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September 22, 2014By Ben Newton

Piercing the Fog in a Devops World

Fog on I-280

Two things still amaze me about the San Francisco Bay area two years on after moving here from the east coast – the blindingly blue, cloudless skies – and the fog. It is hard to describe how beautiful it is to drive up the spine of the San Francisco Peninsula on northbound I-280 as the fog rolls over the Santa Cruz mountains. You can see the fog pouring slowly over the peaks of the mountains, and see the highway in front of you disappear into the white, fuzzy nothingness of its inexorable progress down the valley. There is always some part of me that wonders what will happen to my car as I pass into the fog. But then I look at my GPS, know that I have driven this road hundreds of times, and assure myself that my house does still exist in there – somewhere.

The Viaduct

Now, I can contrast that experience with learning to drive in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Here’s the background – It’s only my second time behind the wheel, and my Mom takes me on this crazy stretch of road called the Viaduct. Basically, imagine a road hanging off the side of a mountain, with a sheer mountain side on the one side, and a whole lot of nothing on the other. Now, imagine that road covered in pea-soup fog with 10 ft visibility, and a line of a half dozen cars being led by a terrified teenager with white knuckled hands on the wheel of a minivan hoping he won’t careen off the side of the road to a premature death. Completely different experience.

So, what’s the difference between those two experiences. Well, 20 years of driving, and GPS for starters. I don’t worry about driving into the thick fog as I drive home because I have done it before, I know exactly where I am, how fast I am going, and I am confident that I can avoid obstacles. That knowledge, insight, and experience make all the difference between an awe-inspiring journey and a gut-wrenching nail-biter. This is really not that different from running a state of the art application. Just like I need GPS and experience to brave the fog going home, the difference between confidently innovating and delighting your customers, versus living in constant fear of the next disaster, is both driven by technology and culture. Here are some ways I would flesh out the analogy:

GPS for DevOps

An app team without visibility into their metrics and errors is a team that will never do world-class operations. Machine Data Analytics provides the means to gather the telemetry data and then provide that insight in real-time. This empowers App Ops and DevOps teams to move more quickly and innovate.

Fog Lights for Avoiding Obstacles

You can’t avoid obstacles if you can’t see them in time. You need the right real-time analytics to quickly detect issues and avoid them before they wreck your operations.

Experience Brings Confidence

If you have driven the road before, it is always increases confidence and speed. Signature-Based anomaly detection means that the time that senior engineers put in to classify previous events gives the entire team the confidence to classify and debug issues.

So, as you drive your Application Operations and DevOps teams to push your application to the cutting edge of performance, remember that driving confidently into the DevOps fog is only possible with the right kind of visibility.

Images linked from:

  • http://searchresearch1.blogspot.com/2012/09/wednesday-search-challenge-9512-view-of.html
  • http://www.blueridgerunners.org/LinnCove.jpg

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Ben Newton

Ben Newton

Ben is a veteran of the IT Operations market, with a two decade career across large and small companies like Loudcloud, BladeLogic, Northrop Grumman, EDS, and BMC. Ben got to do DevOps before DevOps was cool, working with government agencies and major commercial brands to be more agile and move faster. More recently, Ben spent 5 years in product management at Sumo Logic, and is now running product marketing for Operations Analytics at Sumo Logic. His latest project, Masters of Data, has let him combine his love of podcasts and music with his love of good conversations.

More posts by Ben Newton.

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