How Serverless will Change DevOps

This post on Serverless is from guest author Limor Wainstein, email is limor@agileseo.co.il.

During the past decade, both DevOps and serverless have become quite popular for software development. These not only challenged the way software is being developed but also affected the entire software development lifecycle. First of all, let’s try to understand serverless and DevOps are.

Serverless and DevOps

Serverless is commonly used in conjunction with terms such as architecture, computer, and services. In brief, serverless architecture refers to the solution architecture of software applications built using fully managed third-party services (serverless services) as core dependencies. At its core, serverless computing provides runtimes to execute code, which is also known as function as a service (FaaS) platforms.

DevOps is a collection of practices and tools that increase the ability to deliver (build, test and deploy) applications and services more efficiently. DevOps requires more automation and eliminating overhead in setting up the infrastructure as well as in the build and deployment of code. DevOps does not only affect the technology; DevOps is also targeted at people and team structures.

Continuous Integration (CI) and Continuous Delivery (CD) tools are used to build, test and deploy code and are often done using build automation  Tools that provide fast resolution of errors and bugs are equally crucial.

In addition to using FaaS, fully-managed Docker containers as a service are also evolving. For example, technologies such as AWS Fargate allow to run these Docker containers and scale them without needing to provision and manage any underlying infrastructure. This is useful for DevOps since the containers can also be used to build, test and deploy applications.

Fully Managed DevOps Services

Fully managed DevOps services are beginning to emerge for CI and CD where these services are offered in software as a service (SaaS) models, or hosted services like Travis, Circle CI where the respective third-party service providers manage the underlying infrastructure and services. These services could range from semi-managed to fully managed serverless services that are used for the core of DevOps.

Docker containers underly many of these managed services, and these containers are used to allow isolated and customized build environments. Some services such as AWS Code Build enable defining the Docker image together with the required libraries and tools. This allows direct execution of the build job without needing to reinstall for each build. Various orchestration tools are used by these managed services, such as Kubernetes, Docker Swarm, AWS ECS, to control the fleets of containers.

DevOps Tools with Serverless.

There is also a tendency towards implementing DevOps using serverless architectures. The ability to implement unique and efficient CI/CD tailored to the application requirements, consumption-based cost models, supportive services (e.g., AWS Code Build, AWS Code Pipeline, etc.) create attraction towards this approach. By using serverless services, it is possible to implement an entire build, test and deploy pipeline by writing the glue code using serverless services, without using any hosted solutions.

Open Source and Serverless

Over the past few years, many open source DevOps tools started emerging. One of the most popular open source DevOps tools is the Serverless Framework.

The Serverless Framework allows simplification by:

  • Declaring the microservices infrastructure, endpoints and mapping it with execution logic (for example, with a Lambda function).
  • Building artifacts, archiving and deploying to infrastructure.
  • Extending DevOps capabilities using plugins.

Cloud providers are also beginning to develop similar tools. For example, AWS recently introduced its AWS Serverless Application Model (SAM) which could potentially replace the Serverless Framework functionality when it comes to declaring the serverless APIs. Contributions by the open source community do keep the Serverless Framework supporting newly-introduced AWS services as they appear.

In addition, open source security is becoming a challenge when using third-party libraries. On the other hand, vulnerability scanning is also becoming a commodity, especially with the introduction of the NPM scanning process. This has helped to reduce the development risks in building applications.

Infrastructure as Code

With the adoption of serverless architectures, infrastructure provisioning has become a significant part of the deployment process. Applications are using different serverless services as building blocks, so it is crucial to be sure that these services are correctly configured and connected. One of the best practices is to define the infrastructure in the code using declarative tools and languages like Terraform. This enables versioning of the infrastructure along with the code thus reducing the manual work on the DevOps process.

Immutable Infrastructure

Another effect of serverless for software application development is how we look at the serverless services modifications. It is often possible to provision new instances of serverless services while keeping the existing instances running. This means you can deploy new instances of serverless services and switch to the more recent version upon success. Serverless has made Blue-Green and Canary deployments both more practical and affordable for various applications.

