Report back from DevOpsDays 2009
A few months ago I got an email from Patrick Debois who I’d met at CITCON Europe asking if I’d be interested in speaking at the first conference aimed at System Administrators practising/interested in/sceptical about Agile. One of the key beliefs of those of us doing this already is that Agile practices are generally too narrowly focussed in their implementation. At the moment it’s primarily the Development organization who drive its adoption, but to get the most benefit Development and Operations groups within an organization need to work together.
With this in mind it was decided to call the conference DevOpsDays. Videos of the talks will be online in the archives section soon, so I’ve decided to write down my thoughts about what went well and not so well – I am a fan of retrospectives.
What Went Well
The conference was in Ghent, a city in Belgium, and as expected had quite a heavy European contingent. It was not not exclusively so though, as Reductive Labs and Canonical both sent representatives over from the USA, and one of the speakers is an Aussie who just happened to be back packing around Europe at the time. One of my first great learnings though was that there are about 10 of us in the greater London area who are doing this kind of thing (2 of them ex-TWers) so we’ve started meeting regularly and exchanging ideas.
As there was such a large concentration of us around London, we’ve decided to try and subvert one of the London Geek Nights as a DevOps night to try and spread the word to more Devs. I’ll probably make more noise about it here when we’ve got dates confirmed.
The next great thing I loved was the format. It was split up into talks in the morning, with Open Spaces in the afternoon, over 2 days. This format actually worked very well as many of the open space sessions were inspired by the talks. Another interesting mix was that there was an even split between talks on tools and talks on practices.
I also discovered some great tools! Here’s a brief list of ones I liked the most:
- The Marionette Collective – using a message bus to administer 100′s of servers using pub/sub topics. You’ve got to watch the video to appreciate the full awesomeness.
- Cucumber-Nagios – writing tests to monitor your system using Cucumber, and then formatting the results as a Nagios plugin so you can easily wire it in to your monitoring system.
- Flapjack – another example of interesting use of a message bus. This time to parallelize the monitoring of 100′s of servers. I’m not sure I totally agree with the approach, but what really blew me away was they way they do graphing and reporting. It’s very impressive.
- collectd – collectd gathers statistics about the system it is running on and stores this information in RRD databases. One of the things I really like about this though is that there are plugins for it like Jcollectd which requires no code changes. Simply plug it into your classpath and it registers a JMX MBean that pumps data from your JVM to collectd (I think). I’ve not tried it in production yet though…
Overall the conference was very well received, and I’m looking forward to next years instalment. There’s a lot of talk about doing a North American version…
Not So Well
As we all know, the best bits about Away Days/Conferences are the talks in the hall between sessions. The problem with the program was that we barely had enough time for bio breaks between sessions, and everyone was quite burned out at the end of day two (not just because of the Belgian Beer). I think it’s a pretty easy thing to fix though and considering that it was the first conference of its type there’s bound to be some fine tuning required.