Velocity 2011 day 1

Arrived nice and early at the Santa Clara convention center and missed the big queue for registration. (That’s a #protip folks!)

There was a real buzz at the first day of Velocity.  Lots of people who knew each other saying hi.  My fellow Aussies Mark Barger and Daniel Hall went to the Performance Tools Session with Steve Souders and friends.  Mark Jennings who was delayed by the Chilean volcano was somewhere in the air still.  Bitterly disappointed no doubt.

I attended the Netflix session with Adrian Cockcroft.  He spoke about Netflix’s scaling problems and solutions.  They are heavy users of Amazon’s infrastructure.  I really enjoyed this session.  I was expecting another cloud hypefest, but Adrian gave us many well reasoned insights into why they chose to use “the cloud”.  Why it made sense from a technical and financial perspective.

Netflix have some pretty impressive geek bragging rights.  I was excited (I admit it) by talk of thousands of servers and terabit data usage and playing CDN providers off against one another.

Adrian incorporated a 5 minute Ignite talk into his session on anti-architecture patterns.  This was awesome.  Really got me thinking.  Architectures so often go wrong, and software “Architects” so often have no idea what they’re doing.  If you clearly define what you don’t want  and establish the constraints up front (like it must be finished next week) and enforce those constraints, you may be more likely to end up with what you really want.

And not a DVD re-winder!

Session 2 I attended was the Opscode Chef workshop.  Delivered by Opscode.  All of them I think!

I love these guys and the Chef software, and use it already.

I’m not sure if it worked so well as a workshop though. Although the team’s delivery of the material was good and interesting and the tag team delivery was ok, I suspect someone who wasn’t familiar with Chef would have been a bit lost.  The pace was pretty fast.

It’s not that the demonstration wasn’t impressive (spin up 5 servers with monitoring, web/app and database) in about 5 minutes, completely configured.  It was.  I just feel they didn’t communicate just how awesome the tool is very well.

My takeaway was people who aren’t on 0.10 really should upgrade and use Environments.  These look cool.

After lunch was John Allspaw’s Session on Post Mortems and Human Error.

John is a great speaker and always has some awesome insights.

What I really like when I hear John speak is that he clearly articulates what it is to be in Web Operations and to be an Engineer.

That it is a serious and important profession and to be effective in the role you need to have experience in a range of engineering disciplines, and a good understanding of psychology too.

The feeling I get is that if you’re working at Etsy, the goals of those in Development and Operations are so closely aligned, that there is no Development and Operations.  There is only DevOps, that is, some Engineers that spend more time cutting code, and other Engineers who spend more time making graphs.

He described the knowledge gained from dealing with crises and outages as scar tissue, and that those with this experience are a huge asset to a company operating at scale.

I liked the philosophical and other research references sprinkled through his talk.  Clearly I have lots of homework to do.

The final session of day 1 I attended was from the Neustar guys.  Simon Nicoud, Mark Watson and Ian White.   

This is more like what I was expecting from a workshop.  CDs were handed out with some java and python code to drive Firefox via Selenium.

The guys walked through setting up a simple framework for automated web performance testing.  There are lots of tools and services around to do this kind of stuff, but I really liked the approach using simple tools to build something useful from scratch.


Wow.  Lots of good stuff here.

The “Experiment” was Ignite Karaoke.  Or more like Improv Stand-up.  Participants had to say something about some random slides. Time will tell if it was a successful experiment or not…  What do you think?


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