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.

If Private Cloud is dead. Where did it go? How did it get there? [JOINT POST]

TL;DR: Hybrid killed IT.

I’m a regular participant on BWG Roundtable calls and often extend those discussions 1×1.  This post collects questions from one of those follow-up meetings where we explored how data center markets are changing based on new capacity and also the impact of cloud.  

We both believe in the simple answer, “it’s going to be hybrid.” We both feel that this answer does not capture the real challenges that customers are facing.

pexels-photo-325229So who are we?  Haynes Strader, Jr. comes at this from a real estate perspective via CBRE Data Center Solutions.  Rob Hirschfeld comes at this from an ops and automation perspective via RackN.  We are in very different aspects of the data center market.    

Rob: I know that we’re building a lot of data center capacity.  So far, it’s been really hard to move operations to new infrastructure and mobility is a challenge.  Do you see this too?

Haynes: Yes.  Creating a data center network that is both efficient and affordable is challenging. A couple of key data center interconnection providers offer this model, but few companies are in a position to truly leverage the node-cloud-node model, where a company leverages many small data center locations (colo) that all connect to a cloud option for the bulk of their computing requirements. This works well for smaller companies with a spread-out workforce, or brand new companies with no legacy infrastructure, but the Fortune 2000 still have the majority of their compute sitting in-house in owned facilities that weren’t originally designed to serve as data centers. Moving these legacy systems is nearly impossible.

Rob: I see many companies feeling trapped by these facilities and looking to the cloud as an alternative.  You are describing a lot of inertia in that migration.  Is there something that can help improve mobility?

Haynes: Data centers are physical presences to hold virtual environments. The physical aspect can only be optimized when a company truly understands its virtual footprint. IT capacity planning is key to this. System monitoring and usage analytics are critical to make growth and consolidation decisions. Why isn’t this being adopted more quickly? Is it cost? Is it difficulty to implement in complex IT environments? Is it the fear of the unknown?

Rob: I think that it’s technical debt that makes it hard (and scary) to change.  These systems were built manually or assuming that IT could maintain complete control.  That’s really not how cloud-focused operations work.  Is there a middle step between full cloud and legacy?

Haynes: Creating an environment where a company maximizes the use for its owned assets (leveraging sale leasebacks and forward-thinking financing) vs. waiting until end of life and attempting to dispose leads to opportunities to get capital injections early on and move to an OPEX model. This makes the transition to colo much easier, and avoids a large write-down that comes along with most IT transformations. Colocation is an excellent tool if it is properly negotiated because it can provide a flexible environment that can grow or shrink based on your utilization of other services. Sophisticated colo users know when it makes sense to pay top dollar for an environment that requires hyperconnectivity and when to save money for storage and day-to-day compute. They know when to leverage providers for services and when to manage IT tasks in-house. It is a daunting process, but the initial approach is key to getting to that place in the long term.

Rob:  So I’m back to thinking that the challenge for accessing all these colo opportunities is that it’s still way too hard to move operations between facilities and also between facilities and the cloud.  Until we improve mobility, choosing a provider can be a high stakes decision.  What factors do you recommend reviewing?

Haynes: There is an overwhelming number of factors in picking new colos:

  1. Location
  2. Connectivity/Latency
  3. Cloud Connectivity Options
  4. Pricing
  5. Quality of Services
  6. Security
  7. Hazard Risk Mitigation
  8. Comfort with services/provider
  9. Growth potential
  10. Flexibility of spend/portability (this is becoming ever-more important)

Rob: Yikes!  Are there minor operational differences between colos that are causing breaking changes in operations?

Haynes:  We run into this with our clients occasionally, but it is usually because they created two very different environments with different providers. This is a big reason to use a broker. Creating identical terms, pricing models, SLAs and work flows allow for clients to have a lot of leverage when they go to market. A select few of the top cloud providers do a really good job of this. They dominate the markets that they enter because they have a consistent, reliable process that is replicated globally. They also achieve some of the most attractive pricing and terms in the marketplace on a regular basis.

pexels-photo-119661.jpegRob: That makes sense.  Process matters for the operators and consistent practices make it easier to work with a partner.  Even so, moving can save a lot of money.  Is that savings justified against the risk and interruption?

