ECS Digital at Cloud Expo Europe

ECS Digital at Cloud Expo Europe

This week saw thousands of IT professionals head to the Europe’s largest Cloud exhibition – including ECS Digital and our village of partners!

From blockchain and IoT vendors, to datacentre climate control systems manufacturers and cable suppliers, the crowds enticed anybody interested in Cloud-first, scaling up, refining, or just getting started with the tools and technology.

As has been echoed in previous events, Cloud Expo Europe is an unrivalled opportunity to meet with leading technology innovators and service providers, and network with your peers. Attendees also gain access to a wealth of knowledge and advice including emerging trends, tech deep dives, lessons learned and market forecasts.

ECS Digital once again have donned their conference apparel and deployed Europe’s only DevOps Partner Village, bringing together vendors from across the DevOps tool chain. This included Sonatype, New Relic and Storage OS – experts in application performance monitoring and artifact lifecycle management to dynamic container storage, all under one red, white and blue banner.

As you’ll probably know by now, ECS Digital is an agnostic DevOps and continuous delivery consultancy that provides professional and DevOps expertise to thousands of customers, and this year they have been showcasing the newest feather in their cap; Enablement Pods™.

Enablement PodsTM introduce a new way of working, processes and tooling. By remaining flexible in their resource profiling, our fixed priced outcome-based engagement model enables you to transform at scale by embedding – for short periods – in existing engineering teams to enable them to implement true change. What’s more, you decide the outcomes and objectives for each sprint, and we put our fees at risk to ensure we deliver.

It really is that simple.

During their talk on day one, Young DevOps Consultant of the Year 2018 Michel Lebeau and Pod Delivery Lead Tom Chapman described Enablement Pods™ as ECS Digital new weapon for making long-lasting and impactful changes in the Enterprise space. They also walked guests through how they are using Enablement Pods™, some of the challenge case studies and what Enablement Pods™ has achieved. If you missed the talk, you can learn more here.

ECS Digital also introduced a second, equally exciting initiative at Cloud Expo Europe. The DevOps Playground is supporting the tech community by giving enthusiasts a platform to explore new technology and tools. We’re also super chuffed that the Playground reached 4,000 members worldwide during the show – we’re giving credit to the talk our team delivered on day two!

I was fortunate enough to deliver the DevOps Playground story, describing how ECS Digital have used the DevOps Playground to build a tech community that encourages tech enthusiasts to not only learn about tools, but to gain hands-on experience under the supervision of engineers.

Each month, the DevOps Playground welcomes large numbers of tech-enthusiasts to one of our four worldwide locations – London, Singapore, Pune and Edinburgh. Each Playground lasts for around 2.5 hours, with a chunk of that time set aside for individuals to run and use the chosen tech / tools on their own laptop.

Attendees can expect to follow along with a structured and comprehensive exercise, designed to jumpstart new users with unfamiliar technologies and to highlight the best ways to use the technology. If this is the first you’ve heard of it, head over to the DevOps Playground website to find out more.

Other key takeaways from the show include:

  • Containers are driving the Cloud adoption of software development for 90% of the customers we spoke to
  • DevOps is the new standard for Cloud and agile working and is driving the need to modernise the more traditional methods
  • Cloud Expo is the one-stop-shop for all things Cloud – it was an eye opener seeing how much physical infrastructure goes into the ‘Cloud’

And that is just the tip of the iceberg. We will be revealing a mini-video series about Cloud Expo over the next couple of weeks to recapture some of the best moments from the show – watch this space!

Morgan AtkinsECS Digital at Cloud Expo Europe
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Addressing the whale in the room

Addressing the whale in the room

This infographic is aptly named addressing the whale in the room due to the scepticism around ‘popular’ Docker misconceptions. Namely that is it insecure, requires the Cloud and is unable to compete with others in the orchestration space given it is open source.

As Docker Authorized Consulting Partners, ECS Digital have been using this technology to significantly add value to our customers by bringing the benefits of containerisation to more traditional applications.

Whilst we know first-hand why this technology is worth investing in, we wanted to take a closer look at who’s using the technology, the statistics behind Docker’s platform and the benefits those currently using Docker as their enterprise-ready containerisation tool are experiencing, so you can see its true value too.

