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Modern Applications and Map Camp – find out more from the Serverless Craic

Reading Time: 9 minutes
Dave, Mark and Mike continue their discussion on Serverless and Map Camp 2021 including Wardley Mapping and looking further at cloud computing.

Modern Applications

Dave Anderson 

There’s a focus on modern applications and engineers. If you’re using the cloud than you need to use it the proper way.  There’s a wee clash now, between what the cloud is offering and the capabilities and skills that engineers need to have. AWS had a Summit a few years ago on modern applications.

Mark McCann 

Yeah, Modern Applications Day.

Dave Anderson 

Yeah, that was a cracking event. I think it’s really interesting to see the language that AWS are starting to use. They’re moving away from containers and microservices and functions, and they’re just talking about modern applications. And trying to bring together a lot of technologies, which I think is brilliant, because there’s always a an unholy war between Technology A and Technology B. But they’re trying to lift it up a level.  I made a real pest of myself, when we were going to the Cloud, by asking why are we doing this? And then you optimise for that. And there’s always a number of different reasons among different personnel in the company and executive. So I thought this was an idea to explore by talking about drivers for modernising applications, right across teams, from the CIO, the CSO and Security, to the VP of Big Data, and then the VP of Infrastructure and Ops.  The CIO is looking for productivity drive to own customer experience and prove that. The CSO obviously has Security and Compliance on a global scale. The Data VP is about ML, data transformation and getting data tightened.  And Infrastructure is looking at Scale, Supply Chain, Vendor Consolidation  and Cost Reduction.

Mark McCann 

It’s back to talking about ‘the why?’. AWS are getting a lot better at understanding the needs of their users. It’s not just: ‘here is some shiny tech!’ They’re better at articulating the needs, like we have in this image here, which is good to see.

Mike O’Reilly 

I think it was you, Mark, that was talking about with ‘the environment for success’? You look at some of these reasons for modern applications and a lot of that is applied at a fairly high level within an organisation. We need to leverage the Cloud’s capabilities with regards to Security and Compliance because these guys are experts in that field. Therefore, we’re transitioning that responsibility up, so it’s less on the individual squad. So again, we’re getting benefit there. You know, agility, staff productivity, like being able to provision stuff rapidly, creates an environment for success.  These are things that apply to different sorts of levels going down into the application level as well.  I just want to reinforce the point you made earlier: ‘Serverless is

Mark McCann 

better, it’s not easier.’

Mike O’Reilly 

So as you shift to the Cloud, and can start to leverage those cloud native characteristics of modern applications, there’s a lot that teams need to absorb. It’s a different mindset. You have to understand the Security approach and you have got to understand how scaling works. You do see teams rushing in and wanting to do multi tenet and multi region architectures.  But you have to take your time.  It’s there when you need to leverage it. There’s a lot more that ‘shifts left’ into the squad.  That’s the other dimension that you have got to keep an eye on.

Mark McCann 

The full stack just got a lot bigger and the cognitive burden that that entails has exploded for our teams.

Dave Anderson 

Yeah, you offload stuff, but you have to do a lot more.

Mike O’Reilly 

That goes back to needing a certain type of organisation that has psychological safety and supports that continuous learning culture, because you will make mistakes with modern applications. But you can quickly correct them, if you’re following recommended practices.  And that’s the momentum that’s baked into the Value Flywheel concept.

Mark McCann 

Observability and productivity have got to be measured differently for modern applications. Because you could spend an entire day just reading docs, or experimenting with stuff to make a one line change. But if you’ve delivered business impact by delivering value and following well architected practices and principles, then that’s way more productive than somebody doing 10,000 lines of code in a day, and not thinking about the bigger picture.

Dave Anderson 

Yeah, it’s definitely bigger picture thing.  There’s a lot of challenges that people have around slowness and tools but they’re solved in a different way in modern development.  I think a lot of people just haven’t, I don’t want to say they haven’t educated themselves, but it’s moving so fast, it’s hard to keep up.  A lot of the traditional material doesn’t doesn’t talk about this stuff. We’ve had to learn this stuff the hard way, by making mistakes and realising that you’re being stupid.  It’s taken a long time with a lot of books read and talks watched, etc.