Haynes: This is the biggest hurdle that our enterprise clients face. The risk of moving is risking an IT leader’s job. How do we do this with minimal risk and maximum upside? Long-term strategic planning is one answer, but in today’s world, IT leadership changes often and strategies go along with that. We don’t have a silver bullet for this one – but are always looking to partner with IT leaders that want to give it a shot and hopefully save a lot of money.

Rob: So is migration practical?

Haynes: Migration makes our clients cringe, but the ones that really try to take it on and make it happen strategically (not once it is too late) regularly reap the benefits of saving their company money and making them heroes to the organization.

Rob: I guess that brings us back to mixing infrastructures.  I know that public clouds have interconnect with colos that make it possible to avoid picking a single vendor.  Are you seeing this too?

Haynes: Hybrid, hybrid, hybrid. No one is the best one-stop shop. We all love 7-11 and it provides a lot of great solutions on the run, but I’m not grocery shopping there. Same reason I don’t run into a Kroger every time I need a bottle of water. Pick the right solution for the right application and workload.

Rob: That makes sense to me, but I see something different in practice.  Teams are too busy keeping the lights on to take advantage of longer-term thinking.  They seem so busy fighting fires that it’s hard to improve.

Haynes:  I TOTALLY agree. I don’t know how to change this. I get it, though. The CEO says, “We need to be in the cloud, yesterday,” and the CIO jumps. Suddenly everyone’s strategic planning is out the window and it is off to the races to find a quick-fix. Like most things, time and planning often reap more productive results.

Thanks for sharing our discussion!  

We’d love to hear your opinions about it.  We both agree that creating multi-site management abstractions could make life easier on IT and relatable to real estate and finance. With all of these organizations working in sync the world would be a better place. The challenge is figuring out how to get there!

May 12 – 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

RobatOpenStack

OpenStack on Kubernetes: Will it blend? (OpenStack Summit Session) w/ Rob Hirschfeld

OpenStack and Kubernetes: Combining the Best of Both Worlds (OpenStack Summit Session) w/ Rob Hirschfeld

OpenStack Summit Boston Day 1 Notes by Rob Hirschfeld
https://robhirschfeld.com/2017/05/09/openstack-boston-day-1-notes/

Contrary to pundit expectations, OpenStack did not roll over and die during the keynotes yesterday.

In fact, I saw the signs of a maturing project seeing real use and adoption. More critically, OpenStack leadership started the event with an acknowledgement of being part of, not owning, the vibrant open infrastructure community. READ MORE

_______
Immutable Infrastructure Webinar

Attendees:

  • Greg Althaus, Co-Founder and CTO, RackN
  • Erica Windisch, Founder and CEO, Piston 
  • Christopher MacGown, Advisor, IOpipe
  • Riyaz Faizullabhoy,  Security Engineer, Docker
  • Sheng Liang, Founder and CEO Rancher Labs
  • Moderated by Stephen Spector, HPE, Cloud Evangelist

_______
SREies Part1: Configuration Management by Krishelle Hardson-Hurley

SREies is a series on topics related to my job as a Site Reliability Engineer (SRE). About a month ago, I wrote an article about what it means to be an SRE which included a compatibility quiz and resource list to those who were intrigued by the role. If you are unfamiliar with SRE, I would suggest starting there before moving on.

In this series, I will extend my description to include more specific summaries of concepts that I have learned during my first six months at Dropbox. In this edition, I will be discussing Configuration Management. READ MORE

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.

Interop ITX : May 15 – 19, 2017 in Las Vegas, NV

Gluecon : May 24 – 25, 2017 in Denver, CO

  • Surviving Day 2 in Open Source Hybrid Automation – May 23, 2017 : Rob Hirschfeld and Greg Althaus

OTHER NEWSLETTERS

SRE Weekly (@SREWeekly)Issue #71

%d bloggers like this: