2017 SRE & DevOps Influencers

Seems fitting to start 2018 by finally posting this list I started in May while working on my DevOpsDays “SRE vs DevOps” presentation, I pulled an SRE and DevOps reading list from some of my favorite authors.  I quickly realized that the actual influencer list needed to be expanded some – additional and suggestions welcome.  A list like this is never complete.

Offered WITHOUT ordering… I’m sorry if I missed someone!  I’ll make it up by podcasting with them!

SRE & DevOps Focused

Developer, Open Source & Social Connectors

Completely non-technical, but have to shout out to my hard working author friends Heidi Joy Treadway @heiditretheway and Jennifer Willis @jenwillis.

Let’s DevOps IRL: my SRE postings on RackN!

I’m investing in these Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) discussions because I believe operations (and by extension DevOps) is facing a significant challenge in keeping up with development tooling.   The links below have been getting a lot of interest on twitter and driving some good discussion.

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Addressing this Ops debt is our primary mission at my company, RackN: we believe that integrated system level tooling is required.  We also believe that new tools should not disrupt environments so we work very hard to adapt to requirements of individual sites.

SRE is urgent because it provides a pragmatic path and rationale for investment.

Even if you don’t agree with Google’s term or all their practices, I think fundamental concepts of system thinking, status/pay, automation investment and developer collaboration are essential.  It should come as no surprise that these are all Lean/DevOps concepts; however, SRE has the pragmatic side of being a job function.

Here are some recent relevant discussions I’ve been having about SREs with links to both the audio and my text show notes.

Of course, RackN is also doing a WEEKLY SRE update that captures general interest items.  Check that out and subscribe.

The Case for Ops Engineering Pay Equity w/ Charity Majors

TL;DR: Operators need pay/status equity to succeed.

Charity Majors is one of my DevOps and SRE heroes* so it was great fun to be able to debate SRE with her at Gluecon this spring.  Encouraged by Mike Maney to retell the story, we got to recapture our disagreement about “Is SRE is Good Term?” from the evening before.

While it’s hard to fully recapture with adult beverages, we were able to recreate the key points.

First, we both strongly agree that we need status and pay equity for operators.  That part of the SRE message is essential regardless of the name of the department.

Then it get’s more nuanced. Charity, whose more of a Silicon Valley insider, believes that SRE is tainted by the “Google for Everyone” cargo cult.  She has trouble separating the term SRE from the specific Google practices that helped define it.  

As someone who simply commutes to Silicon Valley, I do not see that bias in the discussions I’ve been having.  I do agree that companies that try to simply copy Google (or other unicorns) in every way is a failure pattern.

Charity: “I don’t want get paid to keep someone else’s shit site alive”

I think Google did a good job with the book by defining the term for a broad audience. Charity believes this signals that SRE means you are working for a big org.  Charity suggested several better alternatives, Operations Engineer.  At the end, the danger seems to be when Dev and Ops create silos instead of collaborating.

Consensus: Job Title?  Who cares.  The need to to make operations more respected and equal.

What did you think of the video?  How is your team defining Operations titles and teams?

(*) yes, I’m working on an actual list – stay tuned.

What makes ops hard? SRE/DevOps challenge & imperative [from Cloudcast 301]

TL;DR: Operators (DevOps & SREs) have a hard job, we need to make time and room for them to redefine their jobs in a much more productive way.

Cloudcast-Logo-2015-Banner-BlueThe Cloudcast.net by Brian Gracely and Aaron Delp brings deep experience and perspective into their discussions based on their impressive technology careers and understanding of the subject matter.  Their podcasts go deep quickly with substantial questions that get to the heart of the issue.  This was my third time on the show (previous notes).

In episode 301, we go deeply into the meaning and challenges for Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) functions.  We also cover some popular technologies that are of general interest.

Author’s Note; For further information about SREs, listen to my discussion about “SRE vs DevOps vs Cloud Native” on the Datanauts podcast #89.  (transcript pending)

Here are my notes from Cloudcast 301. with bold added for emphasis:

  • 2:00 Rob defines SRE (more resources on RackN.com site).
    • 2:30 Google’s SRE book gave a name, even changed the definition, to what I’ve been doing my whole career. Evolved name from being just about sites to a full system perspective.  
    • 3:30 SRE and DevOps are aligned at the core.  While DevOps is about process and culture, SRE is more about the function and “factory.”
    • 4:30 Developers don’t want to be shoving coal into the engine, but someone, SREs, have to make sure that everything keeps running
  • 5:15 Brian asks about impedance mismatch between Dev and Ops.  How do we fix that?
    • 6:30 Rob talks about the crisis brewing for operations innovation gap (link).  Digital Rebar is designed to create site-to-site automation so Operators can share repeatable best practices.
    • 7:30 OpenStack ran aground because Operators because we never created a the practices that could be repeated.  “Managed service as the required pattern is a failure of building good operational software.”
    • 8:00 RackN decomposes operations into isolated units so that individual changes don’t break the software on top