Mark McCann 

The term we like to use is ‘flow efficiency’.  These challenges across the top here, impact your flow efficiencies, they impact the flow of value to your customers, end users and your business. The more modern application techniques, processes and practices (we’ve learned the hard way), help improve the time to value and the flow efficiency.  They remove those impediments from your developer’s life. It is continuous problem prevention, because this stuff changes every day. It’s a full time job keeping abreast of it.

Mike O’Reilly 

Tying it back to mapping and that Wardley map, you don’t stare at 2030 and go from runtime to serverless. Modern applications and symptoms of these inertia points are described on the previous slide. Removal of those inertia points to allow this emergent practice are described on that modern applications slide. That’s a perfect example of making the map real. For example, a developer waiting on infrastructure being provisioned because it’s on prem, and somebody in Ops has to go and do a bunch of related tasks.

Emily Freeman, AWS on The Serverless Edge
Emily Freeman, AWS. Author of Author of DevOps for Dummies | Curator of 97 Things Every Cloud Engineer Should Know.

Mark McCann 

Emily Freeman did a great talk at this event, as well, around rethinking the software development lifecycle. There are huge overlaps with the way we think about the value flywheel, well architected, empowering and enabling teams and the environment for success and what she’s starting to propose for modern applications.

Dave Anderson 

Let’s step right back, to the Agile Manifesto signed in 2000/2001. We went a certain way around how to write software. I think there’s another sea change coming. And there’s a lot of people starting to talk about a different way of creating software. People like John Cutler and a lot of the ‘product lead’ stuff and modern applications.  There’s a lot of people starting talking this way.  But remember when the manifesto signed, it took some people another 15 years to click on.  A lot of transformation only happened in 2015/2016. This is going to be the same. If someone comes out and signs a modern application manifesto next week, it could be 2035 before people start looking at it especially big companies. So there’s an awfully long tail on this. So the fact that people see a shift now, but aren’t quite sure how to describe it, I think, that is normal. It’ll be a rallying point where people say, ‘Yes, that’s what it is!’. I don’t think it’s containers or serverless. That’s not going to be what it’s called. But who knows?

Mike O’Reilly 

That would be a podcast or discussion in itself in terms of what’s changing for modern applications.  But you’re definitely seeing more emphasis on value and understanding direction and why, which is a dimension that probably could be looked at with agile and Kotler and co. are masters of that.

Mark McCann 

Teams are now able to go fast. But they’re not going fast in a sustainable way. They’re fast in a way that will blow up in their face at some point.

Dave Anderson 

If you have a highly empowered, high performance team, it’s really hard work to keep that team running. Because people are just rocking on with the pace. So it’s probably more effort to keep that team moving because they’re all highly empowered and driving impact, etc. But we could talk all day, maybe it’s for another discussion.

Mark McCann 

Absolutely. The whole ensuring strategic alignment with a fast moving high performance environment is not easy.

Dave Anderson 

Yeah, it’s harder to drive a racecar than drive a normal car, as you could hit the wall. What I found interesting at the DevOps Enterprise Summit and Map Camp was that a lot of people were asking how do you learn all this stuff? The answer is that I don’t know. We’ve been doing a lot of this stuff while working in jobs, reading loads of stuff and watching loads of stuff, and trying things. It’s about constantly keeping up to speed, thinking about things and challenging.

