LISA14 - Day Three

Wow...where to begin with this day? First off, I got to meet Dinah McNutt, Release Engineer at Google, who's presenting "Distributing Software in a Massively Parallel Environment" on Wednesday. She talked about the wonderful possibilities that are opened up when you work at scale -- like being able to test 10,000 combinations of product version, platform and OS. Simply knowing that this sort of thing is even possible is a huge change. I'm really looking forward to her talk.

Next up was the "DevOps in the Workplace" workshop, led by Mandi Walls and Dominica Degrandi. Fellow blogger Katherine Daniels (aka BeerOps) and I were both in this one, and it was great to finally put a face to the name.

After introductions around the room, we built the schedule for the workshop from the questions we had and scheduled them on a Kanban board -- if that's not perfect, I don't know what is. We started with the basics: what, if anything, is DevOps, and what is it meant to fix? While it's still (ahem) under discussion, two things came out of this: DevOps is an attempt to bring the velocity that developers have learned over to the ops/sysadmin side, and the best way to do that is with CAMS: Culture, Automation, Metrics and Sharing. Some of that is pretty singing-around-the-campfire fuzzy, and some (metrics, automation) is deeply technical, and we geeked out on the tools we loved -- but it's all meant to build trust, to let you become aware of what's holding you back (whether you're sysadmin, programmer or both), and learn to move faster together.

The workshop was pretty damn wonderful: lots of questions from attendees, lots of sharing of knowledge, and suggestions to take back to work. It was interesting to see that nearly half of the attendees were from academia. You might think that, without a product or release cycle, DevOps is pretty irrelevant. But there are deeply siloed teams in universities too, and the trust building that's central to for-profit enterprises is no less relevant there.

During lunch, Beerops and I joined up with Mark Lamourine -- the first time we'd all been together outside of IRC -- and geeked out even more. (That phrase seems to come up a lot at LISA...) Meeting our sysadmin heroes, workplaces good and bad, the tools we couldn't wait to kick to the curb...I love having these conversations with friends old and new, and it's a huge part of being at LISA.

I spent the afternoon in the "Systems Programming with Go" tutorial; I've been wanting to take a look at this language for a while, and it was good to finally get the chance. It was centered around a very practical task: translating the disk labels shown by iostat (dm-1, dm-2, etc) into Oracle ASM disk labels (ASM001, ASM002, etc). It was a wonderful frame for the tutorial, and there was a Vagrant box with the Go language installed that we could use as a sandbox -- perfect for continuing to work on this exercise after the tutorial is over.

(Funnily enough, Mark and I had talked at one point about the programs we write when learning different languages -- ones we've written before and are familiar with, but now express in the language we're learning. His is a hex board strategy game, and mine is a Markov chain text generator. It's a great way to learn the idioms of a new language.)

After that, food was required, and Matt Simmons pointed the way to a Vietnamese pho place down the street from the hotel. Things kind of...snowballed, as they do, and we had rather a lot of people:

I left early to go to the Chef meetup in their new offices. I got to follow up on yesterday's tutorial on infrastructure testing and ask some really smart people how they do things. The best part was an epic showdown on the subject of code repos for configuration management: do you want one repo, or do you want many repos? The person defending the one-repo-only approach simply said "Grep," dropped the mic and walked offstage. The crowd went wild. (Hit me up for a more nuanced discussion if you'd like. :-)

Finally, the night was closed out watching Jennifer Davis and Beerops plan a conference of their own (I know this feeling; the enthusiasm at LISA really is that infectious), and joining them in a game of "DevOps against Humanity." Cross-functional team-building exercises don't come much better than this.