Sunday, May 31, 2015

What sort of DevOps are you?

What sort of DevOps are you? Can you even define DevOps?
Nobody really knows what DevOps is, there are almost as many definitions as practitioners. Part of the problem is that the name tends to get tacked onto anything to make it seem trendy. (The same way that "cloud" has been abused.)
Whilst stereotypical, I tend to separate the field into the puritans and the pragmatists.
The puritanical vision of DevOps is summarized by the mantra of "Infrastructure as Code". In this world, it's all about tooling (often, although not exclusively, based around configuration management).
From the pragmatist viewpoint, it's rather about driving organizational and cultural change to enable people to work together to benefit the business, instead of competing with each other to benefit their own department or themselves. This is largely a reaction to legacy departmental silos that simply toss tasks over the wall to each other.
I'm firmly in the pragmatist camp. Tooling helps, but you can use all the tools in the world badly if you don't have the correct philosophy and culture.
I see a lot of emphasis being placed on tooling. Partly this is because in the vendor space, tooling is all there is - vendors frame the discussion in terms of how tooling (in particular, their tool) can improve your business. I don't have a problem with vendors doing this, they have to sell stuff after all, but I regard conflating their offerings with DevOps in the large, or even defining DevOps as a discipline, as misleading at best.
Another worrying trend (I'm seeing an awful lot of this from recruiters, not necessarily practitioners) is the stereotypical notion that DevOps is still about getting rid of legacy operations and having developers carry the pager. This again starts out in terms of a conflict between Dev and Ops and, rather than resolving it by combining forces, simply throws one half of the team away.
Where I do see a real problem is that smaller organizations might start out with only developers, and then struggle to adopt operational practices. Those of us with a background in operations need to find a way to integrate with development-led teams and organizations. (The same problem arises when you have a subversive development team in a large business that's going round the back of traditional operations, and eventually find that they need operational support.)
I was encouraged that the recent DOXLON meetup had a couple of really interesting talks about culture. Practitioners know that this is important, we really need to get the word out.

Where have all the SSDs gone?

My current and previous laptop - that's a 3-year timespan - both had an internal SSD rather than rotating rust. The difference between those and prior systems was like night and day - instant-on, rather than the prior experience of making a cup of coffee while waiting for the old HDD system to stagger into life.

My current primary desktop system is also SSD based. Power button to fully booted is a small number of seconds. Applications are essentially instant - certainly compared to startup times for things like firefox that used to be double-digit seconds before it was ready to go.

(This startup speed changes usage patterns. Who really needs suspend/resume when the system boots in the time it takes to settle comfortably in your chair?)

So I was a little surprised, while browsing in a major high street electronics retailer, to find hardly any evidence of SSDs. Every desktop system had an HDD. Almost all the laptops were HDD based. A couple of the all-in-ones had hybrid drives. SSDs were conspicuous by their absence.

I had actually noticed this trend while looking online. I've just checked the desktops on the Dell site, and there's no sign of a system with an SSD option.

Curious, I asked the shop assistant, who replied that SSDs were far too expensive.

I'm not sure I buy the cost argument. An SSD actually costs the same as an HDD - at least, the range of prices is exactly the same. So the prices will stay unchanged, but obviously the capacity will be quite a bit less. And it looks like the sales pitch is about capacity.

But even there, the capacity numbers are meaningless. It's purely bragging rights, disconnected from reality. With any of the HDD options, you're looking at hundreds of thousands of songs or pictures. Very few typical users will need anything like that much - and if you do, you're going to need to look at redundancy or backup. And with media streaming and cloud-based backup, local storage is more a liability than an asset.

So, why such limited penetration of SSDs into the home computing market?