This is part of the Velocity Profiles series, which highlights the work and knowledge of web ops and performance experts.
How did you get into web operations and performance?
Previously I was working as a consultant for Linux, open source tools and virtualization. While this is a great job, it has one major drawback: One usually does not stay with one customer long enough to enable the really big changes, especially with regard to how the customer works. When ImmobilienScout24 came along and offered me the job as a Systems Architect, this was my ticket out of consulting and into diving deeply into a single customer scenario. The challenges that ImmobilienScout24 faced were very much along the lines that occupied me as well:
- How to change from “stable operations” to “stable change.”
- How to fully automate a large data center and stop doing repeating tasks manually.
- How to drastically increase the velocity of our release cycles.
What are your most memorable projects?
There are a number of them:
- An internal open source project to manage the IT desktops by the people who use them.
- An open source project, Lab Manager Light, that turns a standard VMware vSphere environment into a self-service cloud.
- The biggest and still very much ongoing project is the new deployment and systems automation for our data center. The approach — which is also new — is to unify the management of our Linux servers under the built-in package manager, in our case RPM. That way all files on the servers are already taken care of and we only need to centrally orchestrate the package roll-out waves and service start/stop. The tools we use for this are published here.
- Help to nudge us to embrace DevOps last year after the development went agile some three years ago.
- Most important of all, I feel that ImmobilienScout24 is now on its way to maintain and build upon the technological edge matching our market share as the dominating real-estate listing portal in Germany. This will actually enable us to keep growing and setting the pace in the ever-faster Internet world.
What’s the toughest problem you’ve had to solve?
The real challenge is not to hack up a quick solution but to work as a team to build a sustainable world. Technical debt discussions are now a major part of my daily work. As tedious as they can be, I strongly believe that at our current state sustainability is at least as important as innovation.
What tools and techniques do you rely on most?
Asking questions and trying to understand with everybody together how things really work. Walking a lot through the office with a coffee cup and talking to people. Taking the time to sit down with a colleague at the keyboard and seeing things through. Sometimes it helps to shorten a discussion with a a little hacking and “look, it just works” — but this should always be a way to start a discussion. The real work is better done together as a team.
What is your web operations and performance super power?
I hope that I manage to help us all to look forward to the next day at work. I also try to simplify things until they are really simple, and I annoy everybody by nagging about separation of concerns.