Operation Bootstrap

Web Operations, Culture, Security & Startups.

Docker-spoon 1.0 Released

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I’ve pushed version 1.0.0 of Docker spoon. I moved the version to 1.0 for a few reasons – the release is pretty significant:

  • This release pulls in a version of docker-api (0.17) which is not backward compatible with older docker versions. If you need to run with older versions of Docker, use 0.8.x.
  • I’ve added a ton of test coverage using cucumber and aruba. The tests require a local docker daemon but otherwise should be portable. This is the most thorough coverage spoon has ever had.
  • The original framework used to build spoon – methadone – has been completely removed. This was done because it was getting in the way of setting up a correct default / config file / command line argument parsing hierarchy.

So what’s new?

  • New commands including --kill and --restart to ease stopping spoon containers without destroying them or having to use the docker cli.
  • Support for config/cli defined port specifications both for docker-forwarded ports or ssh-forwarded ports. This supports both dynamic and 1:1 port mappings for docker ports.
  • Privileged mode support when creating new instances.
  • Config support for a variety of docker params including:
    • cpu shares
    • memory limits
    • dns servers
    • volume mappings
    • privileged mode

The release has been tested against Docker 1.4 and is known not to work with docker 1.2.

Pairing With Docker-spoon

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Whether you pair or not I think this post is worth reading. Do you ever have needs like this?

  • Ability to create on-demand dev environments with all your dependencies in place?
  • Ability to collaborate with local or remote folks in a low latency environment that doesn’t suck?
  • Want bare metal performance instead of using a VM?
  • Want to kick off that build, close your laptop and head home to check on it later?
  • Want to share your work on your dev environment w/ others easily, even with your laptop in your backpack?

There are a bunch more reasons you might like docker-spoon, those are just a few.

This tool grew out of a desire to streamline developer workstation setup but it went even further to the point where developer environments are disposable, can be provisioned in seconds & allow local and remote pairing at any time. Are there other ways to do this? Yep. I’ve seen this tool used successfully by entire dev teams at two companies now – it’s new to you but it’s been around a bit.

The idea behind docker-spoon is pretty basic, you create a docker image with all your developer needs built into it, then you run spoon <name> where name is the name you assign to a new spoon instance running in Docker. Spoon does all the heavy lifting – currently including:

  • Check to see if the container exists, if not create it
  • Forward any exposed ports
  • Copy any files you want copied on creation into the new instance & add your ssh public key for future connections
  • Run any commands you want run on container creation
  • establish an ssh connection into the container

So after installing spoon and creating a config, the time from running spoon to being at a command prompt in your new dev environment is about a few seconds. How easy is it? Demo time!

Video can be viewed directly here

There are some features not shown in this demo which already exist:

  • Forward ports over ssh which aren’t exposed via ssh
  • Run commands on container creation
  • Using spoon to execute docker builds

That demo used the example docker container included in the docker-spoon repository. If you want to try it out quickly just follow the directions in the docker-spoon repo.

So here’s the thing, there are some caveats – all this awesomeness doesn’t come without some conditions. Spoon takes advantage of the idea that working in a terminal with tmux is low latency & easily shared. There is some work being done to use VNC inside spoon to allow for the use of GUI apps but that’s not the optimal use case.

If you find docker-spoon useful let me know. If you want to see something different, submit a pull request or shoot me a note. The usage should be thoroughly documented in the README.

Empathy in OSS - It’s Important

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Spending nearly my entire working day (and many evenings) with Open Source projects I don’t maintain I have come to form an opinion or two on the use of OSS – specifically when it comes to contributing to projects.

We’ve come a long way as a community with tools like Github, making it easier and easier to get an OSS project out in the wild and accept contributions. As we’ve done this though, projects seem to support users with varying degrees of success. Some projects flourish, graciously accepting community contributions. Other projects do quite well accepting feedback but largely having maintainers drive the direction of the project. Still others fall to extremes of accepting every pull request that comes along with reckless abandon or apathetically allowing the project to rot and become another abandoned github relic.

Along with this more and more companies are building their businesses on OSS. Not just a piece here and there, but entire complex ecosystems of software maintained by all kinds of different folks. Each of these business have their own unique quirks, personalities, and constraints.

