Six themes from Velocity Europe

Cultural shifts and handling large-scale growth among the emerging trends in the WPO and DevOps communities

By Steve Souders and John Allspaw

More than 700 performance and operations engineers were in London last week for Velocity Europe 2012. Below, Velocity co-chairs Steve Souders and John Allspaw note high-level themes from across the various tracks (especially the hallway track) that are emerging for the WPO and DevOps communities.

Velocity Europe 2012 in London

Performance themes from Steve Souders

I was in awe of the speaker and exhibitor lineup going into Velocity Europe. It was filled with knowledgeable gurus and industry leaders. As Velocity Europe unfolded a few themes kept recurring, and I wanted to share those with you.

Performance matters more — The places and ways that web performance matters keeps growing. The talks at Velocity covered desktop, mobile (native, web, and hybrid), tablet, TV, DSL, cable, FiOS, 3G, 4G, LTE, and WiMAX across social, financial, ecommerce, media, games, sports, video, search, analytics, advertising, and enterprise. Although all of the speakers were technical, they talked about how the focus on performance extends to other departments in their companies as well as the impact performance has on their users. Web performance has permeated all aspects of the web and has become a primary focus for web companies.

Organizational challenges are the hardestLonely Planet and SoundCloud talked about how the challenges in shifting their organizational culture to focus on performance were more difficult than the technical work required to actually improve performance. During the hallway track, myself and a few other speakers were asked about ways to initiate this culture shift. There’s growing interest in figuring out how to change a company’s culture to value and invest in performance. This reminded me of our theme from Velocity 2009, the impact of performance and operations on the bottom line, where we brought in case studies that described the benefits of web performance using the vocabulary of the business. In 2013 I predict we’ll see a heavier emphasis on case studies and best practices for making performance a priority for the organization using a slightly different vocabulary, with terms like “culture,” “buy-in” and “DNA.”

The community is huge — As of today there are 42 web performance meetup groups totaling nearly 15,000 members worldwide: 15,000 members just over three years! In addition to meetup groups, Aaron Kulick and Stephen Thair organized the inaugural WebPerfDays events in Santa Clara, Calif. and London (respectively). WebPerfDays, modelled after DevOpsDays, is an unconference for the web performance community organized by the web performance community. Although these two events coincided with Velocity, the intent is that anyone in the world can use the resources (templates, website, Twitter handle, etc.) to organize their own WebPerfDays. A growing web performance community means more projects, events, analyses, etc. reaching more people. I encourage you to attend your local web performance meetup group. If there isn’t one, then organize it. And consider organizing your own WebPerfDays as a one-day mini-Velocity in your own backyard.

Operations themes from John Allspaw

As if it was an extension of what we saw at Velocity U.S., there were a number of talks that underscored the importance of the human factor in web operations. I gave a tutorial called “Escalating Scenarios: A Deep Dive Into Outage Pitfalls” that mostly centered around the situations when ops teams find themselves responding to complex failure scenarios. Stephen Nelson-Smith gave a whirlwind tour of patterns and anti-patterns on workflows and getting things done in an engineering and operations context.

Gene Kim, Damon Edwards, John Willis, and Patrick Debois looked at the fundamentals surrounding development and operations cooperation and collaboration, in “DevOps Patterns Distilled.” Mike Rembetsy and Patrick McDonnell followed up with the implementation of those fundamentals at Etsy over a four-year period.

Theo Schlossnagle, ever the “dig deep” engineer, spoke on monitoring and observability. He gave some pretty surgical techniques for peering into production infrastructure in order to get an idea of what’s going on under the hood, with DTrace and tcpdump.

A number of talks covered handling large-scale growth:

These are just a few of the highlights we saw at Velocity Europe in London. As usual, half the fun was the hallway track: engineers trading stories, details, and approaches over food and drink. A fun and educational time was had by all.

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