Mark McCann 

We’ve been very good at challenging each other and sharing with each other as well. We are on Twitter a lot and we send each other short messages back and forth. Have you seen this? Have you seen that? We watch events, when we get get a chance to. One benefit of the pandemic is that a lot more material is available to watch, asynchronously. You can watch it on YouTube when you have 10/15 minutes.  The pace of change is just incredible now, and it can be a full time job to keep abreast of the latest and greatest developments. That’s when mapping helps with that cognitive burden.  If you map out what’s important to you and your organisation/team, you can zero in on the key things you should be learning. What are the key new emerging areas that I think are relevant to what I’m trying to achieve? We just absorb all this stuff. We read books, listen podcasts, watch videos and share all the stuff. It’s a problem keeping cognitive burden low for teams. We’ll say stuff to our teams and they go: ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about’. We’ve all talked about it for maybe a week or two and then when you go to introduce it to your team, they are looking at you thinking ‘What are you on?’.

Mike O’Reilly 

Part of it is curiosity. We’ll knock out a map and have a conversation around what we think something looks like today and you can begin asking yourself some questions around ‘Well, where’s this moving to?’.  Once you get into that mapping mindset, you realise that standing still isn’t an option. It’s really understanding the why of position and movement. When you begin to have some of those conversations, you begin to spot the movement and focus in on why is that movement happening? You can focus the conversations on who’s able to describe movement. We talked about Agile and the DevOps stuff with Emily Freeman and what we are doing is validating what we’re observing by being able to tune in on who’s actually describing what we’re seeing. Dave, you mentioned mindsets earlier and there’s a degree of truth in that. If you’re curious, and you’re mapping out your landscape, position has meaning and you can ask yourself why is this here?

Dave Anderson 

The big thing is technical strategy. And then that’s not a good name for it.  It’s being able to think strategically about where your technology and business platform need to go. Adrian Cockcroft has a great phrase: ‘existence proof’. He says you get into a way of thinking about a movement or evolution of things, and you almost have a theory. And then there’s existence proof.  You have a theory or you think that this might happen. And then when you see it happen, and you go, ah, that’s the thing I thought would happen. People used to say to me that Wardley Mapping was like fortune telling. It’s not really. You are just plotting out a path. And then when something happens, you can say: “oh, yeah, that’s something coming now”. So with existence proof, Adrian talks about the fact that you think something’s going to happen, and then you start to see signs of it happening in the industry.

Mike O’Reilly 

It’s a real efficient way of framing a problem or a challenge and talking about it at length so you can cover an immense amount of ground. I think it’s a really efficient way of consuming information and fitting the picture in your head.  There’s a lot of truth in thinking in that way. I definitely agree with ‘existence proof’. That was on a talk you had with Adrian.

Mark McCann 

I think one of the techniques to use is mindmaps to shortcut our cognitive load for something we find useful or interesting.  If there’s some content that we find that we’re going back to again, and again, we’ll create a mind map of it, so we can shortcut to some of the pertinent areas that are relevant to the context we find ourselves in. All three of us create mindmaps, we share them with each other, and we keep them available for others, for example, our well architected mindmap. Here’s the questions that can rapidly put context into your head when you’re doing a review or whatever, right? So lower the burden a little bit.

Dave Anderson 

It’s like Service Design: design, diverge, converge or harvest and synthesise or dump everything down then make sense of it.  There’s a couple of different patterns like that. But anyway, sure, we’re nearly out of time though.

Mike O’Reilly 

Sorry, just one last point on the mind maps, just start a movement to call the mind graphs.

Dave Anderson 

You can raise that with Mr. Simon Wardley/Mr. Map!

Mark McCann 

Are we actually allowed in the mapping community if we call them mind maps, I don’t know?

Dave Anderson 

In fairness, he always says he’s just waiting for someone to make them better. Away you go, Mike, you can fight that battle,  we’ll be behind me you all the way.  So that’s the craic. Our blog is on theserverlessedge.com where we put a lot of writing. We’re @ServerlessEdge on Twitter and The Serverless Edge on LinkedIn. We’re writing a book about this stuff with IT Revolution, due out next year in 2022. So subscribe to the channel or follow on @ServerlessEdge. Twitter’s probably the best place where we’ll put everything out. Any closing thoughts?

Mark McCann 

No, it’s amazing how much stuff happens in a couple of weeks.

Dave Anderson 

Yes, my head’s constantly sore. All right. Thank you. Bye bye.

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