Tag: operations
Interesting Resources for Technical Operations Engineers
23 Sep2013

As you may have already heard, I am looking for good techops engineers to join my team at Swiftype. This process involves a lot of interviews with candidates and during those interviews along with many challenging practical questions I really love to ask questions like “What are the most important resources you think an Operations Engineer should follow?” or “What books in your opinion are must-read for a techops?” or “Who are your personal heroes in IT community?”. Those questions often give me a lot of information about candidates, their experience, who they are looking up to in the community, what they are interested in, and if they are actively working on improving their professional level.

Recently, one of the candidates asked me to share my lists with him and I thought this information could be valuable to other people so I have decided to share it here on my blog.


Must-Read Books List

First of all, I would like to share a list of books I believe every professional in our field should read at some point in their life. You may notice that many of these books are not too technical or are not really related to the pure systems administration part of a techops job. I still think those are very important because technical operations work on senior levels involves much more than just making sure things work as expected. A lot of it involves time management, crisis management and many other topics that are equally important for a professional in this field.

So, here is the list (with not particular ordering, grouped by topics):

Systems and Networks Administration

Technical Operations, Architecture, Scalability

Project, Release and Time Management

Other

For more information on interesting books for technical operations engineers, you can check out the following book lists on GoodReads:


Interesting Conferences

Conferences, in my opinion, are an essential part in professional development of any engineer. Here is a list of conferences that could be useful for techops engineers:

  • Surge Conference – in my opinion, this is definitely one of the best conferences dedicated to building and maintaining large web architectures. If I were to choose one conference a year to go to, it would definitely be Surge. Videos from previous years are freely available online: 2010, 2011, 2012. 2013 videos should be available soon as well.
  • Oreilly’s Velocity Conference – biggest and, probably, the oldest web operations and web performance event. In my opinion, recently it became too focused on web frontend performance, though it is still a really interesting event. Complete video compilations from the conference are available for sale: 2011, 2012, 2013.
  • Monitorama Conference – pretty new, but already very popular conference with interesting content for everyone interested in monitoring (which most ops engineers are). Sides and videos from the first ever Monitorama conference in 2013 are available online.
  • Percona Live Conference – really awesome event for anybody who has MySQL in their stack. Huge multi-track event with talks from the best and brightest people in MySQL community. Slides and keynote videos from 2013 event are available online.
  • DevOps Days – small events happening all around the world and becoming more and more popular. The major topic of these conferences is the DevOps movement, related team/project management practices, etc. Videos and slides from some of the events are available online.

Even if you do not have time to watch any of those conference videos, I think every operations engineer out there would really enjoy 2011 Surge Conference closing plenary session video where Theo Schlossnagle (one of my personal heroes in IT community) described a typical debugging session many of us go through every once in a while:


Interesting Web Resources

And last, but certainly not least, I would like to share a list of web resources I like to follow to stay up to date on the most recent news and fresh ideas within the web operations community and related areas:

Leading Industry Sites and Blogs

  • MySQL Performance Blog from Percona – one of the best resources on MySQL performance
  • High Scalability – awesome resource with a lot of great articles on scalability, performance and design of large scale systems
  • Kitchen Soap – Blog by John Alspaw (another of my personal heroes in IT field)
  • DevOps Community Planet – feed/news aggregator for the DevOps community
  • DevOps Community on Reddit – not too active, but still a useful resource for getting interesting news
  • Agile Sysadmin – Blog of Stephen Nelson-Smith
  • obfuscurity – Blog by Jason Dixon, maintainer of Graphite, author of Descartes, Tasseo and other useful tools for metrics collection and displaying
  • The Agile Admin – Many interesting thoughts on agile web operations and devops
  • Operation Bootstrap – Blog of Aaron Nichols talking about many different aspects of working in operations

Engineering Blogs of Large Web Companies

Podcasts

  • Changelog – member-supported podcast on 5by5 network talking about interesting open source projects
  • Food Fight – bi-weekly podcast for Chef community
  • DevOps Cafe – interviews with interesting members of DevOps community
  • The Ship Show – twice-monthly podcast, featuring discussion on everything from build engineering to DevOps to release management, plus interviews, new tools and techniques, and reviews

And this is it! I hope these lists would be useful for young engineers going into the technical operations and for people who already work in this space. I am going to try to regularly update this post in the future to make sure it stays relevant for a long time.

P.S. Once again, if you are looking for a job in technical operations, please consider joining my team at Swiftype!


Join Me at Swiftype!
18 Sep2013

As you may have heard, last January I have joined Swiftype – an early stage startup focused on changing local site search for the better. It has been a blast for the past 8 months, we have done a lot of interesting things to make our infrastructure more stable and performant, immensely increased visibility into our performance metrics, developed a strong foundation for the future growth of the company. Now we are looking to expand our team with great developers and technical operations people to push our infrastructure and the product even further.

Since I have joined Swiftype, I have been mainly focused on improving the infrastructure through better automation and monitoring, and worked on our backend code. Now I am looking for a few good operations engineers to join my team to work on a few key projects like building a new multi-datacenter infrastructure, creating a new data storage for our documents data, improving high-availability of our core services and much more.

To help us improve our infrastructure we are looking both for senior operations engineers and for more junior techops people that we could help grow and develop within the company. Both positions could be either remote or we could assist you with relocation to San Francisco if you want to work in our office.

If you are interested, you can take a look at an old, but still pretty relevant post I wrote many years ago on what I believe an ops candidate should know. And, of course, if you have any questions regarding these positions in Swiftype, please email me at kovyrin@swiftype.com or use any other means for contacting me and I will try to get back to you as soon as possible. If you know someone who may be a great fit for these positions, please let them know!


Softlayer Cloud: a Scary Story of One Bad Service
2 May2011

Disclaimer: the information in this post is the author’s personal opinion and is not the opinion or policy of his employer.


It was spring 2010 when we decided that even though Softlayer‘s server provisioning system is really great and it takes only a few hours to get a new server when we need it, it is still too long sometimes. We wanted to be able to scale up when needed and do it faster. It was especially critical because we were working hard on bringing up Facebook integration to our site and that project could have dramatically changed our application servers cloud capacity requirements.

What buzzword comes to your mind when we talk about scaling up really fast, sometimes within minutes, not hours or days? Exactly – cloud computing! So, after some initial testing and playing around with Softlayer’s (really young back then) cloud solution called CloudLayer and talking to our account manager we’ve decided to switch our application from a bunch of huge and at the time pretty expensive 24-core monster servers to a cluster of 8-core cloud instances. To give you some perspective: we had ~250 cores at the start of the project and at the end of 2010 we’d have more then 100 instances – we weren’t a small client with a few instances).

For those who are not familiar with Softlayer cloud: they sell you “dedicated” cores and memory, which is supposed to give you an awesome performance characteristics comparing to shared clouds like EC2.

Long story short, after a month of work on the project we had our application running on the cloud and were able to scale it up and down pretty fast if needed. And since the cloud was based on faster cpu and faster memory machines, we even saw improved performance of single-threaded requests processing (avg. response time dropped by ~30% as far as I remember). We were one happy operations team…

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