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DevOps Enterprise Summit – our guide to the best bits

Reading Time: 12 minutes

We have started ‘Serverless Craic’ a series of regular short videos with Dave, Mark and Mike to give you the latest goings on in Serverless. In this first episode they share their best bits from DevOps Enterprise Summit 2021.

Transcript

Dave Anderson  

Hi folks, welcome to The Serverless Edge video. We’ve decided to start recording the three of us chatting, which is probably dangerous. My name is Dave Anderson, Technical Fellow at Bazaarvoice and author here at The Serverless Edge.

Mark McCann   

Yep. Mark McCann, also an author at The Serverless Edge. 

Mike O’Reilly  

Michael O’Reilly, still trying my arm at architecture at Globalisation Partners, and also a contributor for The Serverless Edge.

Dave Anderson  

Just figured we’d catch up and see what the craic has been this week. We’ve had a busy week this week. We all attended the DevOps Enterprise Summit in Vegas/virtual.

Devops enterprise summit

Mark McCann 

Yeah, unfortunately we didn’t get to go to Vegas.

Dave Anderson  

Although we were there in spirit! So it’s a good event. It’s the IT Revolution press event. Gene Kim is the Chair of the event (DevOps Enterprise Summit). I’ve been a few times over the years. It’s going from strength to strength, I must admit. It’s year six now, I think.

Mark McCann  

It’s definitely a very strong lineup of content and speakers. I’ve been blown away by the quality of some of the talks that I attended so yeah, it’s a very impressive lineup. It was a little bit daunting when we were asked to present in such an esteemed company. So it raised the bar a little bit for us.

Dave Anderson   

Yeah, and for anyone who hasn’t been to the (DevOps Enterprise Summit) conference, it’s usually on twice a year. It’s towards the end of the year or in October in the US, and there’s one in London, usually around June time. A lot of the leading DevOps and transformation thinkers and speakers are presenting ideas.  People like Jez Humble, Nicole Forsgren, Mik Kersten and Gene Kim himself and an endless list to John Wallace and others.

Mark McCann 

I think one of the things that really struck me was how practical and actionable a lot of the talks were and the guidance was.  There were people talking about their journey as they were going through their journey.  It wasn’t all shiny slides and consultants speak, it was all very real and very practical covering their stories of transformation and their embracing of DevOps. It was really good to see that it wasn’t sugar coated.  There were lots of ‘lessons learned’ there as well.

Mike O’Reilly  

Yeah, for a digital conference, you could tell there was a lot of organisation that went into it.  I think it did have that sort of conference feel to it.  You did have to go and get your schedule together.  I thought it was good that Slack was available with all the various tracks. And when you saw somebody you wanted to talk to or sit and watch the feedback or their talk, you could join that conversation with them, there and then which I thought was pretty good.  Even this morning, which was the day after, I picked a video that I wanted to watch as I didn’t get to it because I was working while it was running.  But I was able to go in and catch up on the questions and notes from the live session which I thought was an added advantage that I wasn’t expecting. So that was a very good experience.

Dave Anderson  

I think it was a good thing for us in Belfast, with it being in Vegas, meant that a lot of sessions were on in the evening.  Mike, did we go to the event in London three or four years ago? DevOps Enterprise London?

Mike O’Reilly  

No, I think it was the Web Summit that I was at in London.  I think you went over with a bunch of other engineers to the DevOps Enterprise Summit.

Dave Anderson  

I can’t remember.  The thing I thought was most impressive is that it felt like a physical event. Do you know what I mean? A lot of the expo was the same, you got the same people going.  What I like about this event is  that there’s a lot of seasoned practitioners in IT and technology. I talked to a bunch of people working for various companies like Nike, banks and the Air Force. And there’s lots of leading industry companies and very experienced architects and digital leaders. So it was a really good group of people, a great community.

Mark McCann  

It was very open and engaging, everyone was very engaging and willing to contribute. And we saw that when we did the Lean Coffee, but also the Slack Channels with the back and forward and people being able to ask for guidance, help or advice, so it was very nice.

Mike O’Reilly  

Here’s a test for the two of you. So you did your talk, which you prepped ahead of time, but did you get nervous before the talk was about to go on? When you talk at a conference, you’re sitting there and you’re just eager to get going and get started.  Did you have the same feelings?

