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Containerized #Microservices App | @DevOpsSummit #DX #Serverless #DevOps

First Hand Experience on the Path to Continuous Deployment for Docker Containers

Being experienced  startup folks we are not scared of bleeding edge tech. For instance, in 2005 we made the jump to virtual machines  when most companies hadn't even heard of virtualization, in order to create our cloud platform, AppLogic. This time around we were already very familiar with containers, including many of the limitations, and believed they offered a lot of advantages in speed and cost so we decided to go with Docker running on AWS.

Our engineers have written a lot of apps including both interactive user apps and infrastructure level services and we're pretty adept at creating stateless systems where that's possible. Unfortunately, some of the third party software we needed to use, especially open source, wasn't written with stateless in mind.

For us combining Dev and Ops wasn't a choice, but a necessity. We couldn't afford another hire to run ops. Nonetheless we're fanatics for DevOps and automating everything we can in build, test and deploy. In our case the role of the DevOps guru fell on Pavel, one of our senior engineers. He's well versed in systems architecture as well as most of the systems that needed to be touched by the automation.

Introducing VCTR
The app we were bringing out is called Victor (VCTR for Vulnerabilities and Configuration Tracking and Reporting), a free online service that scans containers and VMs for upgrades that fix critical vulnerabilities. You can check out VCTR here.

As we progressed through development some things worked exceptionally well. New tools including Slack made collaboration among a dispersed team very easy. Build and test tools including Jenkins worked as expected though they were a bit harder to set up than they should be. Docker, despite some minor issues, was more mature than we expected. As you probably have guessed, though, there's a "however" coming. In our case, that "however" was that deployments were still complicated and error prone.

broken toolchain.jpg

As we got started our deployment was managed part-time by Pavel, our senior engineer. After all, the literature available suggested he'd just be writing a few short pipeline scripts. At first this worked great, but since change is inevitable, things got complicated. VCTR began expanding as new features were integrated and Pavel's day job became wrangling an unruly set of deployment scripts. Of course, as he spent time on deployment he wasn't contributing to building VCTR. As Pavel got sucked further and further into script hell with each new change, he noticed he'd fallen into a pattern:

  1. understand changes -> understand current app -> write script

  2. test script -> debug -> deploy

  3. fail -> debug again -> redeploy

  4. manual rollback...

  5. give up

The options were minimal. Either we continue to fail through this deployment until we got it right, or find another solution to the problem



Screen Shot 2017-05-18 at 11.19.15 PM.pngScreen Shot 2017-05-18 at 11.34.03 PM.png

Deployment Pain
Despite deployment issues hindering our velocity we needed to push forward with VCTR so we started user engagement while looking for solutions. We assumed we'd find a new tool or pattern in time, but things took an unexpected turn. While implementing VCTR we found other folks having similar deployment issues. Bringing up a new user with VCTR requires installing a small piece of code in the container or VM. That process, not surprisingly, happens in a deployment script and in most cases inserting that one change caused a failure in deployment. In one instance, while on a video call with a user, we watched as a five minute change to one script turned into a two hour debugging marathon involving more than half a dozen scripts. The only folks who didn't have errors after making the change had actually recognized deployment as a significant issue and built their own system for it. Systems, so significant in the amount of time they took to build that they were given names and teams to maintain them. However, those systems were tied to their company's specific architecture and tool chain.

The heart of the problem is that despite articles to the contrary, containers and microservices have dependencies. Some dependencies are simple. For instance, some software still have start order dependencies. Others require configuration differences based on the environment they're running in. Still other require logging in and executing commands after startup. Some dependencies you create yourself. As an example, changing an API requires updates to both the providing and calling services. You might require all updates to be backward compatible, but that's just moving the work to what may be an even more complicated arena. Lastly, what happens when something fails? How do you find out what failed? How do you get back to a functional state?

Despite mounting evidence we didn't initially recognize the pattern. One day over lunch, as the discussion turned from VCTR to deployment issues we realized we'd seen similar problems before when we first tackled cloud deployment. Furthermore, we knew we could solve this. We decided to build a continuous deployment system.

Lessons Learned
We obviously learned a ton about what not to do when setting up a new containerized application. Here's our conclusion of the good and bad of containers, microservices and DevOps:

The good

  • Containers, though not perfect, have a rich enough ecosystem of tools to be used in production.
  • Microservices architectures are great but don't try to make everything stateless.
  • DevOps is the new norm, but you need to go beyond just assigning an engineer the title or merging the folks onto a single team. Ops must take on a new role defining use cases and Dev must embrace Ops.
  • Get your tool chain in place from the start. We tried to hack our deployments and as such didn't see the problem for what it was until we were knee deep in it.

