a transatlantic flight from London to San Francisco three days after launch, this would have left us unable to failover. Oops! We should have walked through exactly what that procedure was and documented it.

(Huh! Apparently, Jez had walked Nigel Kersten through this procedure, and provided all the necessary login credentials - I missed that Slack message from 3 a.m.  Having all these procedures in one Google Doc would have been great, so that you don't need to have read all the Slack messages.)

We also discovered that Jez was being extremely parsimonious (that's a fancy word for "cheap"), having put us on a relatively small VM (256MB RAM + 1 CPU) on Gandi, his favorite hosting platform. After some persuasion, he finally bumped us up to 2 CPUs and 2GB of RAM (which is still pretty puny - did I tell you that Jez was cheap?)

Seriously, not putting on a bigger VM is just silly. On that project that Tom Limoncelli and I were working on, Tom had initially created an "f1-micro" VM in Google Compute Engine which has 512MB of RAM. It actually worked great for months, until I needed to install some Python libraries that needed to compile OpenSSL. For hours, I pounded my head against the wall trying to figure out why the "pip install" command was failing, when I finally realized the load average was pegged at 9+. Out of memory. I probably spent four hours on that and similar problems, which could have been fixed by spending $7 more per month to run on a 1.5 GB memory "g1-small" instance. In my opinion, us letting Jez run on a measly 2GB of RAM was actually an unnecessary risk.

We also started hourly database backups to S3 from a cronjob to make sure we didn't lose data, and verified that we could actually restore the database.

Launch Day
It's 7 a.m. on Tuesday - one hour before the email campaigns launch. Jez is working on closing a potential problem involving links that could accidentally disclose user data, but he is leery of making significant changes that could introduce a fatal error. (More on this later.)

Alanna has been making changes to the survey throughout the night, and Nicole is almost finished making her changes, too. We just discovered that in some cases, only Jez can make code changes, and only Nicole and Alanna could make some survey changes - this meant that correcting certain errors actually had to involve two people. A very amusing "non-devopsy" situation!

By the way, the fact that Alanna is making changes to the survey, only hours after Jez showed her how, is so cool. I'm always blown away by how fearless people like Alanna are - unlike scaredy-cats like me. People like that are such a tremendous asset. And because Nicole was having intermittent network issues, thank goodness Alanna was able to make these changes on her behalf!

(And in contrast to Alanna's fearlessness, in a very ironic moment, Jez was afraid to make any significant code changes on the day of launch. If you've heard enough of Jez's talks, you'll know that he espouses fearlessly making production changes, so this was quite amusing to us all. But his fear was for a good reason - he had only gotten 4 hours of sleep because of dreams of database locking problems, and had other obligations throughout the day of launch - frankly, I was petrified of us introducing a conditional error that would send everyone to a blank page. )

Looking back at the Slack logs, one of my favorite moments can be see in this screenshot - Nicole is making changes from her hotel in India, and her network connection keeps cutting out, which is resulting in very strange session behavior that is freaking Jez out. And Nicole also needs help from Jez and Alanna to confirm that the changes she's pushed actually were actually pushed.

Slack messages

But by 7:30 a.m., all our changes are done and we're finally ready - we all have the Grafana dashboard up from Hosted Graphite, and amazingly, the screenshot below is what we see: the bottom graph shows the people marching through the survey pages, and the top graph shows the time required to render the survey pages (which require a database call), which doubled to 6 ms, but then stabilized at 4 ms, with the load average hovering at 0.5.

Hosted Graphite

After all the stress of the previous day, we're getting real survey traffic from the email campaigns, and the site is running and staying up!

At 8:24 a.m., Jez exclaims, "Someone got to page 6 of the survey!" We all cheer.

A minute later, Jez observes, "This is like watching a tortoise race," as we're all watching and waiting for people to finish taking the survey (which we eventually learn is taking people 22 minutes, on average).

And I suppose that is one of the lessons of this whole exercise. As Jez said, "We instrumented the crap out of the code so I could sleep at night."

Hosted Graphite

The Need for Situational Awareness
Yeah, John Allspaw hates the word "situational awareness," so I try to avoid using that term. But, one of the assets that we had was having Nigel constantly scanning social media and all the Slack channels he's on, telling us about things going wrong.