Here we go.

Docker Infographic

 

Here’s how ECS Digital can help you use Docker:

ECS Digital is a leading Docker Certified Delivery Partner. There are significant benefits to containerisation, including portability, improved security and increased infrastructure efficiency.

Docker Modernising Traditional Applications

ECS Digital has the knowledge and experience to bring the benefits of containerisation to your more traditional applications. Working with Docker customers across EMEA, undertaking MTA Modernising Traditional Applications engagements, taking a traditional application into containers to realise the value of Docker in just five days with a turnkey program.

  • 1 week onsite support / 3 weeks remote
  • Deploy Docker EE to cloud or on-prem infrastructure
  • Containerize an existing application
  • End-to-end app deploy using Docker EE
  • App operations using Docker EE

Official Docker Training

As Well as Docker Authorised Consulting Partners, ECS Digitals are also Docker Authorised Training Partners, offering a range of official docker training courses for all skills levels.

Enablement PodsTM 

ECS Digital’s Container Enablement PodsTM are an outcome-focused solution that deliver the capability you need, when you need it. Each Enablement PodTM starts with a Sprint Zero in order to establish a backlog of target outcomes with measurable KPIs and the resource.

Our approach Enablement PodTM approach has been massively successful in delivering large scale digital transformation projects in some of the UKs largest retail and commercial banks, as well as News outlets and international energy providers.

Here at ECS Digital we’re always happy to talk about what we do, why and how. If you’re interested in finding out how we can help you, please do get in touch.

Morgan AtkinsAddressing the whale in the room
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DevOps Playground: more than just another lecture

DevOps Playground: more than just another lecture

As the DevOps Playground enters its fourth year, we take the opportunity to look back at how the DPG was initially formed and its subsequent success.

Why ECS Digital started the DevOps Playground:

Meetups are a great way to meet like-minded people, learn something new and eat as much pizza as is humanly possible. Technology focused meetups however, often leave one excited and hopeful about a new product or technology with no easy way to explore them. Couple that with our busy lives and these new technologies will only ever be added to the long list of “Tools I will definitely try one day soon!”

As a result, we at ECS Digital decided that we could satisfy the tech industry insatiable desire for pizza as well as allowing people to really experience new tooling without impacting their ever-shrinking social calendars.

In addition to showcasing new technologies and allowing people to get hands-on experience with those tools, the DevOps Playground acts as a platform for ECS Digital’s own talent to build a name for themselves and demonstrate the breadth and depth of knowledge ECS Digital wield within a number of different technology areas.

Attendees can expect to follow along with a structured and comprehensive exercise, designed to jumpstart new users with unfamiliar technologies and to highlight the best ways to use the technology going forward.

 

What happens at a DevOps Playground?

Each month, you are welcome to join us as we explore new technology / tools in one of our four locations – London, Singapore, Pune and Edinburgh. Each Playground lasts for around 2.5 hours, with a chunk of that time set aside for you to run and use the chosen tech / tools on your own laptop.

Our engineers will be on hand throughout the Playground to help you navigate your way round the technology, with the hope that you leave feeling more confident than you did when you arrived. Open to all tech enthusiasts, this is the perfect environment to learn, network and play – and there’s usually free pizza. Pizza AND tech, what’s not to love!

How the Playground has evolved:

Our environments:

With the success of the Playground’s brand and the ever-increasing number of global members, we have had to innovate in order to keep up with demand. During the Playground infancy, the standard method for distributing slide decks, resources and the all-important technology environment was a chucky VDI. Due to its size, we would have to load them onto 8GB USB sticks and physically hand them to attendees on the door. This obviously meant that we would spend the first 15-20 minutes of every meetup waiting for people to copy massive files on to their personal computers and then load up VMs, and that was before we had even started the technical part of the evening.

Realising that this method of distribution was not going to scale, we had to look internally to our engineers for a solution that could be used by a wide variety of capabilities.

In true DevOps fashion, after a few iterations we settled on a dynamic cloud instance for every attendee with a web-based terminal (wetty). This allows us to spin up exactly the number of instances required for an individual event and bring them down once the event has concluded, reducing not only the cost but the potential risk associated with having 80 cloud instances running publicly.

