Welcome!

@DevOpsSummit Authors: Pat Romanski, Zakia Bouachraoui, Elizabeth White, Yeshim Deniz, Liz McMillan

Related Topics: @DevOpsSummit, Microservices Expo, Linux Containers, Containers Expo Blog

@DevOpsSummit: Article

DevOps and App Supportability | @DevOpsSummit #DevOps #Microservices

Thoughts from an outback breakdown

On a recent road trip I was reminded about the importance of DevOps feedback loops and application supportability.

I enjoy driving into the Australian outback. This probably explains why I prefer to take the back roads. On my last trip I did just that; forgoing the fast highway for a more sedate but picturesque route. Deciding to fill up at a small country town gas station on my way home I hit a snag. The marvelous electronic park brake system wouldn't disengage. It was late and I was stuck up that proverbial creak without a paddle - 200+ miles from home.

Once the profanities had subsided and the cold realization that I was stuck took hold, I started some problem solving.

Being bushwhacked by lousy support
Following numerous failed attempts to disengage the electronic parking brake I thought it best to read the supporting documentation. Lo and behold, opening the glove compartment revealed a 500+ page owner's manual - all hail the documentation gods!

Sadly my euphoria subsided and the cursing returned - buried half way through the manual was a rude awakener - "in the event of a parking brake malfunction we recommend you contact your nearest dealer for an inspection." Solid advice, but the nearest dealer was 200 miles away and that'd involve a costly tow.

Lessons learned - by nature, software applications are complex, but supporting them doesn't have to be. As we develop more intricate applications put yourselves in the shoes of some poor schmuck who's being dragged out of bed at 3:00am to fix up a problem. Like me, they'll benefit from clearer documentation, instrumentation and monitoring methods that guide them to a solution in context of their position or role.

Always beware of automation myopia
Usually there are lots of decent folks who offer help when your car breaks down. In my case that involved a number of real and pseudo mechanics. The funny thing was that every one of them (me included) focused their attention on the offending electronic system; never once considering a workaround. So after much scratching of heads, the general consensus was - "dude, once you have an electronic problem like this you're sort of stuffed."

Lessons learned - in the fast-paced digital world we increasingly put our faith in automation. So much so that we've lost touch with our tech skills and experience developed over many years - it's become atrophied. Automation is fine, but just like pilots who rely too much on autopilot, we can make errors when confronted with unexpected conditions. Therefore tools should be capable of being enhanced by the skilled folks who use them and also help broaden skills.

In high praise of feedback loops
When you're faced with spending a night in an off-track motel you get kind of inventive. For me that meant checking out some mechanical forums from the one bar of mobile service on my smartphone. After a couple of attempts I found a site that laid out all the steps involved in manually disengaging the park brake system. The site even pointed me to a tool in the luggage compartment that was specifically designed to address this problem. Finally after some manual effort (and more cursing) I turned off the system and could drive the car.

Lessons learned - establishing and feeding back information and knowledge across teams is essential to improve the quality of software applications. In my predicament I only managed to acquire knowledge when one specialist had taken the time to document and publish it. Sadly in IT, knowledge is often withheld or the tools we use fail to leverage it in software development, testing and release processes.

Turning up the volume doesn't work
I have to admit that I did get prior warning about problems. Weeks before the malfunction I had been plagued with intermittent alarms that I'd ignored by cranking up the radio volume. Then after they subsided, I convinced myself that everything was fine.

Lessons learned - in IT operations, staff are constantly dealing with alerts. Too often persistent alarms are ignored because they fall within established baselines, but over time they lead to systemic problems. This is due to operator "alarm fatigue," exacerbated by monitoring systems lacking the fine-grained analytical capabilities needed to distinguish real problems from false positives.

Modern applications are a lot like modern cars. They're complex to a point that no one likes looking under the hood when things go wrong. Never forget that in the quest for delivery speed, application supportability and continuous improvement through knowledge feedback is critical to success.

More Stories By Pete Waterhouse

Pete Waterhouse, Senior Strategist at CA Technologies, is a business technologist with 20+ years’ experience in development, strategy, marketing and executive management. He is a recognized thought leader, speaker and blogger – covering key trends such as DevOps, Mobility, Cloud and the Internet of Things.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@DevOpsSummit Stories
You want to start your DevOps journey but where do you begin? Do you say DevOps loudly 5 times while looking in the mirror and it suddenly appears? Do you hire someone? Do you upskill your existing team? Here are some tips to help support your DevOps transformation. Conor Delanbanque has been involved with building & scaling teams in the DevOps space globally. He is the Head of DevOps Practice at MThree Consulting, a global technology consultancy. Conor founded the Future of DevOps Thought Leaders Debate. He regularly supports and sponsors Meetup groups such as DevOpsNYC and DockerNYC.
The DevOps dream promises faster software releases while fostering collaborating and improving quality and customer experience. Docker provides the key capabilities to empower DevOps initiatives. This talk will demonstrate practical tips for using Atlassian tools like Trello, Bitbucket Pipelines and Hipchat to achieve continuous delivery of Docker based containerized applications. We will also look at how ChatOps enables conversation driven collaboration and automation for self provisioning cloud and container infrastructure.
Charles Araujo is an industry analyst, internationally recognized authority on the Digital Enterprise and author of The Quantum Age of IT: Why Everything You Know About IT is About to Change. As Principal Analyst with Intellyx, he writes, speaks and advises organizations on how to navigate through this time of disruption. He is also the founder of The Institute for Digital Transformation and a sought after keynote speaker. He has been a regular contributor to both InformationWeek and CIO Insight and has been quoted or published in Time, CIO, Computerworld, USA Today and Forbes.
Andi Mann, Chief Technology Advocate at Splunk, is an accomplished digital business executive with extensive global expertise as a strategist, technologist, innovator, marketer, and communicator. For over 30 years across five continents, he has built success with Fortune 500 corporations, vendors, governments, and as a leading research analyst and consultant.
The current environment of Continuous Disruption requires companies to transform how they work and how they engineer their products. Transformations are notoriously hard to execute, yet many companies have succeeded. What can we learn from them? Can we produce a blueprint for a transformation? This presentation will cover several distinct approaches that companies take to achieve transformation. Each approach utilizes different levers and comes with its own advantages, tradeoffs, costs, risks, and outcomes.