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SysAdvent: DevOps Yearly Review And a Bit of History

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Every December, the SysAdvent community publishes twenty-five articles, one per day until Christmas. The articles touch on a broad set of DevOps topics, ranging from low-level sysadmin tools to people and process issues. SysAdvent 2014 is now underway with twelve articles already published.

SysAdvent has been running since 2008, that is, before DevOps was DevOps, "with the goals of sharing, openness, and mentoring, we aim to provide great articles about systems administration topics written by fellow sysadmins". Each SysAdvent acts like a yearly snapshot, making it possible to follow DevOps history over the years.

Docker took the world by storm in 2014. On SysAdvent 2014's Day 1, Bridget Kromhout wrote about DramaFever experiences with running Docker in production. Among other topics, Bridget explains how DramaFever runs their own private registry and the anatomy of their container build process. She also discusses the bugs DramaFever hit in production, so the adopted workarounds can be useful for other Docker users. Bridget describes some scenarios where she thinks containers may not be the best solution.

Kelsey Hightower introduced Kubernetes, which was also recently covered by InfoQ. Other articles include system diagnostics by Gareth Rushgrove, who covers Facebook's osquery and Puppet's Facter. Both help on querying information about the system configuration, such as disk, memory or network data. Gareth also writes about SysDig, a troubleshooting tool geared toward real-time tracing.

Yvonne Lam discusses the commonalities and variations of tests (run against non-production systems), monitors (run against production systems on a regular schedule) and diagnostics (run against production systems on-demand).

Daniel “phrawzty” Maher & Jonathan Clarke explore what sysadmins can learn from community management. They advocate the importance of mission statements and community guidelines, for instance.

A bit of DevOps history

2013 was a tools' year. SysAdvent 2013 finished with an introduction to the Go language. But it also overviewed well-known tools such as Ansible (a configuration tool launched the year before), Packer (a tool to create machine images from .iso files) and Serf (a service discovery tool).

SysAdvent 2012 did not discuss any tool or subject about to become mainstream, contrary to the previous years. But several non-technical articles shared experiences on DevOps cultural issues, personal considerations around remote working and how to be an effective ops professional.

On 2011 Patrick Debois, who coined the DevOps term, wrote about using Vagrant (whose initial commit was on 2010) to test drive infrastructure configuration. 2011 was also the year when configuration management started to pick up. There is an instructive discussion on introducing configuration management in legacy environments, why you should introduce it and, from a non-technical standpoint, how to communicate changes to infrastructure configurations. Jordan introduced systemd and already hinted at some concerns that recently prompted a Debian fork.

On 2010, Brandon Burton wrote two articles on DevOps (the first DevOpsDays event was held at the end of 2009). One explained what is DevOps and the CAMS acronym (Culture, Automation, Measurement, Sharing). The second article made a, still quite current, overview of the DevOps community. SysAdvent also featured Chef, which had been released the year before. Ken Barber explained Linux Containers (LXC), which use the same technologies that Docker came to popularize a few years later.

2009 was the year when Kanban started to get name-recognition. Stephen Nelson-Smith wrote about Kanban for SysAdmins. Jordan made a brief presentation of Hudson, a continuous integration server later superseded by Jenkins, which also had started to gain mindshare the year before.

2008 saw a discussion around Capistrano, a remote server automation and deployment tool written in Ruby, and Puppet, a configuration management tool. Tools like Chef, Ansible or SaltStack did not yet exist. There were articles about debugging and diagnostics, monitoring through Ganglia and Cacti. Jordan Sissel, SysAdvent's creator, also wrote about the non technical aspects, such as change management and documentation. All those themes recurred over the years.

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