Welcome!

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

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
With more than 30 Kubernetes solutions in the marketplace, it's tempting to think Kubernetes and the vendor ecosystem has solved the problem of operationalizing containers at scale or of automatically managing the elasticity of the underlying infrastructure that these solutions need to be truly scalable. Far from it. There are at least six major pain points that companies experience when they try to deploy and run Kubernetes in their complex environments. In this presentation, the speaker will detail these pain points and explain how cloud can address them.
In an era of historic innovation fueled by unprecedented access to data and technology, the low cost and risk of entering new markets has leveled the playing field for business. Today, any ambitious innovator can easily introduce a new application or product that can reinvent business models and transform the client experience. In their Day 2 Keynote at 19th Cloud Expo, Mercer Rowe, IBM Vice President of Strategic Alliances, and Raejeanne Skillern, Intel Vice President of Data Center Group and GM, discussed how clients in this new era of innovation can apply data, technology, plus human ingenuity to springboard to advance new business value and opportunities.
Discussions of cloud computing have evolved in recent years from a focus on specific types of cloud, to a world of hybrid cloud, and to a world dominated by the APIs that make today's multi-cloud environments and hybrid clouds possible. In this Power Panel at 17th Cloud Expo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed the importance of customers being able to use the specific technologies they need, through environments and ecosystems that expose their APIs to make true change and transformation possible.
The current age of digital transformation means that IT organizations must adapt their toolset to cover all digital experiences, beyond just the end users’. Today’s businesses can no longer focus solely on the digital interactions they manage with employees or customers; they must now contend with non-traditional factors. Whether it's the power of brand to make or break a company, the need to monitor across all locations 24/7, or the ability to proactively resolve issues, companies must adapt to the new world.
In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Scott Davis, CTO of Embotics, discussed how automation can provide the dynamic management required to cost-effectively deliver microservices and container solutions at scale. He also discussed how flexible automation is the key to effectively bridging and seamlessly coordinating both IT and developer needs for component orchestration across disparate clouds – an increasingly important requirement at today’s multi-cloud enterprise.