Mark McCann   

It’s a different nervousness.  It is not the same as when you’re getting ready to speak and you need to deliver so you really have an adrenaline rush. But you’re still curious about how this is going to land, you know, what questions are we going to get? And it’s funny, beforehand, I was prepping all my mind maps. And just making sure we had a lot of the source material that led into the presentation at hand, in case somebody asked a really tricky question about one of the elements of the flywheel or one of the points. So there was more of that prepping for what type of questions we are going to get? I wonder if this is going to land? How’s it going to resonate with this audience? And thankfully, our worst fears were not realised. It seemed to go pretty well. 

Dave Anderson    

There’s performance anxiety and there’s content anxiety. I didn’t get any performance anxiety.  Performance anxieties are like what happens if I fall off the stage? You actually physically feel nervous, then content anxiety is am I going to be eaten up by the crowd because this is crap, so I got content anxiety, which I think you always get, you get imposter syndrome.

Mike O’Reilly  

Even at the end of it, I was feeling that I’m sure you guys feel okay. You know when you get a talk done and you’re thinking: “okay, that’s done!”. It’s almost a release that you get.  I wasn’t obviously doing the talk, but I certainly felt it. You know, and it was kind of good to get it there. And I thought the reception was really good too.  I enjoyed it.

Dave Anderson   

That was our first talk previewing some of the content of the book we’ve been working on for IT Revolution Press. That book is due out next year. 

Mike O’Reilly    

The official title of the talk is ‘Using Wardley Mapping with the Value Flywheel for combined business & technology evolution’.  Very fancy!

Dave Anderson    

It was our first talk about the Value Flywheel. We explained that. And then we did a quick Wardley Map, just to show the technique in action. The Value Flywheel has four stages: Clarity of Purpose, which is the first phase – do you know what you’re doing? The second phase is Challenge – do you have the right environment to challenge your idea like psychological safety, etc. The third, is Next Best Action – what’s the next right thing, serverless first, reducing developer friction. And then fourth is: Long Term Value, sustainability, problem prevention and visualising the flywheel for technology and business. So we explain that. And then for the craic, we did a Wardley Map of a virtual conference, which I think was accurate.

Mark McCann    

We did it to bring it to life. We were actually talking beforehand about features like ‘speaker chat’. And a lot of the things we had in that map were real.  We felt it during the event itself. We weren’t a million miles away even though it (the map) was just there to be a vehicle to explain the process. But yeah, it was pretty good.

Dave Anderson    

Yeah, and forget anyone that wants to know, the talks are all pre recorded. So we recorded a few weeks ahead of the event. We’ve written up that talk on the blog. That’s out now and we’ll share links in the show notes afterwards. Mark and I also facilitated two Lean Coffees. One on Wednesday and one on Thursday. I love Lean Coffee as it is a brilliant format. And the theme of those Lean Coffee’s was ‘Building internal capability, not consultancy dependency’, which was a good topic that created lots of vibrant debate, which was great.

Mark McCann    

It was very good and it resonates strongly with us because they are the things that we have been building. Those internal capabilities within our organisations. So it’s something we have a lot of insight on and a lot of scar tissue as a result!. So it was very, very good to be able to engage with the other attendees at the Lean Coffee. And knock about some of these ideas. Lean Coffee is such a fantastic format for just sparking ideas and getting people to engage and talk about their experiences. And the return on investment from a Lean Coffee, is off the scale.  It is just one of the best mechanisms for really opening people up and getting real engaging and meaningful conversations going on. So it’s really good.

Mike O’Reilly    

Now, I don’t know if it’s just the talks  that I was tuning into, but I definitely thought there was a strong theme at this conference (DevOps Enterprise Summit), around value streams and flow efficiency. And, you know, Mik Kersten was talking about that, the CTO for ‘Tasktop’. And even at that session, you know, at that Lean Coffee session, we were talking with BMK Lakshminarayanan, he was a Value Stream Architect for the, I think it’s the ‘Bank of New Zealand’, I think he was from.  He was all about flow efficiency and flow optimization.  But again, just kind of really getting introduced to things like Wardley Mapping, I thought, Wardley Mapping was very complimentary. And so almost like a nice iteration on that which was kind of good.  So I definitely think we brought a bit of value there. It will be good to see what happens next year, if Wardley Mapping starts to penetrate a lot more of the talks and and you would predict that it would, you know,

Dave Anderson   

There was definitely interest in it. A lot of people were interested, a lot of people heard of it, we’re aware of it, but didn’t know how to do it. So there was massive interest.