I’ve worked for a few of these businesses and I know that those constraints and those personalities, they aren’t easy for me to change. I have to work with what I have and try to find tools that do what I need. When I find a tool that’s 90% of what I need and I’m willing to put in the effort to push it across the line and make it work for me I get to come face to face with the maintainers of that project.

I’d like to say this always goes smoothly, that I’m always able to express my use case in a way that folks understand, and that my use case always falls inline with the intent of the project. I’d love if my skillset in a particular language was always up to par, and that my ability to write quality tests was always appropriate. I’d love to always understand the roadmap for the project & the maintainers expectations around how I should contribute. This just aint so.

As much as I may feel like I don’t understand a particular project well enough, sometimes it feels like the maintainers don’t understand me. What’s worse is when I interpret (accurately or not) an attitude from maintainers that I “just don’t get it” rather than making an attempt to help me understand.

This sounds really familiar to me. This sounds like that whole observation the world made that Dev & Ops need to work more closely. The observation that the people who build the software need to interact more closely with the people who use the software. That building empathy and a collaborative environment where everyone can communicate and be involved will help get us past our differences. For me, this problem isn’t just with the developers in my company. This problem extends to the developers who build the systems I use every day and most of those developers don’t work for my company.

Just as we have to invest in building relationships within a company, when you use OSS you have to invest in building a relationship with those you work with outside your company as well. This goes both ways, and the more effort maintainers put into understanding users, the better this is for everyone. This isn’t easy – so if you aren’t a maintainer and you’re reading this, understand that very often the interactions you have with maintainers is done outside their full time job, outside their ordinary deadlines and pressures, and it’s done because they enjoy working on a project. If folks are like me, when something stops being enjoyable for too long, I stop doing it. Keep them in mind when you have a complaint.

Further, for a popular project the ratio of users to maintainers is pretty imbalanced and not in the favor of the maintainers. They have a hard job and for those that do that job with grace and empathy for their users, my hat is off to you.

So when we talk about DevOps and Empathy and all these great ideas to make your company work better – don’t stop there. Think about all those projects that make your job exist, and all those users that make your project a success. Try to take a little time and understand each other and work together to make more awesome.


Question: How Did You Build an Automated Service Delivery Pipeline?

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Here’s the scenario – you are a development team tasked with making the life of other developers easier. Your organization is breaking a monolithic service into many micro services and the current process for spinning up a new service and all the associated pieces is laborious, error prone, and not elastic at all. Your organization wants a self-service system that allows a team to spin up the scaffolding for a new service in days without being blocked by other teams.

If you have thoughts on this – I have some questions:

  • Have you done this before?
  • How would you describe what you built?
  • More interesting to me, what were the increments?
  • Did you try to use existing tools?
  • What was the team that delivered those increments comprised of (Ops, developers, both)? I know many Ops are developers – but mindsets are probably different.
  • How long did it take?

Keep in mind, I’m not talking about just deploying code, I’m talking about creating an entire dev workflow pipeline from desktop to prod – automatically. The assumption is that if you aren’t doing Continuous Deployment, you are at least doing Continuous Delivery. This probably looks something like a private PaaS at the end of the day – but automation that extends beyond just spinning up machines, it extends to CI, monitoring, everything.

If this story has been told in a blog post you have, or if you just copied what someone else wrote in their blog post, point me that way, but I want to hear about YOUR experience implementing it.

See, I am fairly certain that the answer to this question changes depending on the makeup of the group that built it. Further, I suspect that without the necessary increments – any group will build it wrong (like any software). So for a group that’s been down that road, I’m more interested in the journey than the destination.

Reply via email, in the comments, add links, use the twitters, whatever. I just want to learn – this is not the start of a debate.

Cargo Cult: Devops

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We’ve been at this for a few years now, talking about DevOps & what it means to be a DevOps friendly (or insert your term here) organization. For much of this time I’ve held the belief that an organization could change & that by creating examples of awesomeness you could lead a horse to water. Largely, I still think this is true, I still think in an organization absent of examples of what works – creating awesomeness can help people see that something better might be possible.

In tandem with this I’ve watched (and written) countless discussions about what DevOps means. I’ve heard countless definitions of what people think DevOps means which differ from my own definition. I’ve watched organizations create entirely new teams centered around what they understand DevOps to be. The typical charter of these teams centers around working with developers, yes, but also around automation & tooling.