The bad

  • Deployment remains hard because it's where software meets the real world.
  • Deployment requires a system once you get past a few containers. If you don't adopt one, you're going to end up building one - whether you realize it or not.
  • Scripts work fine for small apps that don't get updated often, but aren't up to the task for continuous deployment for apps that contain more than a few containers or microservices, especially those that are updated frequently.

skopos1.png


The Result - Continuous Deployment System

We identified key challenge patterns that both ourselves and others faced during deployment and turned them into solutions. One important difference to the other deployment systems we had seen was that we made sure to build for varied environments and architectures. We didn't want this tool to just work for us or rather just the current pattern we were working in. We needed a true system to grow with us. Here are some of the main requirements of our Continuous Deployment system:

  • Integrate with popular tool chain elements
  • Recognize code and architecture updates
  • Provide for identifying dependencies
  • Provide for various operating environments
  • Automatically deploy authorized updates to operating environments
  • Automatically correct for common errors to return proper operation
  • Provide meaningful logs and error messages
  • Be operable from either UI, API or completely autonomously

We built this deployment system and it's now deploying VCTR on a regular basis. It's also in production at InnoScale and being tested by a handful of DevOps teams who felt the same pain as we did. We're offering the system for free to teams for up to 15 containers.

To learn more about Skopos - our continuous deployment system visit http://datagridsys.com/skopos/.

DevOps at Cloud Expo taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world.

Download Show Prospectus ▸ Here

The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long development cycles that produce software that is obsolete at launch. DevOps may be disruptive, but it is essential.

DevOps at Cloud Expo will expand the DevOps community, enable a wide sharing of knowledge, and educate delegates and technology providers alike. Recent research has shown that DevOps dramatically reduces development time, the amount of enterprise IT professionals put out fires, and support time generally. Time spent on infrastructure development is significantly increased, and DevOps practitioners report more software releases and higher quality. Sponsors of DevOps at Cloud Expo will benefit from unmatched branding, profile building and lead generation opportunities through:

  • Featured on-site presentation and ongoing on-demand webcast exposure to a captive audience of industry decision-makers.
  • Showcase exhibition during our new extended dedicated expo hours
  • Breakout Session Priority scheduling for Sponsors that have been guaranteed a 35 minute technical session
  • Online advertising in SYS-CON's i-Technology Publications
  • Capitalize on our Comprehensive Marketing efforts leading up to the show with print mailings, e-newsletters and extensive online media coverage.
  • Unprecedented PR Coverage: Editorial Coverage on DevOps Journal
  • Tweetup to over 75,000 plus followers
  • Press releases sent on major wire services to over 500 industry analysts.

For more information on sponsorship, exhibit, and keynote opportunities, contact Carmen Gonzalez by email at events (at) sys-con.com, or by phone 201 802-3021.

@DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, Santa Clara Convention Center, CA, and is co-located with the 21st International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world.

@DevOpsSummit  2017 Silicon Valley
(October 31 - November 2, 2017, Santa Clara Convention Center, CA)

@DevOpsSummit 2018 New York 
(June 12-14, 2018, Javits Center, Manhattan)

With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing Cloud strategies, now is the perfect time to attend 21st Cloud Expo, October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, CA, and June 12-14, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is on the right path to Digital Transformation.

Track 1. Enterprise Cloud | Cloud-Native
Track 2.
Big Data | Analytics
Track 3. Internet of Things | IIoT | Smart Cities

Track 4. DevOps | Digital Transformation (DX)

Track 5. APIs | Cloud Security | Mobility

Track 6.
AI | ML | DL | Cognitive
Track 7.
Containers | Microservices | Serverless
Track 8. FinTech | InsurTech | Token Economy

Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo 2017 Silicon Valley
(October 31 - November 2, 2017, Santa Clara Convention Center, CA)

Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo 2018 New York 
(June 12-14, 2018, Javits Center, Manhattan)

Download Show Prospectus ▸ Here

Every Global 2000 enterprise in the world is now integrating cloud computing in some form into its IT development and operations. Midsize and small businesses are also migrating to the cloud in increasing numbers.  

Companies are each developing their unique mix of cloud technologies and services, forming multi-cloud and hybrid cloud architectures and deployments across all major industries. Cloud-driven thinking has become the norm in financial services, manufacturing, telco, healthcare, transportation, energy, media, entertainment, retail and other consumer industries, and the public sector.

Cloud Expo is the single show where technology buyers and vendors can meet to experience and discus cloud computing and all that it entails. Sponsors of Cloud Expo will benefit from unmatched branding, profile building and lead generation opportunities through:

  • Featured on-site presentation and ongoing on-demand webcast exposure to a captive audience of industry decision-makers.
  • Showcase exhibition during our new extended dedicated expo hours
  • Breakout Session Priority scheduling for Sponsors that have been guaranteed a 35-minute technical session
  • Online advertising in SYS-CON's i-Technology Publications
  • Capitalize on our Comprehensive Marketing efforts leading up to the show with print mailings, e-newsletters and extensive online media coverage.
  • Unprecedented PR Coverage: Editorial Coverage on Cloud Computing Journal.
  • Tweetup to over 75,000 plus followers
  • Press releases sent on major wire services to over 500 industry analysts.

For more information on sponsorship, exhibit, and keynote opportunities, contact Carmen Gonzalez by email at events (at) sys-con.com, or by phone 201 802-3021.