Mark McCann    

In the talks, I’ve seen some of the challenges and the continuous evolution towards more product centricity, towards more meaningful work and enhanced culture. Those socio-technical things are starting to permeate through a lot of the talks and a lot of the conversations on Slack Channels and Lean Coffees.  So you can see this continued evolution towards more aligned, more product aligned, more meaningful and much more customer centric type work, from traditional hosting organisations through to product tech teams. They’re all sort of evolving towards the same sort of destination.

Dave Anderson  

Yeah, definitely. And remember, for the Lean Coffee, it was funny, because at the start of both sessions we were hunting consultants.  And then as we started talking, we realised maybe they’re not so bad. So we didn’t beat up on the consultants too much. We actually did have some consultants in the session, and they self admitted. But it was good craic. And like everything, the answer was usually ‘it depends’.

Mark McCann  

I got that ‘context dependency’ and ‘situational awareness’ were coming through. And a lot of the talks about using Wardley Maps for better situational awareness,  Northstar, value stream mapping, and all those processes and techniques help bring the context to bear. So whenever you say it depends on the context, you know, there’s now processes and techniques to help you get that context, which is exciting. 

Dave Anderson   

And there’s a really interesting pattern with the whole thing about ‘leaderless organisations’, or ‘leaderless leaders’.  It is that idea of Servant Leadership that you let the companies go. Within that ‘leaderless organisation’, that ‘next gen organisation’, people will use things like Wardley Mapping and Northstar to figure out where they’re going and they can supply their own context.  With traditional organisations, there’s a leader who gives the illusion of knowing what’s happening. Sometimes that’s true, but sometimes they don’t know what’s happening. So I think that is really interesting. With Simon Wardley’s study between traditional and next gen companies, you can see whether the practices are moving into next gen in some companies. So it was really interesting to see that.

Mike O’Reilly    

Yeah, and I think last night one of the sessions was good as we had a really good conversation around ubiquitous language, making sure everyone can understand and talk in the same way and understands what everyone else is saying.   You can tie that in with a lot of the ‘visibility’ that DevOps organisations are baking into what they do, which should give better decision making capabilities. And I thought that was actually pretty neat.  You’re starting to see a lot of organisations centred around value stream analysis, and also how important visibility is. I thought that was very present in a lot of the talks as well, which was good. 

Mark McCann   

I watched Liz Fong-Jones’s talk on ‘shifting left on production excellence with observability’. And you’re right, I think, getting that observability, that visibility across the entire, not only the technical spectrum, but also the business, the people and on the culture spectrum. And having much more insights into how everything is performing is massive. And there’s a great line: ‘production excellence is business excellence’. Observability is key to that, and people are using metrics in the right way now, not as a stick to beat teams with, but as a vehicle to help you improve your teams and organisations.  It’s great to see that maturity and that evolution.

Mike O’Reilly   

The other thing I noticed that was quite prevalent (and it is a DevOps Enterprise Summit conference so of course you will see this stuff), was SRE. And there were some cracking talks on SRE.  This is definitely something that you would need to invest in for an organisation that is moving fast. You know, a real solid SRE set up. And there’s a cracking talk there from a guy called Michael Winslow. He is the Senior Director of Software Engineering, for Comcast, he did a real cracking talk around SRE. And I was thinking, I’m going to go back and watch that talk and take some notes.

Mark McCann  

There was a ‘Chaos and reliability’ talk as well.  Something we’ve been big fans of is trying to introduce ‘continuous resiliency’. It was Courtney Nash and Troy Koss from Capital One who did a great talk around chaos, reliability and resiliency, and it’s all the stuff that we’ve been sort of pursuing with well architected and serverless.  It’s those characteristics to your solutions.  It’s one of those talks that I’ll go back and watch again.

