DevOps Sean Hull Interview

Server Monitoring, The Cloud, and the DevOps Movement: Interview with Sean Hull

Kyle Claypool Insights for Dev Managers

The DevOps movement is filled to the brim with folks who, put simply, know their stuff. They realize the potential to integrate wildly talented teams to produce more efficient results than ever before. One of biggest reasons a DevOps approach works is correcting the glaring lack of meaningful communication between developers and operations.

More and more quality DevOps resources are popping up, giving readers (and listeners) real insight into how a company can integrate proven DevOps solutions. We run across many talented writers and speakers. We wanted to know what other professionals using a DevOps approach were experiencing. So, we decided to spark some conversation.

Every couple of weeks we’ll sit down with a DevOps, Web Security, or Cloud expert and give you the insight you want, without searching through hundreds of articles.

First up is Sean Hull. Sean is a technology consultant for iHeavy and simply, “Makes websites go.” Let’s dive right in!

Can you tell us about the most interesting web scalability project you’ve been a part of? (Number of servers, data/traffic being handled, etc.)

“I’m currently working on The Hollywood Reporter, which handles north of 75 million unique visitors per month.  There are about 10 web nodes, 3 MySQL database servers and various caching & search servers behind the scenes as well.  It’s all built on Drupal/LAMP.  We’re using Percona 5.5 for MySQL”

What tools do you recommend to streamline server management and deployment?

“For large deployments chef can be great for automation.  We’re using a sort of hybrid approach with a physical datacenter and additional servers with pinup in AWS.  We can scale our physical datacenter elastically using a VPC or virtual private network to Amazon.”

What is your opinion of the major cloud providers? I.e. Amazon’s AWS, Windows Azure, others.

“No opinion on Azure.

Amazon is a phenomenal break from the past with respect to infrastructure and datacenter evolution.  On-demand computing offers great benefits, efficient use of computing, and less friction to scaling.  That said there are a lot of new challenges around automation, SLAs and failure, redundancy, security, privacy and so forth.”

Server monitoring is obviously important for high-volume websites. What tools do you recommend for the enterprise? What about for cash-strapped startups?

“Nagios for monitoring, cacti for trend and analysis.”

What’s your take on agile development and DevOps in large organizations?

“At times new movements in computing take on the character of fashion trends.  Before agile there was object oriented programming.  Everyone thought it would change the world.  But before OOP good programmers would use libraries and organize code in similar ways.

Yes I think Agile can make great strides to speed up deployments & reduce issues over older waterfall method, but each organization has to make decisions based on their internal culture, and what the team is ready and able to adopt. ”

What are some of the biggest challenges a traditional organization will face in shifting to DevOps? I.e. resistance from people in Dev, Ops, or executive management?

“As developers we think of adding functionality.  Our focus is on what an application does, and answering to business units who require a new feature.  Here we’re driven by urgent needs from users & dictates of business requirements.

As operations teams, we’re tasked with long term stability.  We think of how code will live, how databases will grow, and how to manage code that has been complete and delivered 2 years ago.

The former fosters change, the latter resists change.  As devs become more mature, they start to see the bigger picture and can learn caution.  Ops also need to be open, and learn to bend at times, embrace the change to makes startups grow and accelerate.  Teamwork and communication are key.  Less siloing and even a bit of moonlighting from both departments to the other on occasion.”

Sean is a technology consultant, small business owner, speaker, and author. His coding background led him into the consulting industry where he fulfills his passion for helping businesses succeed. You can read Sean’s work on his blog, or in the book Oracle and Open Source, which he co-authored.

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