  • 9:20 Brian talks about the increasing rate of releases means that operations doesn’t have the skills to keep up with patching.
    • 10:10 That’s “underlay automation” and even scarier because software is composited with all sorts of parts that have their own release cycles that are not synchronized.
    • 11:30 We need to get system level patch/security.update hygiene to be automatic
    • 12:20 This is really hard!

  • 13:00 Brian asks what are the baby steps?
    • 13:20 We have to find baby steps where there are nice clean boundaries at every layer from the very most basic.  For RackN, that’s DHCP and PXE and then upto Kubernetes.
    • 15:15 Rob rants that renaming Ops teams as SRE is a failure because SRE has objectives like job equity that need to be included.
    • 16:00 Org silos get in the way of automation that have antibodies that make it difficult for SREs and DevOps to succeed.
    • 17:10 Those people have to be empowered to make change
    • 17:40 The existing tools must be pluggable or you are hurting operators.  There’s really no true greenfield, so we help people by making things work in existing data centers.
    • 19:00 Scripts may have technical debt but that does not mean they should just be disposed.
    • 19:20 New and shiney does not equal better.  For example, Container Linux (aka CoreOS) does not solve all problems.  
    • 20:10 We need to do better creating bridges between existing and new.
    • 20:40 How do we make Day 2 compelling?

  • 21:15 Brian asks about running OpenStack on Kubernetes.
    • 22:00 Rob is a fan of Kubernetes on Metal, but really, we don’t want metal and vms to be different.  That means that Kubernetes can be a universal underlay which is threatening to OpenStack.
    • 23:00 This is no longer a JOKE: “Joint OpenStack Kubernetes Environments”
    • 23:30 Running things on Kubernetes (or OpenStack) is great because the abstractions hide complexity of infrastructure; however, at the physical layer you need something that exposes that complexity (which is what RackN does).

  • 25:00 Brian asks at what point do you need to get past the easy abstractions
    • 25:30 You want to never care ever.  But sometimes you need the information for special cases.
    • 26:20 We don’t want to make the core APIs complex just to handle the special cases.
    • 27:00 There’s still a class of people who need to care about hardware.  These needs should not be embedded into the Kubernetes (or OpenStack) API.

  • 28:00 Brian summarizes that we should not turn 1% use cases into complexity for everyone.  We need to foster the skill of coding for operators
    • 28:45 For SREs, turning Operators into coding & automation is essential.  That’s a key point in the 50% programming statement for SREs.
    • In the closing, Rob suggested checking out Digital Rebar Provision as a Cobbler replacement.

We’re very invested in talking about SRE and want to hear from you! How is your company transforming operations work to make it more sustainable, robust and human?We want to hear your stories and questions.

June 2 – Weekly Recap of All Things Site Reliability Engineering (SRE)

Welcome to the weekly post of the RackN blog recap of all things SRE. If you have any ideas for this recap or would like to include content please contact us at info@rackn.com or tweet Rob (@zehicle) or RackN (@rackngo)

SRE Items of the Week

RackN and our Co-Founder and CEO Rob Hirschfeld openly called for a significant change to the OpenStack and Kubernetes communities in his VMBlog.com post, How is OpenStack so dead AND yet so very alive to SREs?

“We’re going to keep solving problems in and around the OpenStack community.  I’m excited to see the Foundation embracing that mission.  There are still many hard decisions to make.  For example, I believe that Kubernetes as an underlay is compelling for operators and will drive the OpenStack code base into a more limited role as a Kubernetes workload (check out my presentation about that at Boston).  While that may refocus the coding efforts, I believe it expands the relevance of the open infrastructure community we’ve been building.

Building infrastructure software is hard and complex.  It’s better to do it with friends so please join me in helping keep these open operations priorities very much alive.”

To provide more information on this idea, Rob posted a new blog, OpenStack’s Big Pivot: our suggestion to drop everything and focus on being a Kubernetes VM management workload.

“Sometimes paradigm changes demand a rapid response and I believe unifying OpenStack services under Kubernetes has become an such an urgent priority that we must freeze all other work until this effort has been completed.”

