Project & Support versus DevOps and Service teams

The funding model for the majority of the worlds IT projects is fundamentally flawed, and the fall out is, over time, broken systems, lacking security and legacy systems.

It’s pretty easy to see that digital systems are the lifeblood of most organisations today. From banking, stock inventory and tracking, HR systems. And the majority of these critical operations have been deployed as “projects”, and then “migrate to support”. And it’s that “migrate to support” that is the problem.

Support roles are typically over subscribed, and under empowered. It’s a cost saving exercise to minimise the overhead, by taking the more expensive development resources and moving them to a fresh project, while more commodity problem solving labour comes along to triage operational run time issues. However, that support function has no history in the design and architecture, and often either has no access to the development and test environments to continue doing managed change, or is not empowered to do so. The end result is that Support teams use the deployed production features (eg: manually add a user to a standalone system) instead of driving incremental improvements (eg: automatically add a user base don the HR system being updated).

Contrast with a DevOps team, of dynamic size over time. The team that builds & tests & deploys & automates this more complete lifecycle, and stays with the critical line-of-business system, becomes a Service Team. Any changes they need to perform are not applied in production locally, as is often the case with “Support teams”, but in the Development environment. This then should pass automated testing and feedback loops before being promoted to a higher environment. Sounds great, yeah?

Unfortunately, economic realities are the constraint here. Both the customer, and consultancy are trying to minimise cost, not maximise capability. And navigating a procurement and legal team is something that the procurement cycle wants to do as rarely as possible, not on a continuous basis.

Contrast a Service team focus, of variable size over time, containing different capabilities over time. The cost for this team varies over time, based upon the required skill set. The team objective is to make the Best Service they can, and need to drive from metrics: Availability, Latency, Accuracy while meeting strict security requirements.

From the Service team’s perspective, they obviously need remuneration for their time, but also want to take a sense of pride in their work, and a sense of achievement.

A Support Team is not a Service Team, as they don’t have the full Software Lifecycle Management capability and/or Data Lifecycle Management capability. A Service Team should never be one person; that’s one step away from being zero people. A Service Team may look after more than one service, but not so many that they do not have crystal clear focus on any service.

AWS Partner Ambassador Meetup #1, Seattle, August 2019

The inaugural global meetup of the top partner engineers from around the world.

Another long overdue post from three weeks ago…

On the heel of the AWS Canberra Public Sector Summit 2019, and after some 24 hours at home with my family, I joined my fellow AWS Partner Ambassador at Modis – Steve Kinsman – and we started to wend our way across three flights to get to Seattle, departing a few minutes after midnight on Friday night/Saturday morning.

That guy behind me better not kick my seat! 😉
Continue reading “AWS Partner Ambassador Meetup #1, Seattle, August 2019”

AWS Public Sector Summit, Canberra 2019

It’s been a reasonably busy few weeks for me; here’s a recount of the AWS Public Sector Summit in Canberra…

On Monday 19th July, I went to Canberra for the AWS Public Sector summit, held at the National Convention Centre, with some 1,200 people in attendance this time. I recall the first AWS Canberra Public Sector Summit of 2013, with a few hundred going to the Realm Hotel: NCC is now starting to look reasonably full.

Mikal & James gurning, and an awesome photo-bomb

It’s always nice running into old friends, and this time, long time and Australian Open Source community personality Michael Still. Michael ran LCA 2013 in Canberra, when Sir Tim Berners-Lee was one of the keynotes (and Bunnie Huang, Bdale, and Radia Perlman). I helped the video team that year – and recall chatting with Robert Llewellyn…

AWS’s Matt Fitgerald, formerly, from Perth.

Later, I ran into Matt Fitzgerald, whom I first met when I worked for AWS – and was the only other person at that time (circa 2013) from Perth in Seattle with AWS.

Of course, multiple current and former colleagues, other AWS Ambassadors from the region, other folk in the cloud space with other vendors.

Pia Andrews & James.

And then, in the foyer while chatting, I suddenly find Pia, well known for her work inside the halls of government from Australia to New Zealand, but 17 years ago, helping establish the fledgling conference and helping the Australian open source community find its platform and voice.

Of course, its not all about catching up with friends.

A crowd in the NCC’s main auditorium, 2019

The masses packed into the main theatre to hear the set of lighthouse case studies, new capabilities, and opportunities that can be reached on the AWS platform.

Iain Rouse, AWS Public Sector Country Manager 2019: A/NZ PS Partners

This time, the baton of AWS PS Country Manager and MC responsibilities had passed to Iain Rouse, formerly of Technology One. Modis has been an AWS partner since 2013 (as former brand Ajilon), with many Public Sector customers since then, it was nice to see our logo amongst a healthy ecosystem of capability.

A/NZ PS Customers

Even nicer than seeing our logo, is our customers and those I have worked with. At the first PS Summit in 2013, I asked and had ICRAR attend; I used to work for UWA (as chief webmaster in the last millennium); when I was at AWS I worked with CFS SA and Moodle, and of course, Landgate – which is now over four years of running on the AWS Cloud.

NZ Conservation’s CIO Mike Edginton

New Zealand’s Conservation’s CIO, Mike Edginton spoke of the digital twinning they have been doing for the environments that their endangered species are in, and of having to set traps for introduced species but IoT enabling them. They cover a vast area of NZ, but the collection of data and analytics and visualisation makes their management more efficient. They’ve also managed to decode Kiwi calls (the bird, not the people).

