What is it that I do?

I always have trouble explaining what I do.  I’m not even sure that my family knows what it is that I do.  To avoid going into a long sleep inducing explanation, I usually sum it up by saying that I do “web service operations” or “SaaS Operations”.

But what does that really mean?  Most people have no idea what “SaaS” is, and “web service operations” just makes most folks say “Oh, OK, I get it.  You run a web site”.

If only it were that simple!  I’m not talking about signing up for a blog account somewhere like wordpress.com or making web page with some WYSIWYG editor and putting it up on GoDaddy.

Everybody uses web services today.  Google, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Yelp, just to name a few.  Even many of the interactive apps on your smartphone or tablet connect to a web service!  While they use them every day, not many people give much thought to what it takes to operate those services.

The truth is, it takes an awful lot to run those web services.  Entire business are based around those web services.  In addition to the business teams that run the companies, it takes entire teams of software developers, infrastructure engineers, and operations engineers to build them and keep them on line.

The video below, while a little long, does a pretty good job of clarifying what I do.  That isn’t the actual purpose of the presentation, but it’s a happy side effect for me.

In this video, the presenter is talking about “devops”, a term has become a bit of an industry buzz word lately.  Devops centers around creating a cross functional team that builds and runs a Software as a Service (SaaS) product.  This tends to be done by applying development methodologies into operations processes with a strong focus on automation.  Devops isn’t just a process thing, it also crosses over into being a company culture thing.  Clear as mud, right?

This movement is important because software development is one thing, and business operations is quite another.  The two historically have been at odds, but in this day of businesses built around web services, the two have become completely intertwined.

The devops movement has worked to bring operations into the modern age, which is a big first step.  That needed to happen.  The older models were too slow and restrictive to be competitive in today’s business environment.  When new versions of the software are available, they need to be deployed in production as quickly as possible to make those new features available to users.  Some of the big sites may push new code into production dozens and even hundreds of times a day to to hundreds or thousands of individual servers that drive their site.

On the operations side of things, the mindset is a little bit different.  Operations is responsible for making sure that the service being delivered to customers is available, reliable, and performs acceptably.  It is part of the operations discipline to be proactive in making sure that everything runs well and to anticipate and be prepared for failures.  As an operations person, I think that the part of the devops movement that doesn’t get enough of the spotlight is the flip side of the coin.  It is ops’ responsibility to instill the operations mindset into the engineers who are building the software and to make sure that proper controls and procedures are built into the processes.

That is what this video is about.