DevOps Dissection – Welcome to the Party!

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Hello and welcome to my DevOps Dissection! My name is Ed, I’m a first year DevOps Analyst at QA Consulting and I am currently deployed at a specialist insurance firm within the FTSE 250 index. I’m here to pull apart and examine the reasonably new and growing field of DevOps.

DevOps?

The realm of Development Operations is quite new. It was born into our world during an AGILE conference in 2008 and started its teething during 2009 (i.e., it started screaming and clamouring for attention). Here in 2016 we now have a cynical child, questioning its surroundings and trying to grasp an understanding of how the world works. This cynicism is a force for good; IT practices must change. Traditionally, trying to get developers and operational IT staff to continually build, test, and frequently deliver small software changes has been like trying to perform open heart surgery with garden shears, jump leads and a car battery. You’re going to have blood everywhere from different IT teams fighting and some very angry stakeholders that wanted fast delivery, not a stagnant and dead business.

If DevOps were a celestial body you could consider it as an exciting new resource-rich planet orbiting the star of Information Technology. At its core we have a solid and defiant mass of cultural change, the surrounding mantel consists of rapid, continually flowing currents of communication and feedback, and last, the crust is a pleasant wrapping of technical implementation and know-how.

In theory this comes together to form a bridge across IT teams, aiding communication and collaboration.

Success is measured by rapid feedback mechanisms between developers, testers, management and infrastructure; fast delivery to different IT teams and the end user; and open integration, visibility and communication across every facet of development, testing, delivery and leadership. Often the means of achieving this success will involve incrementally adding automation and breaking cultural barriers between how different groups like to operate. It is an uphill march.

NB: There is a subtle difference between feedback and communication; feedback is more product-oriented (build failure, test failure) and what’s working, what’s not; communication is synchronisation between different people/teams working together.

Cultural Change

Perhaps the most challenging obstacle is trying to persuade individuals to adopt new methods and technologies which will facilitate continuous integration, continuous delivery and work practice changes – these individual topics will be covered in future.

Unfortunately human nature is a stickler for stability and consistency, or at least what someone may believe is unwavering and offers security. This makes work flow advancements very difficult to implement as everyone loves the status quo. There is plenty I have resisted myself only to find that embracing new ideas and thoughts does truly satisfy the human desire to search for knowledge. The foundation for DevOps lies in establishing a river of cultural change. In due time I imagine I’ll be writing many more blogs posts about my own successes and failures at invoking this change.

Communication and Feedback

Simply the lifeblood of a high performing agile team. Silo’ed teams must be avoided as they lead to stagnant, toxic pools. Having two teams which are dependent on one another but operate separately is a recipe for resentment and malice. Ideally, different specialisations need to be glued together in order to develop T-shaped people (people who have a broad understanding of the various stages of the software life-cycle, while having a well-defined spike in a particular area). For instance if a developer were to be paired with a tester they may distribute knowledge between themselves leading to an understanding of each other’s roles. This will be a much deeper understanding than if the development team and testing team were split apart and silo’ed. This sharing of knowledge allows communication to take place and with a little technical assistance can be empowered where feedback can be absorbed and challenged face on.

Technology

The wrapping to all of this lies in the toys which this blog will be focussing on for the next few weeks. There is a plethora of technologies which allow the right flows of information and bring people together.  Further than just communication we have all sorts of gizmos that allow for rapid, reliable, and repeatable build and deployment processes. The categories of these tools branch through: source code management, continuous integration, deployment, configuration management, tracking and monitoring, among others.

So here we are. This is my understanding of DevOps and the role it plays. We have 3 key components that combine into a formidable strategy for growth and improvement. Enforcing cultural change, opening up communication and using technology to help is the way forward for software development and promoting learning and evolution.

In my next blog I will be taking you on a journey through the different tools involved in the particular brand of DevOps I fulfil on site, beginning with  Source Code Management!

Life on Site with Gareth Andrews

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One of the advantages of being a consultant is that the future is open to you. I am currently working towards getting a certification in Information Security Management, a certification that would better equip me to deal with the everyday risks and issues of security in a digital world.

Training and expanding on your skills is a must these days, where jobs and opportunities are difficult to come by. There are many training courses available and talks held to help you learn and understand everything from techniques to new technologies, there is not a single week where I feel like I’ve not developed in some way.