Distributed DevOps

Using serverless technologies for application development means that DevOps has to deal with distributed systems. While it’s possible to use different serverless services from different providers, configuring a CI/CD pipeline involves coordinating these operations. This adds further complexity to the DevOps processes. It is important to implement more visibility into each serverless service with detailed monitoring when these services are provisioned once a change had been made.

Summary

Overall, we’ve outlined a few ways in which serverless is changing DevOps practices used for software development. To wrap up, let’s look at several best practices for serverless and DevOps.

  • Implement automation for CI/CD.
  • When implementing tests such as code style, unit tests, integration tests, UI tests, make them a part of development routine checks.
  • Upon committing the code, try to run the code style checking using git lifecycle hooks if possible.
  • Automate as needed to support building the artifacts, running all the test cases and send the results back to Pull Request using a CI tool.
  • Rerun the tests before deployments, preferably through an appropriate deployment trigger.
  • Include the infrastructure in the code.
  • Use managed services for CI/CD whenever possible to reduce the overhead of infrastructure management.
  • Design an application for rollback support for both previous versions and database migrations.
  • If it’s a database change, create scripts that can both apply and revert the changes.
  • Create version and store deployments in a durable place.
  • Allow deploying specific versions of application deployment.
  • Choose tools that help streamline the debug and monitoring cycle.

Separating the deployment cycles of serverless projects allows teams to make changes without redeploying the entire application. It remains vital to learn and understand the changes introduced by DevOps and serverless process and technologies and to adapt accordingly so that the DevOps processes are aligned to support serverless applications.

Bio:
Limor is a technical writer and editor at Agile SEO, a boutique digital marketing agency focused on technology and SaaS markets. She has over 10 years’ experience writing technical articles and documentation for various audiences, including technical on-site content, software documentation, and dev guides. She specializes in big data analytics, computer/network security, middleware, software development and APIs.
Twitter: @LimiMaayan

The 10 Commandments of Logging

When you search for things on the internet, sometimes you find treasures like this post on logging, e.g. creating meaningful logs.

This post, from a few years back, is authored by Brice Figureau (found on Twitter as @_masterzen_). His blog clearly shows he understand the multiple aspects of DevOps and is worth a visit.

In recent discussions with Brice, he stated that he believes the rules are still quite valid with some tweaks needed for containers and Kubernetes and that in today’s world of GDPR, logging sensitive data is a non -starter. But these rules are informative and worth consideration.

Our thanks to Brice for letting us repost his blog under Creative Commons CC-BY.

Guest author Brice Figureau

2 stone tablets with Roman numerals from 1 to 10
Copyright: moises / 123RF Stock Photo

After writing an answer to a thread regarding monitoring and log monitoring on the Paris DevOps mailing list, I thought back about a blog post project I had in mind for a long time.

I wrote this blog post while wearing my Ops hat and this is mostly addressed to developers.

Knowing how and what to log is, to me, one of the hardest tasks a software engineer will have to solve. Mostly because this task is akin to divination. It’s very hard to know what information you’ll need during troubleshooting… That’s the reason I hope those 10 commandments will help you enhance your application logging for the great benefits of the ops engineers 🙂

1. Thou shalt not write log by yourself

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Scalyr in the dark

Ying-yang symbol in black and whiteSometimes you want your dashboards to be dark.

And by dark, we mean dark backgrounds with light text and discernable colors. For many people who watch dashboards, looking for alerts and concerns, a darkened screen is more restful. And while research may have concluded that dark letters on a white background are easier to process, it also points out white backgrounds in a darkened environment may disrupt low light vision adjustments.

Scalyr dashboards are white, with dark text and colors in use to indicate the desired metrics. These dashboards are easy to read, understand, and clearly detail the tracked data.

Scalyr dashboard for Linux Processes with white background

However, it is reasonably easy to change this view by making use of the accessibility features in Chrome and Firefox. These reversed colors hack is not perfect as it impacts all of the sessions on the respective browser but quite suitable for a long-lived view or stable operations center.

Scalyr dashboard for Linux processes with black background

This hack is also not making use of the system-wide accessibility features, so only the browser is impacted. In short, the rest of your applications and background are viewable as usual, but the view of your browser has changed. Just be aware that other activity on your tabs may have rather wild results.

Chrome offers several accessibility extensions that allow some control over the look of a page presented in the browser. These extensions are available in the Chrome web store and are easily found via the Preferences (or Settings) page. The extension allows easy toggling of visual impact.

