DevOpsDays does London – 2016

After two years off, this week saw the return of the DevOpsDays London. Since that double header in 2013, when London hosted the event twice – to coincide with the O’Reilly Velocity conference – there have been more than 50 DevOpsDays events globally.

This year’s event was an interesting combination of seasoned DevOps professionals who’ve been on the speaking, engineering or consulting circuit long enough now to be considered “veterans” and a gathering of “green horns” – who were either about to start or just starting their DevOps journey. For many, judging by the show of hands, this was their first DevOpsDays experience.

Against a back drop of a much swisher and larger scale venue than the eclectic St Mary Ward House venue which hosted previous DevOpsDays London – came the wide array talks and open spaces sessions.

Compared by a team from Barclays and Accenture, the opening session came from the wonderful Bridget Kromhout from Pivotal. The tone and content of her presentation, set the scene perfectly as she reflected on some DevOps 101 fundamentals, reinforcing the cultural elements and setting out that DevOps is not just about automation. There was also a clear message to both vendors and consultancies that DevOps is something you have to practice and not something you simply just buy in.

Next came the equally impressive, Joanne Molesky from Thoughtworks. Her insightful talk, from someone who didn’t start life as a hardcore technologist, set out her view on why large organisations are struggling to adopt the organisational change needed to successfully practice DevOps, noting that this change is not mandatory and neither is survival, but that today, the biggest risk faced by all business is not to change anything. Her advice included moving from a project to a product centric focus, and reminding us of Deming’s PDCA model – Joanne asked us to consider that measuring value and learning from failure be key to our DevOps journeys’.

Kris Saxton’s refreshing talk Bi-Model IT and Snake Oil, provided a strong and damming case against adopting the notion that your organisation needs an “us” and “them” approach within IT. His view that Mode 1 – Slow & Steady versus Mode 2 – Agile & Lean, as defined in the Bi-Model view of organisations, not only doesn’t work, but is counterproductive, kills innovation and creates a poisonous culture within organisations. Both the tone and content of his talk were superb and I highly recommend you consider his views carefully, if your organisation is discussing Bi-Model IT today.

photo credit: @bridgetkromhout

Fuelled by caffeine, the audience was next treated to a timely and extremely impressive tech talk, which included one of the slickest demo’s I’ve ever seen delivered at a conference. Casey West from Pivotal delivered his view on a Minimum Viable Platform, complete with an implementation in Cloud Foundry. Casey set out his 6 point Minimum Viable Platform which included;

  • Dynamic DNS, routing and load balancing
  • Backing services broker
  • Infrastructure orchestration
  • Health management, monitoring and recovery
  • Immutable artifacts repository
  • Log aggregation

For lots in the audience, they were finally getting a dose of the DevOps technology they’d come to see after a morning of culture and practice focused presentations and Casey didn’t fail to deliver.

Thiago Almeida, Tech evangelist at Microsoft, took the last formal presentation slot of the morning, with the very impressive story of DevOps transformation at Microsoft and some lessons learnt from collapsing silo’d development, test and operations people into cross-discipline, self-managing features teams. As part of the new focus, he highlighted how feature teams have become obsessed with understanding customers and the benefits this has brought in delivery high value solutions. What’s impressive in this story, is not simply the scale of what Microsoft have done, but more the speed at which they have managed to achieve their DevOps transformation.

photo credit: @ClaireAgutter

One of the big takeaways from this talk, was how DevOps had delivered a better work/life balance and this was highlighted in the #Microsoft staff survey. Burn out, is such an important and under discussed subject in our industry that is was great to see a major enterprise organisation highlighting the importance of finding better ways of working.

The morning session was concluded with a set of well delivered Ignites, Claire Agutter covering DevOps & ITSM, Ben Wootton describing Vendor vs Partner relationships in DevOps, and finally the highlight – “four things I learnt about DevOps when my car was engulfed by flames” by John Clapham. John’s entertaining talk did have a very serious undertone of lessons learnt with a key message being “Don’t just plan for disaster. Expect it. Plan for it.” Wise words.