With every moment being a chance to develop, it’s hard to not see something great coming your way.

So that’s me, past, present and future. I hope that these blogs have been useful in understanding just what we do as consultants for QA Consulting, from the fast paced rush of fixing issues to the calm and collected analysis required to plan ahead for the next piece of work weeks before you even start creating the code.

QA Consulting has given me the opportunity to put my foot in the door for a very competitive market with all the support I need to work for a high end business straight out of the Academy. Going forward I hope to train and develop my skills in information security so that our clients can rest easy knowing that with my  skills and expertise I can help to protect their data.

 

Life on Site with Gareth Andrews

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So you’ve learnt about my past and my time at the academy, I think it’s now time for you to know about what I do on client site. I am currently working on a team focused towards delivering Microservices. Here’s a day in the life of me:

You start the day nice and early, checking all those work emails you receive a minute after you turn off your computer, and then you start by checking the JIRA board. Typically each day we assign ourselves a task and then get it completed by the end of the day, meaning each day we see progress both in the project and across the JIRA board.

Once you’ve started working away at your daily task you have a stand-up around half nine in the morning. In the next 15 minutes you hear from everyone in the team what they did the day before, any problems they had and what they are looking to do today, it is also the time when you learn about wide reaching factors that impact the project, such as changes to requirements or people being off on holiday for the next week. This means that once you’ve left the stand-up you are in the know of everything that should be happening that day.

So, back to the computer for an hour or so.

Seems like the team’s got a new piece of work coming up so it’s time for an impacting session. After reading through a document you’ve received a few days ago our product owner gives us a run-down for the reasons behind the new piece of work. It could be an extension of current work, or something completely different.

Everybody gets a chance to discuss their area of the project; for example what kind of code will be required, be it changing previous code or creating something entirely new. This impacting session will give the team an estimate into how much time it would take for the team to complete the project and its “impact” on the team.

12:00, time to go get some food for lunch. Remembering it’s Friday you head out the door instead of going to the canteen, laughter and chat following you as your team and friends grab a bite to eat for lunch. With full stomachs you return to work, mumbling about wanting to go back for dessert normally before returning to your task for the day.

Things don’t always go smoothly, and suddenly on your JIRA board there is an issue that’s affecting live. A bug has made it through the code!

Step one: investigate the bug. I run the code with the same data to try replicate the problem. At this point speed is of the essence, but you can’t make any mistakes either. With the problem repeated you notice that the error message is something you’ve seen before, and quickly find it in the code.

With a quick note on the JIRA issue and a phone call, you’ve already pushed the code through the continuous delivery environments, with all the automated tests running and checking that your fix won’t open up a Pandora’s Box of problems.

A few minutes later you receive a message saying that it’s been deployed to live and they are running the file again, with a smiley face and a thankful phone call confirming that the error has been fixed.

With that all done it’s time to return to your work for the day, finishing it just in time as you log your hours and move the task on the board to show everyone your progress for the day. Shutting down the machine and making sure everything is locked away, ready to repeat the process again tomorrow.

Join me next time when I will be discussing what comes next.

Ricky Savjani excelling onsite

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It’s always fantastic to receive such great feedback from our clients. This week we would like to congratulate Ricky Savjani on outstanding work on client site.

Ricky completed his degree in Computer Science at The University of West England (UWE Bristol) in 2011. He then joined the QA Academy in 2012 specialising in Oracle SOA and Java training before starting on an internal project.

Ricky was deployed to his current client site in January 2014 where he began working with the DevOps technology stack, specifically Puppet and Linux. In the last year he has been concentrating on Infrastructure based work with Networking, Linux and Puppet. Alongside this he has been helping to design environments and looking after boundary controls where firewalls and security devices are deployed.

Our client, a large government body, commented  “In context of the recent PRP1 issues, I wanted to provide highly positive feedback on Ricky. He was more than forthcoming in solving the issue and very collaborative throughout, alongside this he demonstrated technical depth and clearly ‘knows his stuff’ – he is always assertive in debugging and logical/dynamic in diagnosing the exact problem. All in all he is a great asset to the team and the programme”.

Well done Ricky on your accomplishments on site and keep up the good work!

If you are interested in a career with QA Consulting checkout our Academy Website for more information on how you can build your future in tech.

