2013's Biggest Configuration Management and DevOps Stories


In his Behaviorally Speaking series, Bob Aiello discusses hands-on software configuration management best practices within the context of organizational and group behavior.


In 2013, we saw a remarkable number of system glitches involving large trading systems and the exchanges themselves along with a significant number of large banking systems. Bob Aiello writes how these incidents put DevOps best practices and configuration management in the spotlight of many technology reports.

This past year has certainly been filled with many challenges and also more than a few amazing accomplishments. In 2013, we saw a remarkable number of system glitches involving large trading systems and the exchanges themselves along with a significant number of large banking systems. The sheer number of incidents was quite notable and came after the dramatic $440 million loss at Knight Capital Group, which this past year was acquired by Getco and is now known as KCG Holdings.

As reported on TechWell, Knight Capital went out of business because of a glitch related to the wrong version of software on a server. These incidents put DevOps best practices and configuration management in the spotlight of many technology reports. Even with all of these incidents, 2013 will be remembered as the year when a website entered the political arena in a major way.

The HealthCare.gov website was impacted by a remarkable number of problems leaving potential users concerned about the website’s reliability and security. Thousands of users reported that their sessions crashed leaving them unable to sign up for healthcare insurance weeks before their policies were to be cancelled. In addition, thousands of customer records failed to be transmitted properly, which has raised the prospect that some users who think that they have insurance will find out in January 2014 that their new policies were actually not purchased and approved.

While politicians argue about whether or not the new affordable care act should be repealed, software technology and the government’s ability to update website features may ultimately settle the question. These problems were contrasted against the backdrop of three twenty- year-old programmers who gained the public eye by creating a healthcare related website in a few days.

George Kalogeropoulos, Ning Liang, and Michael Wasser, attempted to use the government healthcare.gov website to get insurance and saw first-hand the problems and issues. According to published reports, these three young men created a website using publically accessible code and data from HealthCare.gov system to create a website allowing users to browse policies—a feature that the Obamacare website had not properly implemented. This was not the first time that software and technology impacted the political arena as the 2012 elections themselves may have been impacted by the campaign operations technology used.

In 2013, software systems reliability and security were key features that were clearly the concern of many organizations. The emergence of DevOps and agile systems administration showed that industry best practices could help address these challenges. Agile or waterfall, technology organizations have become accustomed to being able to roll out features while maintaining high levels of service reliability. The itSMF ITIL v3 framework also gained in popularity as organizations sought established best practices to ensure reliable services. Technology organizations also focused on tools and industry best practices to achieve success.

Continuous integration, continuous delivery, and the deployment pipeline have become common strategies with many organization working to rollout automated deployment frameworks including Puppet and Chef.

Previous years focused on widespread efforts to offshore technology work to save money and achieve economies of scale. 2013 focused more on globalization with many more technology workers enjoying well-paying home based technology jobs utilizing their specialized skills and flexible work-life balance. Some organization struggled to hire highly skilled technical resources while some workers found themselves laid off and struggling to get back into the technology work pool, due to their skills not being fully up to date. Previous years found companies focused on trying to do more with less resources. 2013 was a year in which organizations were expected to quickly build complex systems,  even if they were going out of business.

Configuration management continued to evolve with a strong focus on DevOps. Previous years found CM evolving into a full-lifecycle endeavor focused on the entire software and systems lifecycle. Cloud-based development emerged as a must-have, although not without some companies finding that relying upon a third-party vendor also had drawbacks. Amazon EC2 service interruptions took down many large websites and google itself was not without its own service outages. 2013 demonstrated that the cloud clearly has both amazing potential and some serious potential risks.

This past year was a great year for configuration management with many tools vendors producing both fantastic products and also evangelizing industry best practices. The wise man knows that we must understand where we have been in order to fully understand where we are going.  What were your experiences in 2013 and how do you feel that this past year compared with years past? Drop me a line and share your own experiences in 2013!

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