The mercurial Simon Elisha, PS Solution Architect Manager

Former colleague Simon Elisha continued with a strong positioning of the further efforts around the efforts that the AWS engineering teams have been deploying on resilience, multi-layered security, hardware design, physical security, video CCTV archiving; and then into the customer accessible security services for Data Protection, Identity Directory & Access, Detective Controls & Management, and Networking & Infrastructure.

S3 Block Public Access

He then dived into a customer controlled capability for S3 (Object Storage) that was surfaced at the global re:Invent service in 2018: Block Public Access. This capability can be leveraged at a per-bucket level, as well as at an AWS-account-wide level (which would be effective for any new S3 Buckets created, regardless of their per-bucket settings)

S3 has been around for many years, and has expanded from a small set of micro services, to over 200 today (as disclosed at AWS Sydney Summit 2019). It can by itself act as a public web server for the content in a bucket; can have public anonymous access.; can encrypt in flight and at rest; storage tiering; life-cycle, logging, and much more. These days, I don’t encouraged teams to serve content to the web directly via S3, but via the CloudFront global CDN (today: 189 points of presence – see this). And with the ability for CloudFront to access S3 buckets using an Origin Access identity, its possible to remove all anonymous access from S3, and enable the Block Public Access – something we have done for many of our customers. This pattern forces that access to the data from the Internet will come from an endpoint set to my desired TLS policy, with a custom named TLS Certificate, and with a bonus, I can set (inject) my specific security headers on the content being served. For example, check out (hi Scott) and test

Simon also spoke about the technology stack (not quite the full OSI stack, for those that recall):

  • Physical Layer: secure facilities with optical encryption using AES 256
  • Data Link Layer: MACsec IEE 802.1AE
  • Network Layer: VPN, Peering
  • Transport Layer: s2n, NLB-TLS, ALB, CloudFront and ACM
  • Application Layer: Crypto SDK, Server Side Encryption

After a quick tour of Security Hub, and then Ian speaking about some of the training and reskilling initiatives, it was time for another customer.

Dr Paul Sully-Power, and his little ripper beach patrol drones

This was the second time I had seen this, with the drone having been shown at the AWS Commercial Summit in Sydney in July. However, Dr Scully-Power’s presentation was, to be honest, very powerful. Watch the video and hear for yourself about rescuing kids from rips, spotting sharks, crocs and more.

The AWS DeepRacer (reinforcement learning autonomous vehicles) was set up and competing again, part of the effort to lower the barrier of entry for customer into machine learning. The exhibitor hall continued to have technology and consulting partners showcasing their achievements and capabilities, as well as the various AWS customer-facing teams such as the certification teams, concierge team, Solution Architects (now split further by services and specialisations).

In the break-out sessions (actually held on the Tuesday), was a track dedicated to Healthcare, a track for High Performance Compute, and more. Presentations for the fledgling Australian space community (see Ground Station), decoupling workloads, connectivity, etc.

Once again a group of local school children were given the opportunity to attend and see the innovation being discussed, and a stream of activities aimed at helping show them career pathways.

Of course, in specific break out streams were media analyst briefings, executive briefings, Public Sector partner forums and workshops.

Mark Smith, from Modis at Landgate (and long-term volunteer fire-fighter, as it happens), and James at the Modis Canberra office.

I also had the opportunity to stop by the Modis Canberra office, and with Mark Smith (with whom I have worked for nearly half a decade) and I spoke at length to the local team on the challenges and successes of our engagements with customers, delivering advanced, managed Cloud services and solutions.

That night, I returned to Perth for a day at work and a few hours with my family… before heading for the next adventure, the AWS Ambassador Global meetup in Seattle (next post).

AWS: Save up to 19.2% on t* instances

Despite what AWS may say, the burstable CPUs are a workhorse for so many smaller workloads – the long tail of deployments in the cloud.

Yesterday saw the announcement of the AMD based T3a instance family as generally available in many regions. Memory and core-count matches the previous T3 and T2 instance families of the same size, which makes comparisons rather easy.

Below are prices as shown today (25/Apr/2019) for Sydney ap-southeast-2:

Sizet2 US$t3 US$t3a US$Diff t3a-t3%Diff t3a-t2%

As you can see, the savings of moving from one older family to the next is consistent across the sizes: 10.6% saving for the minor t3 to t3a equivalent, but a larger 19.2% if you’re still back on t2.

It’s worth looking at any pending Reservations you currently have for older families, and not jumping to this prematurely – you may end up paying twice.

Talking of which, Reservations are available for t3a as well. Looking at the Sydney price for a nano, it drops from the 5.6c/hr to 4c/hr; across the fleet, discounts on reserved versus on-demand for the t3a are up to 63%

For those who don’t reserve – because you’re not ready to commit, perhaps? – then the simple change of family is an easy and low-risk way of reaping some savings. For example, a fleet of 100 small instances for a month on t2 swapped to t3a would reap a saving of US$2,172.48 – US$1,755.84 = US$416.64/month, or just shy of US$5,000 a year (AU$7,000).

YMMV, test your workload – and Availability Zones – for support of the t3a.