Life at the Academy with Gareth Andrews – The Hackathon

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The QA Academy opened us up to many opportunities and experiences, the Hackathon was by far the most memorable. Starting in the afternoon on a Friday, teams gathered and started discussing their mobile app ideas with the intention to create the apps in 24 hours.

A few minutes in and a man-sized gorilla could be found roaming around the office spying up our ideas and getting a few laughs in the process.  A few hours later and the party is joined by a gangster, princess and Mario, all in time for the pizza and snack foods that went almost as soon as they had appeared.

The hackathon ended the next day, with a countdown ticking away the seconds before people were ready to leave the office, having lost teammates to fatigue and weekend plans alike. As we left the office with sleepy smiles I still remember thinking about how much fun we had, and how we had managed to fit an entire project cycle (staffing issues and all) into 24 hours, all before I hit the pillow and lost the Saturday to sleep.

The QA Hackathon was a great experience and will definitely not be my last,  I can safely say this is the one that will stick with me for a long time.

Life at the Academy with Gareth Andrews

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Hi, my name is Gareth Andrews and I am currently work for QA Consulting as one of their consultants. Before joining QA Consulting I attended Hull University where I studied Computer Science with Games Development. 

After leaving University I decided to become a trainee Computer Science and ICT teacher, but I decided I wanted to continue using the skills I developed at University, so for me becoming a consultant was a logical conclusion.

In this blog I will be giving you a little insight into my Life at the Academy. From day one my experience was memorable, with both jokes and serious discussions forming the basis for our growth, both as people and professionals.  Treated as if we were in an office, we studied with growling levels of autonomy, eventually becoming independent in our development; from deciding the best way to approach a problem, to managing the teams work and personnel on a daily basis.

While at The Academy we operated as part of a team, working against (and sometimes with) another team, to produce several pieces of software as part of an interconnected project. We were in charge from the get go with initial designs and requirements being decided and found (or missed as it was in some cases), we quickly learnt where we needed to focus and develop.

Every day was different and how we worked changed on a daily basis; sometimes we would work in pairs using pair programming, and other times on our own. Helping us to adapt to the changing requirements and needs that we will face on client site.

During our time we were continually being examined, through a combination of workshops and presentations, all of which helping to prepare us for client site. 

Join me next time to find out about my experience at the QA Consulting Hackathon!.

QA Consulting partners with Adobe to enhance digital experiences

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QA Consulting are excited to announce our new partnership with world leading digital specialist, Adobe.

QA Consulting carefully select which technology vendors we engage with as partners. Adobes’ leading presence in the Digital arena makes them the ideal addition to our roster of vendors we are proud to partner with.

Adobe is changing the world through digital experiences. Their creative, marketing and document solutions empower everyone—from emerging artists to global brands —to bring digital creations to life and deliver them to the right person at the right moment for the best results.

Our partnership with Adobe will allow our customers to benefit from our Digital Centre of Excellence Enablement Programme, accelerating their digital initiatives to bring faster ROI, and maximising customer engagement and drive revenue growth..

Tony Lysak, Managing Director, QA Consulting commented “with so many companies across the world looking to enhance customer experience, QA Consulting saw partnering with Adobe as a logical step. Adobe Campaign platform Adobe Experience Manager has been re-paving the way for customers use their web content management to deliver exceptional customer journeys with ease. With the lack of skills in the market to successfully implement the AEM platform, our partnership has helped to solidify our position as the go-to implementation partner of choice”.

QA Consulting are excited to start our partnership journey with Adobe and help deliver on their mission to change the world through digital experiences.

QA Consulting join forces with Thunderhead to deliver true customer engagement

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QA Consulting are pleased to announce our strategic partnership with a recognised global leader in customer engagement technology, Thunderhead.

QA Consulting have partnered with Thunderhead to enable brands to build and develop meaningful relationships with their customers. Thunderhead’s ONE Engagement Hub joins up the customer conversation across physical and digital touchpoints optimising the experience a customer has with a brand. It enables personalised and relevant interactions suggesting the next best conversation at the appropriate time and through the preferred channel.

Acting as a thin layer between existing technologies, the ONE Engagement Hub cleverly draws insight from all touchpoints to give the brand a single view of the customer journey supporting customers on their desired path.