Firefox has built-in preferences that allow you to create the dark scheme. While it is easier than Chrome, requiring no extension installation, it does not provide an easy way to toggle off and on. It does have additional personalization features and does not change the data representation colors. (Note, an add-on exists that allowed toggling but is not supported in FireFox Quantum at this time.)

A similar capability exists on Safari, Windows Internet Explorer, and Edge but requires a CSS stylesheet insertion. I will cover those in a later blog.

The following directions are from my MacBook; however, the same workflow exists for all Firefox or Chrome browsers regardless of operating system. If you are having difficulty with your version, drop me a comment and I will try to help out.

Come to the Dashboard Dark Side. 

Step by step for Chrome:
  1. Open your Chrome browser.
  2. Click on the menu button.
  3. Choose the Settings or Preference menu item (alternatively, you could enter “chrome://settings” directly into the address bar).
  4. Scroll down the page and select Advanced.
  5. Scroll down to Accessibility and click on Add Accessibility Features. This click will open a new tab (or window).image cut of Chrome accessibility store
  6. In the Chrome store, find High Contrast.
  7. Click on Add to Chrome. This click will open a pop-up window. 
  8. Click Add Extension. High Contrast icon in Chrome browser bar
    A small icon will appear in Chrome in the upper right corner.
  9. Now the fun stuff. Click on the icon and Enable the extension. There are some cases where installing the extension automatically enables it. If so, just click the icon to bring up the selections.pop up window to control a11y settings
  10. Now that the extension is enabled click on Inverted Colors.
  11. To toggle back and forth, either make use of the keyboard accelerators or click the appropriate choice in the extension.
Step by step for Firefox:
  1. Open the Firefox browser
  2. Click the Menu button.
  3. Select Preferences or Settings (alternatively, you could enter “about:preferences” directly into the address bar).
  4. Scroll to Fonts & Colors (under Language and Appearance).Firefox Languages section of preferences
  5. Click on ColorsMenu of choices to change Firefox color selections
  6. In the Colors menu, change the associated colors.
    1. Text to White.
    2. Background to Black.
    3. Unvisited Links to Yellow (Optional).
    4. Visited Links to Light Blue (Optional).
      Please note that in Firefox, you can use what colors you would like. The above choices are offered as a starting point.
  7. In the Override the Colors box select Always.
  8. Click OK.

Reversing this choice requires entering preferences again and setting the Override the Colors choice to Never. As noted, the extension that offered a toggle button is not supported in Firefox Quantum.

So there you have it, a quick and dirty approach to getting your dashboards in the dark.

However, note that these changes will impact all tabs and windows of the browser, not just the dashboard views. For that reason, you may want to limit this use to a long-lived display or make use of the toggle capability of Chrome.

To learn more about accessibility in Chrome, check out Use Chrome with accessibility extensions – Google Chrome Help. For information about accessibility in Firefox, take a look at Accessibility features in Firefox. And to learn more about dashboards in Scalyr, check out how log analysis can lead you to needed actions.

If you try it out, tell me about your experiences in the comments.

 

How are you doing “observability”?

In today’s world of complex code and deployment, people on the DevOps front line face challenges in monitoring, alerting, tracing distributed systems and log aggregation/analytics. Jointly, these are often called “observability” (reference: Twitter blog).

hand drawn checklist with yes and no choices

These are challenges faced by multiple groups like DevOps, core engineering teams and Web 2.0 developers. We see concerns in web applications and traditional enterprise applications. We foresee even more issues in emerging spaces like IoT, event-driven design and microservices.

And as is usual in most complexity-bound problems, there are a lot of ways to solve these challenges. These include the use of discrete tools and procedural methods. Such approaches often cause gaps and leave edges uncovered. After all, the matrix of product types and usage (use cases) are large and growing and the need and scale are also increasing.

So, what do you think about observability? Scalyr is hosting a short survey to find what the current state of observability is. The survey looks are several areas, including tools and related issues and we invite you to chime in with your thoughts. While the survey is the best place to express your views, feel free to leave us a comment on this topic.

Please take the survey (at https://bit.ly/2JKezDb), and you can opt-in to get a copy of the results.

