Coté Memo #081: The best steak I’ve ever eaten, and the slow train problem

Tech & Work World

How Microservices Fixes the Slow Train Problem

I write little columns for the internal Pivotal newsletter we have sometimes. Here’s one that’s about to go out.

The ideas of “dependencies” and “coupling” are important touch points for understanding and conveying the software delivery benefits of a microservices approach to architecture.

“Coupling” between services means that changes to one service have a big impact on another service. Coupling is considered bad in software architecture. Among other reasons, strong coupling usually means that each service can only be released as “fast” as the slowest changing service. For example, you might have an identity service and a reservation lookup service. Let’s say the reservation service can be updated weekly – the team working on it is fast! But, the identity service releases takes six months. Thus, the reservation service is forced to deliver on a six-month schedule.

Among other things, microservices remove the release cadence dependency. The goal is to allow each service to evolve as fast as makes sense for the business. Of course, there are some “new problems” to address:

  1. Ensuring backward API compatibility is a good idea. If we remove or change parts of identity services’ API and don’t change the reservation system, things break. Thus, it’s good to slowly remove functionality (or never do that!) with lots of testing, with the ability to rollback changes if/when things go haywire in production.
  2. Services should be able to isolate failures in order to “quarantine” errors in other services. If there’s an error in the identity service in production, we’d like the reservation service to gracefully fail. Operations patterns like the circuit breaker included in Spring Cloud, help manage these types of operational complexities.

Another benefit of decoupling services comes from shorter release cycles. The longer you wait to release code, the more code you’ll bundle into a release. Six months worth of code, across multiple services is a lot. When errors occur in production – and they will! – finding bugs in this ball of yarn will be much harder than finding the bad code in, say, a week’s worth of code.

Train Tracks

Think of it as train tracks. If five tracks all converge at one point, a problem on one of the tracks can cause confusion and delay for the other trains’ schedules—they’re strongly coupled. If each of the five tracks operates on its own schedule without having to converge, then of course there is no cascading schedule problem.

New Pivotal Cloud Foundry Release – a $100m/year business

Pivotal Cloud Foundry diagram

Pivotal Cloud Foundry 1.6 – there’s a new version of the product I work on (well, not coding, but you know, in my capacity of whatever it is I do). Check out my quick summary of what’s in it and, from the dormant analyst in me, an attempt to write-up the customer momentum we have.

I notice that most coverage of Pivotal doesn’t really focus on the business side of things, which is going excellent – like, we make real money and all that! Other than being nifty, I like that aspect because it means people (“customers”) find our work actually valuable enough to pay for.

If you’re interested in more “market talk,” check out the podcast I did with James Watters on the topic, GM of the business.

And, here’s some more coverage of Pivotal Cloud Foundry 1.6

Shameless Self Promotion

Quick Hits

Fun & IRL

Untitled

I that steak at Roast in Detroit. I think it might be the best steak I’ve ever had. Would eat again, many times.

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Coté Memo #080: Come on, register for this God damn webinar

This week is a lull in travel. I’m closing out the year by going to lots of DevOpsDays (Charlotte, where I’m speaking, and Silicon Valley next week), a few internal summits, and my first Gartner show, where I’m speaking in a sponsored slot.

Tech & Work World

Shameless Self Promotion

Journey Time

I finished up my “cloud native journey” series recently. The real title should be something more like “how not to fuck up your cloud strategy.” Obviously, it explains the type of thinking and environment that Pivotal Cloud Foundry is built for, but I spend most of the time discussing “culture” change in an organization, regardless of what technology you use.

Check out the series, and if you’d prefer the hear me present it, we have a three part webinar series, the first one is out next week, Nov 5th with the next two coming out in December, on the 1st and then the 15th.

There’s also a preview of the first webinar in the form of my slides if you want to poke at it.

Back to Evernote

Clearly, I’m the kind of person who switches between things a lot. After a long time using the old plain text files in Dropbox approach, I went back to using Evernote. I missed the “all in one thing” nature of Evernote and the ability to put images in there. This is sort of possible with markdown and plain text files, but not as easy.

After re-wiring all Drafts to save things to Evernote and a few weeks of usage, I think it’s pretty good. The iOS apps are responsive enough, and I also like having 7 years of my stuff in there. The related notes it shows in searches are interesting. The geo-location’ing that Evernote is also interesting. I enjoy looking through my digital past with as much data as possible to refresh my memory.

Now that I’m not getting briefed all the time (and instead spend most of time creating content rather than in meetings) I don’t actually take that many notes.

Quick Hits

Fun & IRL

Untitled//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

At first, I thought this was a costume of a motion capture suit. “Light Up Stick Man” makes a lot more sense.