We learned about SSL certificate problems and even a perception that we were leaking user data. And here's a reality - no amount of production telemetry takes the place of real people who care, observing how people in real communities are perceiving and reacting to your work. Plus, Nigel is such a well-respected person that he was the ideal spokesperson to help correct some misperceptions that surfaced.

Also in hindsight, designating someone who can keep a clear head and isn't buried in the weeds to do external communications is vital - when we were talking about how to communicate that we weren't actually leaking survey data, Nigel shortcutted the entire discussion with the following phrase: "I think it's a pretty simple message."  And we all trusted that he could do what needed to be done.

Conclusion
Of course, there was a lot more work leading up to launch than is depicted here. The process of creating a survey instrument with this level of rigour and depth takes a lot of passion and commitment from everyone involved.

We sincerely thank all of you for supporting our efforts by taking the survey and sharing it with your peers and friends!

Take the 2016 State of DevOps Survey now! >>>

More Stories By Gene Kim

Gene is a multiple-award-winning CTO, researcher and author. He was founder and CTO of Tripwire for 13 years. He is a huge fan of IT operations and how it can enable developers to maximize throughput of features from “code complete” to “in production,” without causing chaos and disruption to the IT environment. He is passionate about IT operations, security and compliance, and how IT organizations successfully transform from “good to great.”

IT Revolution assembles technology leaders and practitioners through publishing, events, and research. Our goal is to elevate the state of technology work, quantify the economic and human costs associated with suboptimal IT performance, and to improve the lives of one million IT professionals by 2017.