The World's Largest "Cloud Digital Transformation" Event

@CloudExpo | @ThingsExpo 2017 Silicon Valley
(Oct. 31 - Nov. 2, 2017, Santa Clara Convention Center, CA)

@CloudExpo | @ThingsExpo 2018 New York 
(June 12-14, 2018, Javits Center, Manhattan)

Full Conference Registration Gold Pass and Exhibit Hall ▸ Here

Register For @CloudExpo ▸ Here via EventBrite

Register For @ThingsExpo ▸ Here via EventBrite

Register For @DevOpsSummit ▸ Here via EventBrite

Sponsorship Opportunities

Sponsors of Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo will benefit from unmatched branding, profile building and lead generation opportunities through:

  • Featured on-site presentation and ongoing on-demand webcast exposure to a captive audience of industry decision-makers
  • Showcase exhibition during our new extended dedicated expo hours
  • Breakout Session Priority scheduling for Sponsors that have been guaranteed a 35 minute technical session
  • Online targeted advertising in SYS-CON's i-Technology Publications
  • Capitalize on our Comprehensive Marketing efforts leading up to the show with print mailings, e-newsletters and extensive online media coverage
  • Unprecedented Marketing Coverage: Editorial Coverage on ITweetup to over 100,000 plus followers, press releases sent on major wire services to over 500 industry analysts

For more information on sponsorship, exhibit, and keynote opportunities, contact Carmen Gonzalez (@GonzalezCarmen) today by email at events (at) sys-con.com, or by phone 201 802-3021.

Secrets of Sponsors and Exhibitors ▸ Here
Secrets of Cloud Expo Speakers ▸ Here

All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors - connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades.

With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing Cloud strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @CloudExpo@ThingsExpo, October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, CA, and June 12-4, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is on the right path to Digital Transformation.

Delegates to Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo will be able to attend 8 simultaneous, information-packed education tracks.

There are over 120 breakout sessions in all, with Keynotes, General Sessions, and Power Panels adding to three days of incredibly rich presentations and content.

Join Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo conference chair Roger Strukhoff (@IoT2040), October 31 - November 2, 2017, Santa Clara Convention Center, CA, and June 12-14, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, for three days of intense Enterprise Cloud and 'Digital Transformation' discussion and focus, including Big Data's indispensable role in IoT, Smart Grids and (IIoT) Industrial Internet of Things, Wearables and Consumer IoT, as well as (new) Digital Transformation in Vertical Markets.

Financial Technology - or FinTech - Is Now Part of the @CloudExpo Program!

Accordingly, attendees at the upcoming 21st Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo October 31 - November 2, 2017, Santa Clara Convention Center, CA, and June 12-14, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, will find fresh new content in a new track called FinTech, which will incorporate machine learning, artificial intelligence, deep learning, and blockchain into one track.

Financial enterprises in New York City, London, Singapore, and other world financial capitals are embracing a new generation of smart, automated FinTech that eliminates many cumbersome, slow, and expensive intermediate processes from their businesses.

FinTech brings efficiency as well as the ability to deliver new services and a much improved customer experience throughout the global financial services industry. FinTech is a natural fit with cloud computing, as new services are quickly developed, deployed, and scaled on public, private, and hybrid clouds.

More than US$20 billion in venture capital is being invested in FinTech this year. @CloudExpo is pleased to bring you the latest FinTech developments as an integral part of our program, starting at the 21st International Cloud Expo October 31 - November 2, 2017 in Silicon Valley, and June 12-14, 2018, in New York City.

@CloudExpo is accepting submissions for this new track, so please visit www.CloudComputingExpo.com for the latest information.

Speaking Opportunities

The upcoming 21st International @CloudExpo@ThingsExpo, October 31 - November 2, 2017, Santa Clara Convention Center, CA, and June 12-14, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY announces that its Call For Papers for speaking opportunities is open.

Submit your speaking proposal today! ▸ Here

About SYS-CON Media & Events
SYS-CON Media (www.sys-con.com) has since 1994 been connecting technology companies and customers through a comprehensive content stream - featuring over forty focused subject areas, from Cloud Computing to Web Security - interwoven with market-leading full-scale conferences produced by SYS-CON Events. The company's internationally recognized brands include among others Cloud Expo® (@CloudExpo), Big Data Expo® (@BigDataExpo), DevOps Summit (@DevOpsSummit), @ThingsExpo® (@ThingsExpo), Containers Expo (@ContainersExpo) and Microservices Expo (@MicroservicesE).

Cloud Expo®, Big Data Expo® and @ThingsExpo® are registered trademarks of Cloud Expo, Inc., a SYS-CON Events company.

More Stories By Stefana Muller

Stefana is a DevOps expert bringing almost 20 years experience delivering enterprise software to the Fortune 1000. Currently Vice President at Datagrid Systems, she works with software and application developers to help them move from periodic releases to rapid deployment. Prior to Datagrid, Stefana spent 16 years with CA Technologies running global software product lines in security, cloud, agile development and testing technology. As a Sr Director, Product at CA, Stefana lead, CA Service Virtualization to #1 in market-share and revenue. She’s transformed teams from waterfall development to Agile and worked with hundreds of teams to help them move to a DevOps culture.

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