Devopsgirls 2.0

Only 6 months has passed since our inaugural DevOps Girls bootcamp and on Saturday 12th of August 2017 we had the pleasure of running the second edition. For those new to the bootcamp: it is a free event for women interested in learning more about devops, run by a community of passionate volunteers.

The idea started with a realisation that unless we are proactive about diversity in tech and we make meaningful contributions, it’s going to be hard to move the needle on this. The aim of the event is not only to train women but also to create a community of like-minded people who can provide support to each other.

Our first bootcamp went extremely well. From the moment it finished all the organisers and collaborators, apart from being exhausted, were already thinking: when are we doing this again? And of course, we did. We decided to run another introduction to AWS, iterating on the lessons that we learned in the first edition.

The team of coaches received extra support with Mai, one of the attendees in the first event, joining us this time as a coach; along with a group of external coaches who had expressed their interest to collaborate. For me this is a great sign of a growing community not only in their members but also in key supporters.

And – we now had a new logo! Thanks to the winner of our popup logo competition we can show our support to DevOps Girls on the web, laptops, t-shirts and even our walls.

Devopsgirls logo

Once again we had an impressive response to the call for participants and we ended up with 30 motivated women keen to learn about devops, and only winter colds got in the way of a full house. Instructions on how to get ready were sent to everybody in advance, including how to enter the slack channel and prepare their laptops, and info about the logistics of the event. After months of preparation we were ready to do it again.

It’s Saturday morning and after a few sips of our favourite coffee/$hot-beverage we kicked off with a set of introductory talks to complete the warm up for the bootcamp. Co-organiser Theresa welcomed all participants, among whom were a wide variety of skills and backgrounds, including other women-in-tech organisers such as PyLadies. Leah then introduced us to the topic of Women in Tech beyond coding, then Preeti talked about learning and development and taking charge of one’s career and finally JC gave us a quick intro to the devops world.

After a short break we were all ready to get our hands dirty with AWS. The content, broken into different modules, starts with an introduction to EC2 and continues to building a highly available WordPress deployment using load balancers, RDS, etc. These cover all aspects of running services in the cloud as well as how to automate them. Our masters of ceremonies, John Contad and Mei Brough-Smith, guided us in our first steps towards the clouds.

But they were not alone—following the example of similar events like Rails Girls we had a big group of coaches willing to proactively help and clarify anything for the participants, as well as sharing their experience if anyone wanted to go deeper or wider in any of the topics. There was no lack of whiteboarding and sharing those war stories that we all love.

The bootcamp is designed for beginners and we tried to test this by having Laura from REA’s facilities team to take on the challenge of completing the bootcamp with Leah as her personal coach. But for those attendees who were more advanced we also wanted to challenge them to go the extra mile, including JC’s last minute Cloudformation challenge, or by helping other people in their groups who were having more trouble to complete the tasks.

Personally as a second time coach the experience was just fantastic; especially every interaction with our avid learners. Being faced with a myriad of questions and problems became an opportunity to coach the attendees on how to resolve them. Most of us are used to working with people who are quite familiar with AWS in the day to day basics. But when you are working with people who are new to a discipline, you have to be very conscious of what they don’t know and try to fill in enough details for them to understand what’s happening without making too many assumptions about their existing knowledge. And then you jump to another person and another problem which requires you to reset and adjust your message.

To finish up the event Kate Deutscher gave us a few tips on “Where to go from here?”.This included a list of recommendations of online materials, events and communities to continue your journey after the bootcamp. Co-organiser Javier (that’s me!) closed off with a message to keep the community going, and growing. As a bonus we kept the Slack team we set up for the bootcamp as a space to exchange ideas and knowledge (https://devopsgirls.slack.com/).

If you are interested and can’t wait for the next edition, the bootcamp module has been open-sourced in https://github.com/DevOpsGirls/devopsgirls-bootcamp. Please feel free to use the content for your self-paced training or to send a pull request if you feel like contributing. You can also find us on Twitter, where we post updates about news, including upcoming and current events: https://twitter.com/devopsgirls.

Well, you may be thinking, that’s great but what now? To me this is just the beginning. REA has been an amazing incubator of this idea and have helped to make it a reality, in combination with the amazing effort and enthusiasm of all the organisers, presenters, sponsors (thanks AWS) and coaches.

But I challenge all of us: listen to the tech community out there. Do something beyond this. We have a mandate to provide better support to this community. If you are passionate about diversity in tech and devops culture/practices and you want to support this community, please let us know.

Static assets in an eventually consistent webapp deployment

The Problem

Deploying a high traffic website with zero downtime is a challenge – there’s a natural tradeoff between:

  • Performance and cacheability.
  • Getting updates versions of the application live.

The approach you use to manage your static assets plays a big role in this.

This post explains how we dealt with the challenges in our move from the data centre to a multi region highly available cloud-based architecture.

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Lean QA (aka QA Ops)

 

Developers have – with the advent of DevOps – been working more and more in Operations and Infrastructure. Testers however, have not.

Thus far, the testing personnel have been mostly or wholly assigned to application testing work. As SOFTWARE testers, we have only worked on software – and then mostly only on application software.

I pose the questions: What about infrastructure as code? Should that not be explicitly tested?

And: if Testers are meant to be testing the system, why then have they not explicitly been testing the whole system, infrastructure included?

I am going to make a case here for including QA in Operations and Infrastructure, by clarifying how I see the QA fitting in the DevOps world. Continue reading

AWS API Gateway, Lambda and Swagger

TL;DR

With this article you will be able to build

With

Building upon

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Create a full-stack serverless web-app with a single file

Serverless is one of the biggest buzzwords of these years, and the implementation of solutions based on such architecture has been boosted by the release of AWS Lambda. This post describes a little experiment I conducted to learn more about this technology. I wanted to define and deploy a fully functional web-app (both back-end and front-end) based on RESTful services with one single file. Continue reading