DevOps is Really Helpful

A few weeks ago I gave a presentation at the 24 Hours of Pass Summit Preview. During my session, a demo broke and I had to ignore it. Later I found the issue and blogged about it. What was neat for me is that I didn’t need to keep my code up or apps open, but I still found the issue quickly. I found it because I have a DevOps process that instruments and tracks everything.

This happened to me a few years ago. I was at a SQL Saturday and demoing one of the Redgate tools. There was an error and I couldn’t move changes to a downstream database, which threw me off. That was the point of the talk. I decided to debug on stage (or behind the podium in this case), looking through the logs. Within a few minutes, I had found the issue and solved it. A real life DevOps story in action.

The idea of DevOps is what most talented developers and DBAs do. They ensure that they don’t just make changes on a whim, and they don’t depend on SSMS to be kept open. If they find an error, they save it, or they ensure their process captures all relevant logging. I’ve built systems like this, but many of the modern tools we use in DevOps automatically do this. Build servers and release servers make it a point of capturing all logging, so when that PoSh or CLI system runs, the output is saved and available for solving problems. And the data is available for improving the process, which is the goal.

At various times in my career, I haven’t followed a set process, I’ve “tried” things in SSMS, a configuration dialog, or a command window that haven’t worked. I’ve sometimes remembered to undo them, sometimes not. I’ve lost track of what I’ve run often, just because I was working in an ad hoc manner. That led me to learn to do better, which led me to embrace and follow many of the principles and ideas that people call DevOps today. These are things I learned to do those things 15 years ago.

Lots of DevOps is about using automation and tools, and those really do help. Having a pipeline for software changes, and one for configuration changes, reduces the chance of mistakes and problems. It also lets you instrument and track everything that happens. However, these are the easy things. These are the things that really talented professionals already do in their daily work.

The hard part of building software is building a culture that learns to work together instead of separately, or worse, adversarially. It is truly hard to work together and concern yourself with the customer first, and your job last. Or put the QA person, the DBA, the developer, or someone else ahead of what makes your day easier. It’s also hard for management to build a framework where we don’t have incentives to put our own interests ahead of others. If we can do that, and build a DevOps style process, things work smoother, and our software will be better. Maybe more importantly, we’ll enjoy our time at work.

Steve Jones

The Voice of the DBA Podcast

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