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Coté Memo #079: No Comment, Slack Behavior

Tech & Work World

No Comment

Big news for the company I work in this week. Sadly for my desires to write about and link to interesting stories on it, I have to take a pass. It’s bad form for employees to comment on any of this stuff; and since I worked at Dell on strategy and M&A for software and cloud, it’s double a bad idea. There’s a lot of good write-ups out there, enjoy them.

Slack Behavior

I complain about Slack a lot in the SDT podcast, but, really, it’s a good, effective collaboration tool. The more technical people use it at Pivotal: we’re waiting for the sales and corporate marketing people to get in there. Once everyone gets in, I think it’ll be great. The idea that it not only cuts down on email but speeds up decision making (and, thus, action) is very true, anecdotally for me at least. Daily I find myself about to send an email and then thinking, “I should just write to the person in Slack or put this in the channel.” In that respect, it’s much like instant messaging, to be sure.

In the marketing/evangelism groups I’ve been in, we don’t do much with the integrations – early on we played with things like Trello integration. The integrations clog the channel up a bit.

What I’d like to see more of, in our use, is thinking more about how we use: making the implicit explicit, as it were. For example, we had a discussion about what the “available”e icon means. Does it mean someone will respond back quickly? Nope, not in out Slack “culture”: it doesn’t really mean anything, people will reply when they reply.

The other thing we should try to do more is create channels for ongoing “threads” of conversation. For example, we have a #DevOpsDays channel to discuss our participation on those conferences.

Anyhow, it’s a good tool. Slack is at that difficult point now where they have to balance throwing in new features and changing nothing at all. It’ll be fun to see what they come up with. I’d love to have a Google Hangouts/Skype/Zoom that works perfectly and seamlessly. They used to call it “unified communications,” and it’d be nice to have another go at that.

Travel

I’ll be at several events this Fall and Winter:

If you’re at any, I’d love to meetup and talk with you.

Recent Podcasts

Recent Posts &co.

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Coté Memo #078: Spiceworld 2015, Spiceworks Momentum, Enterprise Use, and DevOps

Tech & Work World

I was at Spiceworld, briefly, last week. This is Spiceworks’ big user, annual conference in Austin; they have one in London as well. I’ve followed Spiceworks for many years (from RedMonk to 451 Research) and have always liked their IT management approach: their business model is to be the Facebook of IT by giving away the systems management software for free and then selling access to the users to advertisers, vendors, and others. They also have a data practice which has some interesting, deep pools of data.

Last week they announced several new services and features, and also made some exiting ones free. They have a hosted (cloud!) offering that I’d missed seeing; that’s one of the things they made free (down from $10/month). As ever, I think their ambition is to monitor and manage as much IT as their user base wants. They don’t always provide the deepest functionality (saving that for their “real” customers who can sell more sophisticated tools into the user base), but they balance the “you get what you pay for” product management track well as their user momentum shows:

Spiceworks momentum, as of 2015//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

The numbers from there are not entirely consistent as they’re a mix of “users,” “monthly unique page views,” and whatever Spiceworks told me in briefings. That is, the thing counted has likely changed over time. I feel like getting a million “users” over a year is high (from 5m to 6m), but, whatever: just check out the general shape of the thing and you realize there’s something going on there.

Some other momentum figures:

  • One good, recent figure is “2,000 new members a day.”
  • Another one from Sep, 2014: Spiceworks being used by 1.8m organizations.
  • Spiceworks currently has “over 400” employees, up from 225 in Nov 2013.

One theme this year was the expansion, up-market into “enterprise.” If I recall, Spiceworks considers “enterprise” to be 500+ employees, and the rest is “SMB.” For them, that’s fair, but be warned if you think of enterprise as something more like 10,000+ employees.

Over time, the share between “small” and enterprise has been growing:

  • 2009: 13% enterprise, 87% small (from my notes)
  • 201?: 20% enterprise, 80% small (“previous to 2015”)
  • 2015: 40% enterprise, 60% small (from SpiceWorld 2015)

This year, they reported 71% penetration into F500 accounts.

The phrase “DevOps” was flashed up on the screen a few times and mentioned in meetings. In general, I see “DevOps” as only being applicable to organizations who are working on and deploying custom written software, their own software. (Sure, you could adopt the same principals for packaged software, SaaS, etc….but would you?). As it expands more, Spiceworks could concern itself with managing custom written software – somehow – which would be interesting and consistent with their general strategy of grabbing as much IT department land as possible.

Quick Hits

Meanwhile:

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Coté Memo #077: Avoid going from “VP of Having a P&L” to “VP of Special Projects”

DevDaysDays Chicago

I’ll be at DevOpsDays Chicago in a few weeks, August 26th to 27th. If you want to go and haven’t registered yet, you can use the code PIVOTAL10 to get 10% off, which gets it down to like $170 or something. It’s excellent value for a tech conference, plus you can see me speak and staff a booth! While I’m up there, on Aug 26th, I’ll be speaking at the local Cloud Foundry Meetup.