Dave Anderson   

The quality of the talks is just incredible. There was a great one by Ron Westrum. He did a great podcast with Jean Kim, earlier in the year, so it’s great to see him talk about the famous Westrum organisational culture. He talks about three different culture types and about information flow and how it flows around the company. And he talks about generative, bureaucratic and pathological types.  So ‘pathological’ is a low flow of information. ‘Bureaucratic’ is medium.  But generative, which is like a learning organisation, has a high flow of information around the org. He talks about his experience of doing that which is brilliant.  It’s super interesting. 

Mike O’Reilly  

It was also good to see the Team Topology stuff penetrate a lot of the talks (at the DevOps Enterprise Summit).  So that’s obviously taken off. And there was one particular talk I never got to, but I’ve got it marked as they’re getting into the minimum viable platform concept which I think is pretty slick.

Mark McCann   

Even if they weren’t calling out Team Topologies directly or explicitly, they were starting to move that way. In some of the talks they were starting to break up into platform teams, product teams and streamlined teams. The thinking was going in that direction, whether they called it out explicitly or not.

Dave Anderson   

I plan to watch ‘The art of platform engineering’, which is a cool talk. There’s also a nice interview with Admiral John Richardson, who was a submarine commander for 30 years.  He was saying he’d been underwater for 11 years.  So he was talking about how a submarine is the ultimate distributed organisation.  You get your vision and you’re gone. You’re off into the sunset. You need to act right. There was great stuff he was saying about leadership and autonomous teams, etc. So it was really interesting to hear the stuff that he was saying. 

Mark McCann  

Now onto a security front.  Some of the talks I saw were about ‘shifting left and security’ and the evolution of the security department from being the ‘department of no’ to being a much more engaging and enabling function. John Wallace did a talk on devstack ops and that evolution.  But something that surprised me was that not many people were doing threat modelling. I think that’s something we would think that everyone knows, but it’s not widely practiced. 

Dave Anderson  

I was surprised by the lack of serverless. There weren’t a lot of talks on serverless (at the DevOps Enterprise Summit). 

Mark McCann   

I think it’s indicative of where people are up to and where their contexts are.  And what their heritage stacks are and where they are in their journey. So it’s, maybe not not too surprising. 

Dave Anderson 

But at the same time, it’s an event about culture, methods and practices, so it’s not really about technology, because there were a whole bunch of technologies that weren’t mentioned.  I think it’s all good, I’m just being a troublemaker, as usual. What I love about the DevOps Enterprise Summit, is they’re incredibly open about all the presentations . So there’s a GitHub repo with every presentation, both for this event this week, in October 2021 and every event. There’s been two events a year for the last five or six years.  So that’s 10 or 12 event’s worth of presentations submitted on a GitHub repo. That’s probably about half a million dollars worth of consultancy right there. Yeah, it’s huge value. You could just search, you know, anything that you’ll find some quality content. So we’ll share that link.

Mark McCann   

I totally agree. I think it’s just great people all around who are well organised, very slick and the platform was great. And just the openness of having the slides and videos afterwards is great.  I am going to have to go back and watch and read.  You just can’t do it all on the day because there’s so many parallel tracks. It’s a great community to be part of and they were very inviting too at the DevOps Enterprise Summit.

Dave Anderson  

Having attended previous events, I had joined the Slack channel. But they always had Slack Channels even for the physical events. But you get to stay on that Slack channel with around 5000 people so that even if you don’t go next year, you can still join in and follow along. So it builds a fantastic community. So that’s the craic then.  Is there anything else you guys want to say before we close out.

Mike O’Reilly   

No, nothing that you’ve already covered. I thought it was a really good event. So yeah, till the next time.

Mark McCann 

Absolutely. Alright, folks.

Dave Anderson  

Thanks very much. So we’ll put a bunch of links in the show notes. Remember to check out the blog, theserverlessedge.com. Follow us on Twitter @ServerlessEdge. And we’ll have another Friday rant coming along soon.

Mark McCann   

Alright folks, and the book is coming out next year. 

Dave Anderson   

Thanks very much.

Mike O’Reilly  

Bye Bye, guys.

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