In this process the word/title/team name of “DevOps” has become synonymous with “Operationally focused Development”… or Ops folks who code (sometimes). To me, this is just Operations and Development, but I’m an open minded guy and this post isn’t really about that – if doing this is so different from what you believe Operations is that you need to call it something different, so be it.

For organizations which I observe to be actually embracing the sprit of DevOps as it was originally intended, I find a few things that seem true:

  • Behavior isn’t isolated to Dev & Ops, it happens across the company and is usually promoted as part of the company core values.
  • Behavior is a result of the whole, everyone contributes to making it work and ensuring that it continues to work. They hire (and fire) with this value in mind.
  • Behavior happens because the people involved see it as a means to an end, that working together is how we achieve greatness & no single team can do that.
  • They don’t usually call it DevOps.

Why does that last bullet matter? Because giving it a name doesn’t make it so. Actually giving it a name, I think, removes power from the teams to define how things should work. We already have names for this stuff: Collaboration, Communication, Teamwork. When you call it “DevOps” then I start to wonder what you mean, because it must be different from something I already have a name for.

So today I heard a reference to Cargo Cult, decided to lookup this term I’ve used in the past to make sure I was using it correctly, and was struck by how it applies so perfectly to what I see as wrong with the way many folks interpret DevOps.

We’ve seen examples of Cargo Cult in the past. Agile implementations are surely ripe with examples of companies implementing a process but not embracing the principles. The world of marketing uses the idea every day to sell you stuff you don’t need:

  • “Installing this IDS will make you more secure” (security engineer not included)
  • “Using Adobe Photoshop will make you produce awesome photos” (ability to use a camera not included)
  • “Buying these jeans will make you look like a movie star” (gym membership, nutritionist, open-schedule definitely not included)

The result you are trying to reproduce is embodied in something that is a subset of what actually produced it. Taking that subset and dropping it into your life doesn’t give you all the things that produced it, you get an empty shell of the thing.

I love to rock climb and spend a fair amount of time at it. Rock Climbers have some observable characteristics – strong hands & upper body, relatively good balance, maybe less sanity than most folks. Many folks first approach climbing thinking that strength is the primary barrier to improvement. They think that to be a good climber they have to get strong. Then you watch some massive muscle-bound gym rat try to climb and you realize that can’t be right.

The reality is that climbers get strong by climbing. Climbers climb because they love the challenge, and they get better by being persistent and having the mental discipline to overcome doubt and fear. You can’t watch a climber and see passion, fear, doubt and their response to it. You can’t read their thoughts and know that, despite that move looking incredibly easy for them, it required very precise movement and exceptional focus and attention. You may not realize that the reason that particular sequence of movements worked for them was because they are 5’10” and have unusually long arms.

Climbers may enjoy the strength benefits of climbing, but if their objective was to become strong, there are more direct means. They become good climbers because they love something more fundamental about it.

In organizations where DevOps works, it isn’t Developers working with Operations that make it work, it’s people wanting to work with other people and the organization encouraging them to find the right solution together that makes it work. Operations seems to work well with Development in these organizations, an observable outcome of the culture, but reproducing that practice in another company isn’t likely to produce the same results. I’d go so far as to say it’s guaranteed to not produce the expected results.

I wrote a long winded post about what I see as things leading to a functional software development organization. DevOps is not a practice within these things that is singularly important, nor is it a team which is relevant to success. It’s now become a distracting misnomer for a subset of observable traits in successful organizations, few of which contribute to overall success when practiced in isolation. The factors that do contribute to success have been defined for quite a while now, they were defined in Good to Great, they are described in The Phoenix Project, and to a large extent they are at the core of what Agile was intended to be.

If you Cargo Cult DevOps into your organization then you’re just implementing a subset of what successful companies do & you are bound not to see the results you expect, unless your expectations are low.

On the other hand, if your goal is to use it as a hiring tool to clarify to Ops folks that the job you are offering is working on automation, I get it, but wish there was another term for that – because it isn’t DevOps. It’s Operations, or Development, or both. Something we all should be doing anyways.

I’m not really sure this post helps anyone, but it helped me – so thanks for reading.