After lunch, DevOpsDays familiar open spaces sessions took place. The diversity of talks offered didn’t fail to disappoint, and there was certainly something to appeal to technical and non-technical alike. Although the large conference space didn’t well suit open spaces, the organising team did a decent job of adapting the venue to suit, however it proved difficult for these sessions to really get flowing, partly because of the noise in the room from conflicting sessions and partly as some sessions had more than 50 people. Having said that, the participation in the talks was faultless and the content was great, even if some did struggle to understand that sessions start when they start, end when they end and can deviate from the original topic. Community events do require some moderation, but sometimes it’s difficult for some to adapt to the free form nature of these sessions, which allows discussion to ebb and flow. It was therefore a slight shame, that the formality of presentations was again introduced in the afternoon, but Justin Cormack did a good job of bringing security to the forefront, maybe such an important topic should have been central to the theme and given more prominence.

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The evening event provided a great opportunity to continue some excellent conversations well into the night. Here the venue came into its own with a large open space, bar and restaurants, making it easy for the discussion to continue without interruption.

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Day 2 kicked off with Kris Buytaert regaling tails of the 6.5 years of DevOpsDays. His talk allowed him to reminiscence on the history of the event, but also to outline some of the core ethos and characteristics that have made this event so successful globally.

Next came a new comer to the DevOps space by the name of Gene Kim. For his first time giving a talk on DevOps, Gene’s perceptive talk on the impact on DevOps becoming mainstream, seem to contain an awful lot of scientific materials and fact. For someone, so new to the industry his ability to gain such insight was simply astounding. Contained in the metrics, was the cold hard fact that this DevOps thing is delivering even more business value than we ever thought possible and that being 200x faster is creating decisive winners and losers in the marketplace. His talk covered many lessons learnt and examples from across the industry, all of which has culminated in his second book the “DevOps Handbook”, which we hope to see released shortly. Well done Gene, it seems you might have a bright future in this space.

As someone, said – “only Gene Kim can follow Gene Kim on stage” and so it was with the panel session up next. With representation from Barclays, Thoughtworks, Deloitte and Pivotal the all-star session was set to be ground-breaking. Disappointingly, poor audio and moderation combined to make this session pretty unengaging, and it failed to deliver the expected energy and open interaction from the crowd.

After the break, Gareth Rushgrove took back control of the energy and the crowd with a punchy and engaging talk on Rates of Change, Microservices and Platforms – a tale of devops coevolution, and it was tonic to those suffering a bit of day 2 conference fatigue. The clean and simple presentation was laden with facts and metrics – backed up with a good dose of science. With reference to culture, process and technology Gareth demonstrated that there are good practices for team structure, concluding that there are no single perfect team patterns for DevOps but that there are many bad patterns. The http://web.devopstopologies.com/ provides some excellent discussion on Team Structures that might be Right for DevOps to Flourish.

He continued by explaining the bi-directional relationship, as defined in Conways law, that software you use or build can be changed by changing your organisation or that your organisation can be changed by changing the software you use. He continued by exploring the coevolution, a concept rooted in biology, which considers systems as comprising both a “technical” and “social” system. The joint optimisation of both systems, leads to better results and Gareth drew direct comparison to DevOps as an example of this optimisation, stating that organisational change or technical improvement alone provide sub-optimal improvement. In short, DevOps requires both cultural and technical optimisation, to recognise the full benefits.

Jeromy Carriere closed the last formal session of the day with his talk, Enterprise Ops Rising, highlighting numerous operational and security challenges organisations are faced with when deploying systems microservices at scale in the cloud, balancing against a drop of standards, compliance and legacy code. Jeromy, touched on both technical and cultural aspects of employee empowerment, drawing in the topic of fear and touching on blameless post-mortems.

