Lessons learned on the DevOps front: A Red Hat tale

I love a good story. I love it even more when the story is true. Today’s session with two fellow Red Hatters, Katrinka McCallum, VP of product and technology operations, and Jay Ferrandini, senior director of worldwide DevOps, gave me both. And it makes me even more excited that their session was about Red Hat eating its own dogfood or, if you prefer, drinking its own champagne.

“We might not be delivering what our customers want…”

Red Hat engineering had a problem when it came to dealing with Red Hat operations. This was referred to as the “banana and pickle problem.” Engineering/QE would come to operations asking for something–a solution that they desperately needed. Let’s call the requested solution the banana. They came to the team and asked for a banana. Ops went away into a black box development cycle and delivered…a pickle. Not exactly the same thing. Similar in some ways, but not what was requested.

This is an issue that many teams face. They’re segmented in such a way that there’s no collaboration or communication across the teams, at least not in a meaningful way.

Maybe DevOps can save the day?

The future of Red Hat Enterprise Linux

What customers wanted: 2002

Gunnar Hellekson’s been with Red Hat long enough to remember what customers wanted in the early days, when they were still buying boxed software off the shelf of the local big box electronics store. What did they expect from the upstart software company back then? In Hellekson’s parlance, Red Hat’s business was “lighting up hardware and making software run.” Customers at that time primarily wanted:

  • Quality support
  • A vast* ecosystem
  • Peerless security response team
  • Options for life cycles (2 years, 10 years, etc.)
rhel-dependency-firefox-example
Firefox only has around 500 packages, and their dependency graph looks like this. Can you imagine what 10K might look like?

What’s happened since then?

The creation of separate streams for Red Hat® Enterprise Linux® and Fedora was a beneficial change that gave both room to grow. They continued to add value over time by, as Hellekson noted, “stuffing more things in the bag.” However, after a decade of adding value, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 has nearly 6,000 packages—plus all of their associated dependencies and complexity. According to Hellekson, if you were to package up everything in the upstream of RHEL today, there would be around 10,000 packages.

The Red Hat security roadmap

Josh Bressers, security strategist for Red Hat, laid down the law for the current state and future of security at Red Hat in today’s roadmap session. When talking roadmaps, nothing is definite–Josh stressed that on several occasions and offered some guidance on when we might see some of these advancements. Still, nothing is certain until it’s certain.

5270987711_d18c4b98d0_b
Photo by Marc Falardeau

Foundation > Platform > Technologies > Usage

Security is big. Really big. Especially within the past year, we’ve seen lots of security issues and vulnerabilities exposed, freaked out over, and resolved. It’s on everyone’s mind and the answer to all of this isn’t a silver bullet. Security is not a single solution, but everything in your infrastructure working together–along with your users. If you don’t use it securely, it doesn’t matter how secure it is at the bottom.

 

CEO Jim Whitehurst opens Red Hat Summit 2016

27350369983_9d02380501_z

“Our ability to harness and distill the best ideas will determine human progress for the next century.”

Jim Whitehurst, Red Hat’s President and CEO, delivered the opening keynote to a crowd of more than 5,000 Tuesday morning. The 2016 Red Hat Summit theme: The Power of Participation. His message: Participation and innovation are tightly linked. Helping communities innovate beyond the sum of their individual members is the leadership challenge of our time.

Here’s why we should welcome our robot overlords

Richard
Richard Hulskes, co-founder of Wevolver, an online platform for collaborative hardware development

When Richard Hulskes (@Rieshuls), co-founder of Wevolver, was a kid, he spent endless hours building rockets and robots―often unsuccessfully. Today, he prints them.

Richard says hardware development is radically changing―in part because the open source mindset is moving to hardware. Wevolver users are building drones that explore the deep ocean, creating low-cost prosthetics, and even sending satellites into space.

But Richard’s favorite project on the Wevolver platform could benefit thousands of children.

Lessons using Ansible at J. Crew

Ansible, Ansible, Ansible. Oscar González, principal engineer at Sawyer Effect, gave a unique presentation today about J.Crew’s use of DevOps and Ansible Tower by Red Hat. As you may know, Red Hat acquired Ansible earlier this year and the addition has been phenomenal. Ansible gives your business simple, agentless automation technology.

“I’m a developer. I’m sorry.”

In 2015, Sawyer Effect was brought out to J. Crew to help improve their deployment process. They had a problem: A deployment would take 4-5 hours and had to be done overnight. What’s more, the entire process was like having a Rube Goldberg machine–lots of small moving parts which would, at some point, fail. The worst part of all of this was the toll it was taking on the teams. The human price was steep. Oscar likened this to Sisyphus–doing something over and over, learning nothing, not progressing, and keeping innovation from ever happening.

Something had to be done.

I’ll cut to the chase. J. Crew used Ansible, a DevOps approach, and their current tools and infrastructure to completely revolutionize their deployments. Oscar broke this down into 10 lessons.

At Summit: Elwin Loomis hails from the Store of the Future

27684460990_2cf5120602_c

Title says it all

Elwin Loomis isn’t your everyday Director of Engineering. In fact, he’s not the Director of Engineering. He’s Target‘s Senior Director, Store of the Future. This unique title is important to him, because it symbolizes doing things differently. And Loomis is all about doing things differently.

Elwin is an engineer, a creator, a doer. But he’s no longer just hacking code—he’s hacking culture. Doers like Elwin get to ask the questions that he was asking the Summit 2016 crowd:

“What does your ideal workplace look like? What is the work that you do? Who do you want to work with, mentor, and be mentored by? What causes do you support?”

How business used to be

In the past, if you wanted your business to grow large, it took considerable investment in physical and digital resources. Infrastructure was the barrier to entry that kept the competition at bay. For a retail business like Target, these barriers included the supply chain, real estate, and relationships with manufacturers.

Today, these barriers are breaking down. The internet and other technologies bring improvements to manufacturing, creating, and funding businesses that make it possible to start up cheaply. And the amplification effect—how Loomis describes the ability of small teams to behave like big teams through repeatable processes, self-service, and automation—lets even tiny organizations appear quite large. If big companies cannot match these nimble upstarts, they will die.