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OPS Camp and DevOps Days - coming in June

By Howard Dyckoff

Imagine that all the sysadmin and operations scripts and configuration files at your data center were organized, rationalized, and set up in a separate test environment. Imagine you could test changes in an automated build process. If you can do this, you are a long way toward the goals of the new Dev Ops or Ops Code movement which wants to abstract infrastructure and treat it as code.

I attended OPS Camp San Francisco on May 15, 2010, the 3rd OPS Camp event out of the 5 currently planned for this year. There were about 100 people there and they were focused on making Operations more like software engineering.

The first OPS Camp was held in Austin in January and a follow-up OPS Camp was held in Boston in April. Two more are planned for June and more are likely in the Fall. There is also a separate DevOps Day in Mountain View, making for 3 separate events this month. (see below)

Part of the impetus behind OPS Camp is to hold discussions on OPS end of Cloud Computing without the snake oil and hype or the 50,000-foot overview slides. Private clouds require the rapid deployment and management of many standardized components. The Dev part of this means employing the tools and techniques of software developers: continuous builds, test automation, version control, Agile techniques.

Another way to think about this is to bridge the differences between new Development and the stability (and reproducibility) of Operations, a classic dichotomy.

The point is perhaps best summarized by Ernest Mueller, who blogs on Dev OPS ideas: "... system administration and system administrators have allowed themselves to lag in maturity behind what the state of the art is." DevOps is about bringing operations into the 21st Century.

Attending the San Francisco event were some of the people behind Puppet and Chef and also several local startups in the Operations sphere. Luke Kanies, the creator of Puppet, for example, seems to be attending all of the OPS Camp events. I had a great conversation with Lee Thompson, who co-leads the on-going DevOps Tool Chain Project that was described at an afternoon session, and also seems to be attending most of the DevOps events. And here is information about the project: http://dev2ops.org/toolchain/

Another key DevOps person and an organizer of the camps is Damon Edwards who blogs at dev2ops. Here is an excerpt from his blog on the DevOps handle: (http://dev2ops.org/blog/2010/2/22/what-is-devops.html)

Why the name "DevOps"?

Probably because it's catchy. It's also a good mental image of the concept at the widest scale -- when you bring Dev and Ops together you get DevOps. There has been other terms for this idea, such as Agile Operations, Agile Infrastructure, and Dev2Ops (a term we've been using on this blog since 2007). There is also plenty of examples of people arriving at the idea of DevOps on their own, without calling it "DevOps". For an excellent example of this, read this recent post by Ernest Mueller (http://www.webadminblog.com/index.php/2010/02/17/agile-operations/) or watch John Allspaw and John Hammond's seminal presentation "10+ Deploys Per Day: Dev and Ops Cooperation at Flickr" from Velocity 2009 (http://velocityconference.blip.tv/file/2284377/).

For better or for worse, DevOps seems to be the name that is catching people's imaginations.

The SF event took place in an open loft space with bare beam ceilings in the same building that housed Bitnami. This was in the shadow of San Francisco's Giants Stadium on a game day, so parking was an effort. I had to park 7 blocks away and that was before the 9am start time. On the other hand, I could have bought a scalped ticket and gone to the game instead of the afternoon sessions.

There was good WiFi and lots of daisy-chained power cords. We sat on folding chairs, but in other respects this was a good space with the right amenities.

The sponsors provided cinnamon rolls and empanadas as registration period snacks, and provided sandwiches and pizza for lunch, and there was plenty of coffee.

The format mixed things up a bit. There was an intro to the OPS Camp format, then a round of 5 minute lightning talks (some of which I wish were 7 minutes). These included presenters from VMware, rPath, OpsCode, and other companies in the operations space. As an example, James Watters, Senior Manager of Cloud Solutions at VMware, doesn't like the "per VM" scaling model now in use and also spoke about bypassing the 80 Mb/sec data transfer limit on EC2 at Amazon. That got the audience's interest, but discussions are only allowed in the main sessions which were later.

So far, the slide decks haven't surfaced at the OPS Camp web site.

Then there was an informal UnPanel with some participants being drafted by the organizers. These were people with skin in the Operations game who spoke about their take on the DevOps concept and leading issues. One of the organizers mentioned going to Cloud Camp and hearing from business types that Cloud Computing could do away with system administration and local IT departments. "Not so", he said, the sysadmin function was changing and IT departments had to adapt to a wild new world.

Then, volunteer presenters listed their topics and explained what the sessions would be about. After that, all attendees voted on the list and the rooms and times were allocated.

There were good discussions all around and I gleaned that several people were combining cfEngine with Subversion for a partial DevOps solution. For large or complex environments, though, there was a need to choreograph or sequence the infrastructure build process - and this is an area where the DevOps Tool Chain may shine.

Be sure to join in the DevOps conversation at the upcoming OPS Camp or the DevOps Day USA conference on June 25, 2010 in Mountain View, CA. It's the day after O'Reilly's Velocity 2010 conference. Here's the info link for DevOps Day:

Related materials:

Panel discussion from OpsCamp San Francisco (video):

and also:

Q&A: Ernest Mueller on bringing Agile to Operations:

Next OpsCamps coming up:

OpsCamp Atlanta, Jun 19, 2010 http://opscamp-atlanta-2010.eventbrite.com/

OpsCamp Seattle - June 26, 2010 http://opscamp-seattle-2010.eventbrite.com/

Also noted for June:

DevOps Day USA conference on June 25, 2010 in Mountain View, CA http://www.devopsdays.org/2010-us/registration/


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Bio picture

Howard Dyckoff is a long term IT professional with primary experience at Fortune 100 and 200 firms. Before his IT career, he worked for Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine and before that used to edit SkyCom, a newsletter for astronomers and rocketeers. He hails from the Republic of Brooklyn [and Polytechnic Institute] and now, after several trips to Himalayan mountain tops, resides in the SF Bay Area with a large book collection and several pet rocks.

Howard maintains the Technology-Events blog at blogspot.com from which he contributes the Events listing for Linux Gazette. Visit the blog to preview some of the next month's NewsBytes Events.

Copyright © 2010, Howard Dyckoff. Released under the Open Publication License unless otherwise noted in the body of the article. Linux Gazette is not produced, sponsored, or endorsed by its prior host, SSC, Inc.

Published in Issue 175 of Linux Gazette, June 2010