This proposal has caused significant readership for a typical RackN blog as well as on social media so Rob has posted a 2nd post to further the proposal. (re)Finding an Open Infrastructure Plan: Bridging OpenStack & Kubernetes.

It’s essential to solve these problems in an open way so that we can work together as a community of operators.”

As you would expect, RackN is very interested in your thoughts on this proposal and its impact not only on the OpenStack and Kubernetes communities but also how it can transform the ability of IT infrastructure teams to deploy complex technologies in a reliable and scalable manner.

Please contact @zehicle and @rackngo to join the conversation.
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Using Containers and Kubernetes to Enable the Development of Object-Oriented Infrastructure: Brendan Burns GlueCon Presentation

Is SRE a Good Term?
Interview with Rob Hirschfeld (RackN) and Charity Majors (Honeycomb) at Gluecon 2017


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UPCOMING EVENTS

Rob Hirschfeld and Greg Althaus are preparing for a series of upcoming events where they are speaking or just attending. If you are interested in meeting with them at these events please email info@rackn.com.

Velocity : June 19 – 20 in San Jose, CA

OTHER NEWSLETTERS

SRE Weekly (@SREWeekly)Issue #74

(re)Finding an Open Infrastructure Plan: Bridging OpenStack & Kubernetes

TL;DR: infrastructure operations is hard and we need to do a lot more to make these systems widely accessible, easy to sustain and lower risk.  We’re discussing these topics on twitter…please join in.  Themes include “do we really have consensus and will to act” and “already a solved problem” and “this hurts OpenStack in the end.”  

pexels-photo-229949I am always looking for ways to explain (and solve!) the challenges that we face in IT operations and open infrastructure.  I’ve been writing a lot about my concern that data center automation is not keeping pace and causing technical debt.  That concern led to my recent SRE blogging for RackN.

It’s essential to solve these problems in an open way so that we can work together as a community of operators.

It feels like developers are quick to rally around open platforms and tools while operators tend to be tightly coupled to vendor solutions because operational work is tightly coupled to infrastructure.  From that perspective, I’m been very involved in OpenStack and Kubernetes open source infrastructure platforms because I believe the create communities where we can work together.

This week, I posted connected items on VMblog and RackN that layout a position where we bring together these communities.

Of course, I do have a vested interest here.  Our open underlay automation platform, Digital Rebar, was designed to address a missing layer of physical and hybrid automation under both of these projects.  We want to help accelerate these technologies by helping deliver shared best practices via software.  The stack is additive – let’s build it together.

I’m very interested in hearing from you about these ideas here or in the context of the individual posts.  Thanks!

May 26 – Weekly Recap of All Things Site Reliability Engineering (SRE)

Welcome to the weekly post of the RackN blog recap of all things SRE. If you have any ideas for this recap or would like to include content please contact us at info@rackn.com or tweet Rob (@zehicle) or RackN (@rackngo)

SRE Items of the Week

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Co-Founders of RackN Rob Hirschfeld and Greg Althaus at GlueCon

Reuven Cohen and Rob Hirschfeld Chat at GlueCon17
Reuven Cohen (@ruv) and Rob Hirschfeld discuss data center infrastructure trends concerning provisioning, automation and challenges. Rob highlights his company RackN and the open source project Digital Rebar sponsored by RackN.


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Is SRE a Good Term?
Interview with Rob Hirschfeld (RackN) and Charity Majors (Honeycomb) at Gluecon 2017


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How Google Runs its Production Systems – Get the Book
http://www.techrepublic.com/article/want-to-understand-how-google-runs-its-production-systems-read-this-free-book/

The book Site Reliability Engineering helps readers understand how some Googlers think: It contains the ideas of more than 125 authors. The four editors, Betsy Beyer, Chris Jones, Jennifer Petoff, and Niall Richard Murphy, managed to weave all of the different perspectives into a unified work that conveys a coherent approach to managing distributed production systems.

Site Reliability Engineering delivers 34 chapters—totaling more than 500 printed pages from O’Reilly Media—that encompass the principles and practices that keep Google’s production systems working. The entire book is available online at https://landing.google.com/sre/book.html, along with links to other talks, interviews, publications, and events.

UPCOMING EVENTS

Rob Hirschfeld and Greg Althaus are preparing for a series of upcoming events where they are speaking or just attending. If you are interested in meeting with them at these events please email info@rackn.com.

Velocity : June 19 – 20 in San Jose, CA

OTHER NEWSLETTERS

SRE Weekly (@SREWeekly)Issue #73