Friday, August 14, 2015

OODA Loop + Dev Ops + Delphix = High Speed, Low Drag


Back in the 1950's USAF Colonel John Boyd came up with a new combat decision methodology. He broke combat strategy into four stages: Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. Completing those four stages returned you back to the Observe phase where the process would begin again. This process is known as the OODA Loop. Boyd maintained that the way to defeat an enemy was to lap your OODA Loop faster than your enemy can lap their OODA Loop.

As is often the case, what is good strategy for winning  on the battlefield, is also good for winning in the market place. We see this in the the DevOps mantras of today: "Continuous Feedback", "Fail Fast", "Agile Development", and "SCRUM." All of these "Devopsy" things fit snugly in the OODA Loop model.

And indeed, DevOps has proven itself invaluable in expediting a company's OODA Loop. Thanks to DevOps tools and methods, companies like Amazon do a distinct code change to production once every 11.6 seconds. That's over 7,000 times a day! They are able to observe market trends and user feedback in real time, make a decision on that information, release new features based on that information, and then observe the effect of those changes. This loop is completed many times (thousands) a day, which allows them to outpace their competition.

DevOps has provided those quicker OODA Loops mainly by eliminating the many numerous touchpoints that are required in software delivery: Support Desk, Infrastructure, Ops, DBA, Storage, Security, Project Managements, etc. Great tools like Puppet, Jenkins, Chef, and Ansible have automated the codified process flow and allowed companies to trim down environment requests from days/weeks/months to hours/days. In addition to the speed gains, the continuous feedback made possible via DevOps has allowed them to treat infrastructure as code and leverage version control to raise the overall quality of their products and projects.

That means we can go fast as we can, until we hit an impasse, because application projects still require a lot of waiting. There's a US Navy term  for that: High Speed, High Drag.  It's like having the world's fastest race car, but having the world's slowest pit crew. Development and modernization projects, datacenter and cloud migration projects, CooP/DR failover exercises, Data Masking and Auditing, BI reporting, etc. all require a waiting (hours, days, or weeks) during database and application resets and refreshes as terabytes of data are restored and copied across the network. That means the refresh/reset process is likely the longest task in the schedule. A ten minute destructive/failover test of your database/application can require a reset process that takes 10x-100x longer than the actual test, , if they are even attempted at all due of the level of effort and "time suck" required.

With Delphix, you take those application reset/refresh activities down to minutes and performed in a few clicks of a mouse or automated with your other DevOps tools. It doesn't matter if it is 5MB or 5TB; it is done with a few clicks and in just minutes. That means that your feedback cycles just became over twice as fast. When your application/database environments have fresh data near-instantly and on demand, you no longer wait, and instead spend your time Observing, Orienting, Deciding, and Acting. And that, is what the coveted "High Speed, Low Drag" for your OODLA loop that is needed to defeat the enemy and beat the competition. 

More information about Delphix can be found here:

Friday, August 7, 2015

DevOps: An Engine in a Horseless Carriage

DevOps is fantastic, but the one constraint DevOps has been unable to address is data management and delivery. DevOps can automate the delivery of the ones and zeros of your applications and databases, but those bits and bytes can only travel so fast on the network. DevOps has allowed us to apply the laws of physics and maximize efficiencies to close to their breaking point for new environments. We try and build faster networks and accelerators to squeeze the last drops of speed out of silicon, copper and fiber, with diminishing returns. Even Moore's law is being re-evaluated as technology just isn’t able to make the same speed gains with our current understanding of physics. But what if we can change the equation?

I liken DevOps to the automobile. It was a tremendous innovation replacing the horse drawn carriage with the "horseless carriage," but that is truly what it was. They got rid of the horse, and improved or eliminated the many touch points associated with arriving at your destination (care, feeding, stabling, dying of typhoid fever, etc), yet you still had the same amount of miles to cover on the same roads. But, like DevOps,  you were now able to do it at breakneck speeds. That's all the current knowledge of science and physics would allow. 

Before the turn of the 20th century, the Wright Brothers saw technology like the automobile, marveled at it, but asked themselves the question "The engine is fantastic, but is this as good as it gets? What if there is a better way to use the engine? What if we changed the equation? What if we can eliminate the constraint of roads?" Can you imagine the skepticism and derision they must have endured? I even recall reading where people referred to their "flying machines" as witchcraft.  Despite all the nay saying, People came from many miles away to attend their air show demonstration just to behold the miracle. The Wright brothers persevered, got the science right, and completely changed the way we perceive the world.

I draw a parallel to when we invented Data Virtualization at Delphix. We asked, "What if we can eliminate the constraint of moving the same data over and over again? What if we could make this happen in minutes? Why do we move data around the same way we have for decades? What if we could take the engine of DevOps and liberate it from the constraints holding it back from its real potential?" Our questions were similar to those the Wright brothers must have asked themselves. And once we figured out the science of how to do this, we set out on a mission to share our creation with the world.

I truly love sharing that message. A first meeting with a customer usually begins with a complete lack of knowledge that Data Virtualization exists (flight),  almost always follows with a proclamation that Delphix is some sort of "magic" (witchcraft),  and then a request to see it live and working in their environment (the air show). After they have witnessed Delphix in action begin telling everyone they know about "the next big thing" they just witnessed.

And as amazing as our technology is, Delphix is far more amazing because of the people that work to make it happen. I am really proud of all the people I work with. They are some of the most talented and dedicated people I have ever known. And  we owe all of our success to people like the Wright brothers that paved the way before us and dared to ask "Why?"  And fittingly, I am writing this while on a flight home from one of those meetings. A tip of the hat to you both, Wilbur and Orville. Thank you for allowing our dreams to take flight.