Tech & Work World

Stacking the Deck

I’m working on the second part in my “cloud native journey series” (part one was an overview and brief summary). Here’s an excerpt from my draft on greenfield journeys, on selecting the right initial projects:

Selecting your first projects

If you’re a small team, or a small company, selecting the project to work on is likely easy: you probably just have one application, so select that! In larger companies, there are often 100’s, of not 1,000’s of application and projects you could pick from. You want to pick one that will have customer value (that is, be customer facing) and will give you feedback once you deploy it (people will use it a lot, it won’t just be shelf-ware). You also want to pick a small enough project that getting it into production is possible in a short amount of time, let’s say 3 months at the maximum. Finally, if things go poorly, you want it to be a somewhat low profile project so you can sweep it under the rug if things really go poorly so you can live to greenfield another day.

This last point is no doubt contentious to the purer minded of y’all out there, and I can sympathize. We should strive for truth and transparency! I’m sure you’re lucky enough to be in a corporate structure that rewards the value of failing (learning), but think about your peers who are not so lucky and work in caustic corporate culture that punishes any type of failure by “promoting” the former “VP of Having a P&L” to “VP of Special Projects.” In such cases, you’re given the chance to advance to the next place on the board by success, so you’ll want to pick a project accordingly. Of course, the point is that as you build up the success record of failing fast, as it were, you’ll be able to change said caustic corporate culture around…hopefully. While a bit dated, the 2010 booklet, The Concise Executive Guide to Agile has a detailed discussion and methodology that’s helpful for picking your initial projects.

There’s a different type of project you can choose as well, what I like to think of as a “moribund” project. It fits all the criteria above, but already exists and just needs to be shown some love. One of our customers, Humana, profiled this strategy. Their Vitality project wasn’t getting the engagement levels they wanted: just 3% of potential users. They wanted to triple engagement, getting it to 10%. As they detailed in their keynote at this year’s CF Summit, after reving that project with a more agile and cloud native approach, they were astonished by the increase in engagement to over 30% of potential users. They then parlayed this success into two other, small but important projects and are not on the path to transform how applications are done company wide, beyond the greenfield.

At ~3,500 words, I need to cut down the full piece a bit. We’ll see what comes out the other end of the chute!

Shameless Self-promotion

Some recent items from me/us:

More from “cloud native” land

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but the infrastructure niche of the tech world has gone crazy for “cloud native.” Consequently, I follow it a lot and type that phrase a lot. Here’s some recent items I’ve found:

Quick Hits

Fun & IRL

7 Minute Workout

I’ve been trying to the old 7 minute workout via an app (there’s a NYTimes one up too). Not having exercised for, let’s see…none of my life, it sure is hard and just the right amount of time and pain that I keep doing it.

We’ll see what happens.

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Coté Memo #076: How cloud native makes customers awesome

Follow-up

  • The piece on “cloud journeys” I excerpted from last time is now posted.

Tech & Work World

Cloud Native

I’ve been writing some pieces on “cloud native” of late. It’s a term we’ve been using at work to describe what we’re all about. Here’s an excerpt from an internal newsletter piece I drafted today:

You’ve probably coming across the term “cloud native” frequently. James Watters has an excellent post on the topic, but I wanted add some background for y’all here. We’ve made “cloud native” an umbrella term to describe what Pivotal Cloud Foundry does for our customers. It’s shorthand for how we make our customers awesome: our platform gives them the tools and processes needed to start deploying their custom-written software weekly, if not daily, along with the tools needed to keep that software running happily in
production.

With this platform and knowing how to use these cloud superpowers, our customers become truly agile: frequently changing both their businesses and IT processes to keep competitive, e.g., they can think of a new business idea on Monday and have it up and running by Friday.

Speaking of this, if you’re interested in migrating to cloud-land, check out an excerpt from Josh Long’s upcoming book, Cloud Native Java. on the topic. Also, of course, you can get the developer experience for free for two months.

Upcoming Conferences

Shameless Self Promotion

  • Last week’s Software Defined Talk podcast: “Once we settle the important topic of lawn management in Texas, we discuss the circus around HP dress codes (and the actual lack of them), HP/Stackato, GitHub and the ALM market, and the odd fate of the GPL in commercial software land.”
  • Torture your friends with three ways of modeling the ROI for DevOps.

Quick Hits

Fun & IRL

No fun this issue, just work.

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Coté Memo #075: Dealing with legacy code in a cloud native world

Get your lurn on – this weekend!

https://player.vimeo.com/video/121473651?color=01786e&byline=0&portrait=0

Do you want to bone up on your product management skills? Check out this two day workshop from Craftman PM. I used to work with Prabhakar and he’s anything but boring when it comes to opinions around product. Check out more details, and if you use the code COTE when registering, you’ll get $250 off!