@MicroservicesExpo Stories
How is DevOps going within your organization? If you need some help measuring just how well it is going, we have prepared a list of some key DevOps metrics to track. These metrics can help you understand how your team is doing over time. The word DevOps means different things to different people. Some say it a culture and every vendor in the industry claims that their tools help with DevOps. Depending on how you define DevOps, some of these metrics may matter more or less to you and your team.
For many of us laboring in the fields of digital transformation, 2017 was a year of high-intensity work and high-reward achievement. So we’re looking forward to a little breather over the end-of-year holiday season. But we’re going to have to get right back on the Continuous Delivery bullet train in 2018. Markets move too fast and customer expectations elevate too precipitously for businesses to rest on their laurels. Here’s a DevOps “to-do list” for 2018 that should be priorities for anyone w...
If testing environments are constantly unavailable and affected by outages, release timelines will be affected. You can use three metrics to measure stability events for specific environments and plan around events that will affect your critical path to release.
In a recent post, titled “10 Surprising Facts About Cloud Computing and What It Really Is”, Zac Johnson highlighted some interesting facts about cloud computing in the SMB marketplace: Cloud Computing is up to 40 times more cost-effective for an SMB, compared to running its own IT system. 94% of SMBs have experienced security benefits in the cloud that they didn’t have with their on-premises service
DevOps failure is a touchy subject with some, because DevOps is typically perceived as a way to avoid failure. As a result, when you fail in a DevOps practice, the situation can seem almost hopeless. However, just as a fail-fast business approach, or the “fail and adjust sooner” methodology of Agile often proves, DevOps failures are actually a step in the right direction. They’re the first step toward learning from failures and turning your DevOps practice into one that will lead you toward even...
DevOps is under attack because developers don’t want to mess with infrastructure. They will happily own their code into production, but want to use platforms instead of raw automation. That’s changing the landscape that we understand as DevOps with both architecture concepts (CloudNative) and process redefinition (SRE). Rob Hirschfeld’s recent work in Kubernetes operations has led to the conclusion that containers and related platforms have changed the way we should be thinking about DevOps and...
The goal of Microservices is to improve software delivery speed and increase system safety as scale increases. Microservices being modular these are faster to change and enables an evolutionary architecture where systems can change, as the business needs change. Microservices can scale elastically and by being service oriented can enable APIs natively. Microservices also reduce implementation and release cycle time and enables continuous delivery. This paper provides a logical overview of the Mi...
While walking around the office I happened upon a relatively new employee dragging emails from his inbox into folders. I asked why and was told, “I’m just answering emails and getting stuff off my desk.” An empty inbox may be emotionally satisfying to look at, but in practice, you should never do it. Here’s why. I recently wrote a piece arguing that from a mathematical perspective, Messy Desks Are Perfectly Optimized. While it validated the genius of my friends with messy desks, it also gener...
The next XaaS is CICDaaS. Why? Because CICD saves developers a huge amount of time. CD is an especially great option for projects that require multiple and frequent contributions to be integrated. But… securing CICD best practices is an emerging, essential, yet little understood practice for DevOps teams and their Cloud Service Providers. The only way to get CICD to work in a highly secure environment takes collaboration, patience and persistence. Building CICD in the cloud requires rigorous ar...
The enterprise data storage marketplace is poised to become a battlefield. No longer the quiet backwater of cloud computing services, the focus of this global transition is now going from compute to storage. An overview of recent storage market history is needed to understand why this transition is important. Before 2007 and the birth of the cloud computing market we are witnessing today, the on-premise model hosted in large local data centers dominated enterprise storage. Key marketplace play...
The cloud revolution in enterprises has very clearly crossed the phase of proof-of-concepts into a truly mainstream adoption. One of most popular enterprise-wide initiatives currently going on are “cloud migration” programs of some kind or another. Finding business value for these programs is not hard to fathom – they include hyperelasticity in infrastructure consumption, subscription based models, and agility derived from rapid speed of deployment of applications. These factors will continue to...
Some people are directors, managers, and administrators. Others are disrupters. Eddie Webb (@edwardawebb) is an IT Disrupter for Software Development Platforms at Liberty Mutual and was a presenter at the 2016 All Day DevOps conference. His talk, Organically DevOps: Building Quality and Security into the Software Supply Chain at Liberty Mutual, looked at Liberty Mutual's transformation to Continuous Integration, Continuous Delivery, and DevOps. For a large, heavily regulated industry, this task ...
Following a tradition dating back to 2002 at ZapThink and continuing at Intellyx since 2014, it’s time for Intellyx’s annual predictions for the coming year. If you’re a long-time fan, you know we have a twist to the typical annual prediction post: we actually critique our predictions from the previous year. To make things even more interesting, Charlie and I switch off, judging the other’s predictions. And now that he’s been with Intellyx for more than a year, this Cortex represents my first ...
"Grape Up leverages Cloud Native technologies and helps companies build software using microservices, and work the DevOps agile way. We've been doing digital innovation for the last 12 years," explained Daniel Heckman, of Grape Up in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The Toyota Production System, a world-renowned production system is based on the "complete elimination of all waste". The "Toyota Way", grounded on continuous improvement dates to the 1860s. The methodology is widely proven to be successful yet there are still industries within and tangential to manufacturing struggling to adopt its core principles: Jidoka: a process should stop when an issue is identified prevents releasing defective products
Defining the term ‘monitoring’ is a difficult task considering the performance space has evolved significantly over the years. Lately, there has been a shift in the monitoring world, sparking a healthy debate regarding the definition and purpose of monitoring, through which a new term has emerged: observability. Some of that debate can be found in blogs by Charity Majors and Cindy Sridharan.
We seem to run this cycle with every new technology that comes along. A good idea with practical applications is born, then both marketers and over-excited users start to declare it is the solution for all or our problems. Compliments of Gartner, we know it generally as “The Hype Cycle”, but each iteration is a little different. 2018’s flavor will be serverless computing, and by 2018, I mean starting now, but going most of next year, you’ll be sick of it. We are already seeing people write such...
It’s “time to move on from DevOps and continuous delivery.” This was the provocative title of a recent article in ZDNet, in which Kelsey Hightower, staff developer advocate at Google Cloud Platform, suggested that “software shops should have put these concepts into action years ago.” Reading articles like this or listening to talks at most DevOps conferences might make you think that we’re entering a post-DevOps world. But vast numbers of organizations still struggle to start and drive transfo...
Let's do a visualization exercise. Imagine it's December 31, 2018, and you're ringing in the New Year with your friends and family. You think back on everything that you accomplished in the last year: your company's revenue is through the roof thanks to the success of your product, and you were promoted to Lead Developer. 2019 is poised to be an even bigger year for your company because you have the tools and insight to scale as quickly as demand requires. You're a happy human, and it's not just...
"Opsani helps the enterprise adopt containers, help them move their infrastructure into this modern world of DevOps, accelerate the delivery of new features into production, and really get them going on the container path," explained Ross Schibler, CEO of Opsani, and Peter Nickolov, CTO of Opsani, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps Summit at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.