Photo credit: @squire_matt

A series of entertaining Ignites followed the highlight of which was defiantly Oliver Wood taking us to an entirely new place with his talk “You don’t scale” looking at “HumanOps”. Oliver covered the extremely important subject of Burnout and Health. “We adopted the slogan ‘go live or die trying’ because we are idiots.” was a highlight from his inspirational talk.

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Open spaces sessions in the afternoon saw a smaller number of topics than day #1. The sessions covered certification, security, post mortems and maturity assessments, with @michal_wojciech concluding that “all organisations need to bring their IT security teams to a DevOps conference”.

Overall it was an immensely enjoyable two days, and the massive amount of hard work the organisers had put in clearly showed as the event was run smoothly, with tons of positive feedback on content and discussions. The event however had taken on a much more “enterprise” feel, which was a slight shame given that this community event is a month before the DevOps Enterprise Summit. Unfortunately a low point of the event was the abandoning an entire Q&A session following one of the best talks of the conference, to allow the vendors their pitch slots. I think the audience and nature of the event should consider a more lenient approach to the schedule. In fairness the quality of speakers, discussion and venue overshadowed any negatives and it was a thoroughly enjoyable 2 days at a great conference.

As Caroline Donnally said, “Sign of a good conference is leaving it with a head buzzing with all the new stuff I’ve learned and can write about”

photo credit: @johnC_bristol

Thanks @DevOpsLondon2016 – we had a blast.

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Readers Comments (3)

  • Hi there,

    Thank you so much for your comprehensive round up and review of DevOpsDays London 2016.

    I’m one of the organisers, with the exception of Joe whose main responsibility was the venue hire, we all have day jobs which aren’t related to putting on events-This was the first one we had ever done!

    As you mentioned, the feedback has been extremely positive, we’ve been blown away by it and it makes all the effort we put in worth while.

    We couldn’t of done this without the support and guidance of the core DevOpsDays team, the tolerance of our employers who allowed us to work on it as well as all the sponsors who ultimately allowed us to subsidise ticket prices and give back as much value to delegates as possible.

    Obviously with a conference with 400 people in attendance there’s a risk of not pleasing everyone, not getting things right or things not going to plan on the day. In your blog you gave some opinion on that, both yours and others, which we welcome immensely. I’d like to give everyone my take on it.

    Q&A time – Hands up, we got this wrong on the day. We were concerned about the delegates getting hungry and all having time to eat, as well as a fixed time to end on day 2. Sponsor pitches are a necessity and are of interest to most people. We don’t have the option of removing or shortening them. It’s important to appreciate without their support DODS wouldn’t have happened. With that said, we’ll ensure we allow time for Q &A in the future for all presentations, even if we are over-running.

    Additional presentation in the afternoon – I’m not sure I think this was a problem or not. Getting everyone into the main auditorium, listening to Justin and then into the drinks reception worked ok I thought, interested to know other views. Another aspect to this was all the great submissions for talks we received, it was so hard to whittle them down !

    Open space layout- Agreed, the venue wasn’t the best for this but with these things it’s a compromise and overall I think the Grange was superb and thank them for hosting us.

    Enterprise Theme – This is one thing I won’t apologise for, we were clear about it from the outset. In the 3 years since the last DODS in London DevOps has become mainstream and a differentiator, so in that context we felt it was extremely important. IF we do it again in 2017 the theme could be different, things are moving so quickly it’s likely to be the case.

    The Panel- We wanted to try this and overall all I think it added a lot of value with some frank and insightful responses. Speaking to a number of delegates we did get positive feedback . A lesson learnt for us is we needed to spend more time preparing for it, it’s not as easy as it looks on question time!

    Anyway, I hope that’s of value. I’m happy (and relieved) how it went and we’re thinking of DODS 2017. Let’s see what progress we make in the meantime.

    Barry

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