Follow-up

W Austin

As I mentioned last time, we stayed at the W in downtown Austin last week. It was nice! The “wet” (W-speak for “pool”) was nice with in-pool bar service.

Tech & Work World

Dealing with legacy code

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I’ve been working on a series of blog posts (which we’ll then slap into a PDF – hey, presto! Whitepaper!) on “the cloud journey.” Here’s an excerpt from the first part summarizing the challenges of “the legacy journey”:

These groups have a full portfolio of existing IT and applications that they must maintain and grow. There are many “obligations” owed to the past and they often operate under many more constraints than the other two types of teams. Their challenge with Pivotal Cloud Foundry is planning out how to methodically “slice off” parts of their existing applications and re-platform them as cloud native applications. These teams are metaphorically tasked with rebuilding the jet engine mid-flight.

Legacy teams are often looking for fixes to lingering, systematic problems they have (the relational database can no longer scale) and the effects of too much technical debt (“our system is so burdened and fragile that it takes weeks to do a release”). The challenge these teams have is that all of their time is taken up simply keeping their applications up and running, leaving them little time to work on new functionality in their application. Worse, when there is time to add in new functionality, the legacy system is so ponderous (and often poorly understood) that changing it takes much longer than it should.

To me, the challenges here are about balancing risk perfectly, knowing when to keep doing “the wrong thing” despite the allure of “the new thing.” Eventually, these teams have to choose either to “give up” or “go for it”: If the risks of making changes are too high, they must quarantine the applications in questions. Or, if the risks seem acceptable, the teams have to start systematically re-platforming and re-writing the backing services and applications themselves.

DevOps at Solarwinds

I was on a panel for Solarwinds online conference, thwackCamp. It was fun, actually. Check out the recording and a piece written about it.

Quick Hits

Fun & IRL

Movie Time

I say Amy) last week. I wasn’t expecting to like it much (we just wanted to see a movie, and Kim wanted to), but it was actually good. You know, tragic and such, but good.

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Coté Memo #074: “Let’s start an anonymous club.”

It’s mostly links this week, with a big add video ad for my pal below:

Get your lurn on

https://player.vimeo.com/video/121473651?color=01786e&byline=0&portrait=0

Do you want to bone up on your product management skills? Check out this two day workshop from Craftman PM. I used to work with Prabhakar and he’s anything but boring when it comes to opinions around product. Check out more details, and if you use the code COTE when registering, you’ll get $250 off!

Tech & Work World

Quick Hits

Fun & IRL

Things are working out

It’s our 10th wedding anniversary (yay us!) so we’re treating ourselves to a little downtown Austin fun. We’ll be checking out the newish W down there. I’ll report back if it’s zaney. They got vinyl in the bar, man.

Leave your shoes at the door

This is my new favorite song. I listen the rest of ’em on repeat all the time now-a-days.

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Coté Memo #073: If you like tater-tots, go to Minneapolis

I’m in transit between Minneapolis and San Francisco right now. The MSP airport is delightful, with a long mall at the base and concourses reaching out, it seems civilized.

Follow-up

  • I had lunch with one of you today who said, “looks like you started up the newsletter,” to which I replied, “well, if I can send one more out and then not do it the third time, then yes.” So, here’s number two. Almost to fail-o-victory!

Tech & Work World

Coté Content

Quick Hits

Fun & IRL

“Nothing in particular”++

Suggested sound-track for reading this chart.

Trends in religious affiliationn

(Via @bruces)

That looks like relaxing chaos

I like the Power Ranger show too much. I don’t like the content too much, but the relaxation of what it looks like to be the show runner. The show has a predictability and stability to it, and an audience of adoring kids. And it looks like, if you get the whole Power Rangers idea and mythos, it’s hard to screw-up.

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Coté Memo #072: Since last time…

It’s been forever since a memo! Here’s this week’s. I’ve tried to craft a work-flow that will allow me to collect links I want to share, in addition to shameless self-promotion and the occasional commentary in here…and actually send these out weekly. We’ll see what happens.

Travel

DevOpsDays Amsterdam - Thursday June 25th

I’ve been traveling a lot recently and have more coming up. The main thing is going to lots of DevOpsDays. Sometimes I’m lucky enough to speak at them, but the main part I like is talking with old friends and meeting people who are trying to sort out what exactly DevOps is and if/how it applies to them.

I’ll be at DevOpsDays in Minneapolis next week, and I may be at the Pittsburg and Chicago one.

If you’ve missed them, you can see recordings of my talks from Austin and Amsterdam (you have to go 40:30 in to find mine).

Tech & Work World

All about me…

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