Where is DevOps right now? Here is what I took away from spending a couple days at DOD Austin 2015:
  • DOD Vets Skip 2016?
  • Shiny New vs Serious
  • Losers and Hubris
  • Containers as Wild West
  • Smartest Not So Smart?
  • No Mic for Boyd
  • Still Much Frontier

DOD Vets Skip 2016?

My first observation is my most surprising - some of the hardcore may consider skipping next year's Dev Ops Days?

There is a jealous minority of attendees like myself - jealous of their knowledge of what's coming down the technology pike. They can't stand to think that something new and shiny might come along and they don't know it first.

A significant number commented to me this year that there wasn't much new at this conference. Lots of great technology, but nothing heart stopping like the first Dev Ops Days - when you first realized that you don't have to take 3 weeks to provision a new hand built server in the data center.

Will the jealous core come again next year? Of course. But we'll think about skipping, first.

Shiny New vs The Serious

The lack of Shiny New Stuff was subplanted this year with serious, ponderous engineering implementations.

Consider this - the top three presentations - per my perspective - were all by security guys who started with the assumption that you wanted to do more than just automate, you actually wanted to consider the downstream consequences.

Nevermind that you're probably going to want to review these three sessions repeatedly on youtube, almost like a checklist. [we'll update this blog with links when they become available].

What's new and different about this from previous years is that the emphasis has shifted away from

  • "Look how much we can help the enterprise!"

to

  • "Look how thoughtful we need to be, now that we are automating our work!"

That's a big shift.

Losers and Hubris

Fortune 500 shops who can't change internally - these have always been my own shop's mainstay, so I always attend the inevitable silly breakouts about "How To Sell Devops Internally". This is like watching a death march, but you will always find the smartest attendees in these Open Spaces sessions. This year was no exception.

Large organizations, full of managers who are too smart to entertain an approach such as DevOps instead send their smartest engineers to this conference. These same engineers, in turn, return to the hubris of their employers, who will continue to resist every possible change. "We can't do anything like that!"

Dev Ops Days serves this group of engineers well, by providing Open Spaces for them to vent their frustrations and encourage them onward. If you regarded this part of Dev Ops Days as group therapy, you wouldn't be too far off the mark.

Containers as Wild West

I saw almost nothing real about containers in this entire conference, excepting a fake SmackDown between two good friends who pretended that there is an either/or choice between Containers and Configuration Management. This was like watching WWF, but it did get the crowd very excited.

There is a big money grab going on right now in Containers because everyone knows that Containers are going to be the next cool thing. But like any money grab, almost all the real issues are being ignored for a while, until the hype settles down. So you get all these fakey kinds of comparisons like "Configuration Management vs Containers" and the real issues of how to make it work are not even close to being settled.

My 2c only.

I could enumerate the course grain issues that were completely ignored, but I'll save that for another blog/rant.

Smartest Not So Smart?

I felt almost predatory on the second day's lunch - I carefully followed the two most interesting speakers to their lunch table, and sat down next to them. These guys were both security geniuses, compared to me anyway. Already at the table were a couple other brilliant speakers, all four are speakers on the national circuit.

I listened to their animated lunchtime discussion. Here's what I came away with. These guys had a lot more questions than they did answers. I even grilled them politely on containers, on message brokering with big data, areas that seem like really unsettled territory right now.

What I found was that there are a lot of open questions right now, and no one seems to know the answers outside their own silo. It's going to take years to settle out even some of the more course grain practices at the DevOps level. This portends well for future attendance.

No Mic for Boyd

DOD Organizer Boyd Hemphill needs no microphone. Not that this fact matters - he will grab one anyway. My suggestion is to remove the batteries from one microphone, and give it to him for his personal use during the conference. No one will even know that it isn't on.

We love you Boyd. This conference wouldn't be what it is without you.

Still Much Frontier

If there is a summary, what I learned from this DevOps Days is there is still much unsettled territory. It isn't like 3 years ago where everything was shiny and new. Some of the land grabs have taken place.

The key difference now is between a land grab and getting the settlers in and getting the territory populated. That's where we are right now.

See you next year.