DevOps Monitoring & Metrics

How the hell do I know what’s going on?

I started writing this to talk about the headline and found myself descending into a rant about Auckland’s challenging geography, urban sprawl and third world public transportation. While that’s an interesting topic, it’s not where I intended to go with this piece. I’ll write about those another time, maybe. I am going to wander slightly off topic though, because it’s useful.

As a knowledge worker and business owner, my human interactions are mostly with clients over coffee, around a meeting room table, in front of a whiteboard or remotely with my team.

I also spend a lot of time working from home. Home being slightly rural and coastal, which doesn’t suck. However, the dog, the cats and my daughter’s bunnies aren’t exactly brilliant conversationalists. My wife’s eyes tend to glaze over when I start talking about technology. That is, when she doesn’t flat out tell me to go away. My daughter, who shows early signs of geekdom, is still a bit too young to keep up and has the attention span to prove it.

Meetups are an opportunity to talk to humans, who share my interests without the use of emojis or animated GIFs.

There are tons of great groups out there meeting and sharing. Because Auckland is quite spread out and challenging to get around, it can take a while to figure out where you can find more folks like you. is a pretty good spot to find some things, others are more elusive and exclusive.

Over the past few years I’ve attended dozens of user groups, dinners and meetups around the city. I’ve gotten quite a good return from my participation in the form of sanity, knowledge, new friends, colleagues and even the occasional client.

I’ve also seen some interesting groups rise and then fade off. Organisers have lives, their circumstances change, interest wanes, tech trends shift, etc. It seems to me that’s a bit unfortunate. Not that things change or people lose interest, but that these communities are ephemeral. It makes it difficult for new folks to engage in a city that’s rapidly growing. It makes finding out what’s going on, a challenge.

That brings me back to the intended subject. The use of abstracted infrastructure and services that are provided ephemerally and on-demand means finding out what is going on, is getting harder. It’s an ongoing battle.

When an organisation adopts DevOps practices, and some of the technologies that make it work, things speed up. Instrumentation is critical. You’ve got to put mechanisms in place to collect metrics, monitor them and alert or trigger events on those metrics. Otherwise, you’re flying an A380 into 120kph crosswinds during a snowstorm, trying to land at Wellington Airport, with no lights. It can probably be done by somebody, but it ain’t going to be fun for the passengers.

Instrumentation enables you to make tweaks and experiment with different configurations, tools and processes. Because you’re able to measure the impact of change, you can focus time and energy on the things that deliver value to the business. After a bit of a burst in this space over the past few years, there are some excellent tools for doing this. Some are relatively simple to get started with, but you do need to understand your organisation’s requirements around Data Retention, Data Anonymization and Data Sovereignty.

I could give you a few examples of things that went horribly wrong because somebody hadn’t put in enough instrumentation. Burning through $18k in 10 minutes on an “own goal” comes to mind. However, getting back to the ephemeral communities, I have a better idea.

One way to extend the life of these communities is to ensure continuity and participation. We go to these events, and in return, usually get something out of them, even if it is just a free slice and something to drink. Free beer and food is awesome, but somebody has to pay for it. Somebody has to organise the speakers or at least the venue.

The least we can do, as participants, is tell our friends and colleagues how awesome it is and try to drag along somebody new next time. Better yet, offer to help the organisers. If the meetup you enjoy seems to have gone quiet, reach out and offer to help organise the next one. We are the monitoring, alerting and metrics for these communities.

So, I’m committed to putting that into practice. If you’re keen for some insight on real world DevOps Monitoring & Metrics, here’s where to find it. One of my favourite meetups, Auckland Continuous Delivery, is covering just that topic Wednesday, March 29th at 6:00pm. Richard Paul, the organiser, has speakers from Orion Health, Xero and Fraedom lined up.

AO Labs, my company, is buying the beer and pizza. Yep, that’s a bit of a shameless plug, but it’s still free beer and pizza for you. This is going to be an awesome session, get out from behind that screen and join us.