Breaking Down Barriers At DevOpsDays Austin

Roughly 30 Rackers attended DevOpsDays Austin last week (April 30 and May 1), an event that has become the conference that brings development and operations together. This year’s was the largest yet with almost 400 attendees – it was twice the size of last year. The energy there was contagious, but that is just the tip of the iceberg.

While there are multiple definitions, from the perspective of our team, we advocate and practice the philosophy of DevOps every day as we work to build Rackspace products and make sure they run smoothly. We are passionate about open source and are building on OpenStack, solving challenging problems at scale. Adhering to the DevOps philosophy in our everyday work is all about breaking down barriers, and we wouldn’t be successful any other way. Developers, Operators, Quality, Product, Security – we all work hand in hand to build our products and make them successful.  All of these roles have to work together to get the products we build out the door at the speed we are working to deploy them to meet customers’ needs. Automation and monitoring are huge parts of that, but the biggest piece has been a shift in the way the teams are structured – to all work together towards a common goal. We still have work to do, but DevOps is now a part of our culture. As a Racker, it is awesome to work in a collaborative environment that supports this.

I manage a Cloud Engineering team across Austin, San Antonio and remote. Months ago, when we found out that DevOpsDays was coming back to Austin, we started planning this as a team outing. In addition to team building, it provided an opportunity for us to learn, contribute, network and hopefully convince a few folks how awesome it is to be a Racker. As sponsors of the event, we also gave out $200 free Rackspace Cloud trial accounts to attendees.

Today, we have engineers across almost 20 time zones, and we are hiring – everywhere. I couldn’t agree more with Pete Cheslock, Director of DevTools at Dyn and a DevOps evangelist, who titled his keynote “Talent First, Location Second.”

Four Rackers presented Ignite talks during the event (these are five-minute talks limited to 15 seconds per slide – a standard format at DevOps days):

Everything was recorded and according to DevOpsDays it will be up for viewing soon. Copies of all the ignite talk presentations are available now:

In a conversation with Matt Ray, Technical Evangelist with Opscode, he mentioned that in a recent university class he attended, they were still teaching waterfall methodology. Crazy. I could not imagine trying to do half of the things we’re doing now that way. In order to increase velocity you can’t throw things over the wall, you all have to work together from the beginning. The shift towards DevOps grew out of this tearing down the silos. It is clear to me now that your business will be left behind and innovation will be critically hindered in today’s fast-paced climate without adopting DevOps practices.

For us at Rackspace, there are a few principles we believe are critical to a DevOps culture:

  • Giving everyone an equal seat at the table
  • Understand each other’s perspectives. Opening the dialogue.
  • Sharing is caring; and sharing more re-usable parts is love.

We definitely need more developers attending this conference. I fully agree with Dell Principal Cloud Solution Architect Rob Hirschfeld who wrote that “we’ve got a lot of operators who are engaging with developers and fewer developers who are engaging with operators (the “opsdev” people).” Developers – this is a call to action!

To highlight the importance of developers and operators working together from the beginning, our compute engineering team came up with this Haiku:

writing code is hard
if you cannot deploy it
it does not matter

The DevOps mentality shift is something that our customers are also grappling with as they seek to develop innovative new products and applications and keep their businesses competitive. To quote our own Cloud Evangelista, Niki Acosta, “It’s the stuff that happens at the top of our stack, but it’s also the stuff that makes our stack possible.”

The importance of operating this way is becoming more and more evident. And enterprises are starting to take notice. DevOps will shape businesses. To sum up Gene Kim, author of The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win, “Every company these days is an IT company.” Enterprises will need to use DevOps practices to streamline IT and become their own innovation centers. The cultural change is just the first step.

For more on DevOps, check out the Rackspace DevOps Blog.

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