QA Consulting, leading providers of consulting services in both the public and private sector, will partner with Thunderhead to provide trained consultants to advise and support clients in the implementation of customer engagement programmes.

Tony Lysak, Managing Director, QA Consulting, commented “QA Consulting invest time to select partners whose solutions offer tangible business value and a strong ROI. With this in mind, we feel that partnering with Thunderhead and using the ONE Engagement Hub will allow QA Consulting the opportunity to power our clients digital transformation and revolutionise their customers omni-channel experience.”

Alex Gowing, Head of Alliances at Thunderhead said, “By joining forces with QA Consulting and their Academy program, this partnership allows Thunderhead’s customers to scale their internal teams to develop and extend deployment of our ONE Engagement Hub.”

QA Consulting are excited to work with Thunderhead to enable their global client base to drive scalable customer engagement.

QA Consultants excelling on site

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It is brilliant to see our consultants getting such great feedback from our clients. We would like to congratulate Ian Smith and Dan Mabbett on their outstanding work on client site.

Ian Smith completed his degree in Computer Science at The University of Brighton, whilst Dan Mabbett completed a degree in physics with particle physics at Queen Mary University. They both joined The QA Academy in October 2015.

Since being deployed in January both Ian and Dan have been working with a prominent central government department to help upgrade their Cloud Infrastructure. They have both shown proactive and innovative work, helping other members of the team in learning new technologies and developing and deploying the latest devices to be used by all those working within the client site.

Our client stated “They have been instrumental in helping to refine the build process, ensuring that the 50 devices required for the 1st week of rollout have been prepared and are ready to be brought up to the desk for deployment. They have also completed preparation of an additional three devices including an X250”. The client went on to say, “both have been exemplary in their work ethic and diligence”.

Dan Mabbett comments, “The QA Academy has been a massive help with teaching me Puppet, a tool that helped automate the creation of virtual servers so that the end-user can access the internet safely and securely. My training didn’t stop there though, I recently undertook a course in Azure to start working with the backup Cloud Infrastructure”.

It is brilliant to see our consultants enjoying their time at client site and making a positive impact so early on in their career. We look forward to seeing further progress in their careers with QA Consulting.

If you are interested in a career with QA Consulting have a look at our Academy Website for more information on how you can build your future in tech.

QA Consulting to Provide Anypoint Platform™ Consulting Services for Connecting Applications in the Cloud and On-Premises

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QA Consulting is pleased to announce that we are now a Select Partner of MuleSoft, the company that makes it easy to connect applications, data and devices, to provide consulting and services for MuleSoft’s Anypoint Platform. The platform is a complete solution for API-led connectivity that integrates applications and data both on-premises and in the cloud, unleashing the value of that data through the design, implementation and management of APIs.

QA Consulting carefully selects which technology vendors it engages with as partners. MuleSoft’s growing presence and leadership in business connectivity makes the company a perfect addition to QA Consulting’s roster of solutions it is proud to work with.

QA Consulting’s integration expertise and knowledge of the demands of vertical markets, coupled with technology leadership from MuleSoft, give clients the support and tools they need to effectively bring together the explosion of endpoints and data that exist today. QA Consulting’s partnership with MuleSoft allows it to supply the market with aggressively priced solution design and delivery capability, supporting new and existing implementations of its customers’ business connectivity needs.

Tony Lysak, Managing Director, QA Consulting, commented, “In the past year we have seen a rise in demand for Anypoint Platform and partnering with MuleSoft was the smart choice for QA Consulting. Many companies are struggling to successfully leverage Business Connectivity platforms, and by partnering with MuleSoft and leveraging its API-led connectivity approach, we are best placed in supporting new and existing customers in maximising their investment in the platform to help them grow their capabilities.”

“Today’s companies and public organisations gain competitive advantage by automating business processes across SaaS and on-premises applications, data sources and APIs. Through its partnership with MuleSoft, QA Consulting is enabling its customers to achieve their business goals through API-led connectivity,” said Guy Martin, senior director of EMEA alliances and partners, MuleSoft. “We’re pleased to welcome QA Consulting into MuleSoft’s world-class partner ecosystem and look forward to working together to deliver significant business impact to our mutual customers.”

QA Consulting is excited to start its journey with MuleSoft to help change how the world connects.