OkCupid Falls For Scalyr

OkCupid has a long history of building things in-house. They have always been a deeply technical company that doesn’t settle for what’s already available and isn’t afraid to build something new. In fact, OkCupid doesn’t use Apache or Nginx — they built their own web server. So it isn’t surprising that when it came time to reconsider how they manage logs, they considered both existing solutions and the possibility of building something in-house. In the end, they found that Scalyr both met their log management needs for today and has the potential to grow as a solution for them to solve a number of other challenges they face. I recently had a chance to catch up with Alex Dumitriu, CIO at OkCupid, about their early experiences with Scalyr.

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The DevOps Job Market

DevOps as a profession and discipline just keeps growing in demand. This year alone, more than 100 global conferences are dedicated to DevOps — and even the “best of” lists are staggering. Hundreds of companies (including Scalyr) are developing tools specifically for the DevOps field, and blogs dedicated to everything from current news and trends to making light of DevOps daily frustrations abound (RIP DevOps Reactions). Even a casual survey of the trending-up of “DevOps” in Google search over the past five years makes it pretty clear that demand for professionals in this space will only continue to rise.

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In DevOps Incident Response, Plans Are Worthless, But Planning Is Everything

So said President Dwight D. “Ike” Eisenhower (more or less). His battles were fought in the trenches, not the technology stacks—but for DevOps teams, the principle holds. No plan survives contact with the enemy.

A plan is a set of instructions you can follow when you understand what needs to be done. Handy when the enemy is one you know, and can plan for. But the Enemy You Know isn’t what (literally) keeps DevOps engineers up at night.

Good DevOps teams competently respond to incidents, outages, and just plain weird stuff happening in their technology stack. Great teams go further—they see around corners, developing the instincts and skills to prepare for the unexpected. At Scalyr we start by reducing the risk of the dreaded 3 am call as much as possible. But we’d be foolish to stop there.

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451 Research Covers Scalyr

“For Scalyr, it’s about speed, scale, and simplicity in log management,” is the title of 451 Research’s recent report on Scalyr. Nancy reached out to us to discuss our product a few weeks ago. We gave her a demo and spoke a number of times in detail about Scalyr. I was excited when I saw that she had decided to write about us and I’m even more excited to share the content of that report with the greater Scalyr family.

Click here to read Nancy’s report. 

If you’re looking for more information on Scalyr, don’t hesitate to contact us directly or to sign up for a trial.

Please Review Scalyr (And Get Free Stuff)

To help get the word out about Scalyr, we’re looking for people to write honest reviews of our product on GetApp and Capterra. If you take the time to write a review on one of those sites we’ll send you a $20 gift card for either Starbucks or Amazon (please see details below).

To write a review on GetApp you need to have a LinkedIn account and be willing to sign into GetApp with it, but your review can be anonymous once posted. For Capterra you need to give your email address and the name of the company where you used the product that you are reviewing, and finished reviews will include your name and company name.

We are only looking for reviews from current Scalyr customers or Scalyr trial users who have uploaded data and spent more than two hours using Scalyr. In order to qualify for the gift cards, please send the following information to contact@scalyr.com:

  • a link to the review in question
  • your name and the email address you use to log into scalyr
  • the email address where you’d like us to send the gift card code

We’ll take honest reviews anytime, but this particular offer of a gift card when you review us expires on February 17th, 2017. All gift cards will be issued for USD $20 from the US Starbucks or US Amazon website.

To write a GetApp review, please start here.

For Capterra, please click here. 

Thanks in advance!

 

November 2016 Product Updates: All in on the New UI…

Our new UI is now the default

Scalyr's New UI

We flipped the switch, and our new UI is now the default. The original UI will still be available for a while, but to access it, you’ll have to click on the settings menu (upper-right corner of the window) and choose “Flip To Classic UI”.

If there’s a reason you prefer our original UI, please let us know! We’re working hard to make this an easy transition.

The log timeline chart now includes both line and bar graphs

Scalyr's Hybrid Timeline Chart

By popular demand, we’ve superimposed the old “events per second” line graph over the bar chart. This allows you to see fine-grained spikes and changes in message frequency. Note that the Y axis is scaled for the bar chart only.

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