As the success of our London based meetup continues to grow from strength to strength, back in 2018 we took the DevOps playground brand global, setting up three additional meetup events in Singapore, Pune and Edinburgh. This new global reach has help us spread the ECS Digital message and introduce new technologies and concepts to even more people.

A powerful recruiting tool:

The DevOps Playground has been a strategic tool used during our recruitment process, with many candidates being identified and subsequently hired as a direct result of them attending our events. These new additions have been afforded the opportunity to meet the ECS Digital team in a relaxed setting and with no obligations and in fact, with most cases, individuals were not actively seeking new employment opportunities.

What the future looks like:

World domination! Maybe not… but we do want to continue building our reach and contributing to the wider DevOps community. Due to the popularity of our London events, our current location is hitting capacity on a regular basis. We’d love to work with other tech enthusiasts who have access to bigger spaces so we can open the Playgrounds up to more of our community. If you happen to have a large space and want to support the DevOps Playground by letting us borrow it for an evening, we’d love to hear from you!

We would also love the opportunity to collaborate with other meetup groups. If you have an idea of how we can better serve our communities, get in touch and let’s talk over how we can turn those ideas into value for our members.

And last but certainly not least, technology is genderless and we want to continue promoting its application to as diverse a group as possible – starting with hosting more Women In Tech DevOps Playgrounds following the success of our WIT event last year. Whilst men are welcome to attend, these events are super important for creating an environment where women feel comfortable learning about new technology in what is traditionally a male-dominated industry.

How to get involved:

As mentioned above, we host our DevOps Playgrounds once a month in four locations. These are all publicised on Meetup as soon as the team have the details available:

You can also find all the information you need about DevOps Playground, upcoming events, past events and the Playground Panda on our website: https://devopsplayground.co.uk

What next?

Hopefully the above has tempted you to come and say hello to the DevOps Playground team in person! Our next events are live on the website / meetup groups (links above) so pick the one most local to you, grab your laptop and follow the smell of pizza. Go on, you’ve got nothing to lose but maybe lots to gain!

Morgan AtkinsDevOps Playground: more than just another lecture
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Building your business on the edge

Building your business on the edge

Building better, faster and reliable services is an obvious priority for all businesses. But how do you deliver a richer, more satisfying user experience for your customers?

Companies are making the move from VMs to containers in order to drive innovation. Most are also exploring Cloud alternatives to their expensive data centres, if they are not already floating on cloud nine. So how, in this cloud based, container driven nirvana, do companies big and small reach more customers and provide a richer service?

One word; ‘edge computing’ – well, two words!

There are a number of definitions floating around; partly due to the nature of the implementation and partly due to edge computing’s relative adolescence. Linux Foundation’s rendition of edge computing seems to cover the basics though:

The delivery of computing capabilities to the logical extremes of a network in order to improve the performance, operating cost and reliability of applications and services. By shortening the distance between devices and the cloud resources that serve them, and also reducing network hops, edge computing mitigates the latency and bandwidth constraints of today’s Internet, ushering in new classes of applications. In practical terms, this means distributing new resources and software stacks along the path between today’s centralized data centres and the increasingly large number of devices in the field, concentrated, in particular, but not exclusively, in close proximity to the last mile network, on both the infrastructure and device sides.

Basically, process and store as much data as you can, as close to your customers as possible. So, if a company is running 10 data centres, across the world users will connect to the nearest data centre or an edge node interface providing relevant data.

Edge computing can provide a service unparalleled by conventional centralised application and infrastructure deployments, allowing companies to better localise their service. They can also uncover greater insights into the types of interactions that are being made and where from.

This type of shift doesn’t just improve services for an end-user browsing their favourite website for the latest memes, it also has industrial applications. For example, providing better accuracy and intelligence for traffic management systems, processing huge amounts of data gathered by IoT devices on the ground, analysing and processing data near the producer and reducing latency for a response.

Another domestic application is in the games industry, with multiplayer gaming platforms processing game data in real-time close to the users. The heavy lifting is done across two or more transitional cloud AZ’s, all connecting seamlessly to provide a high-quality experience in game. This in turn can ultimately reduce the number of inexperienced gamers quitting and blaming ‘lag’ or ‘ping’ for poor performance whilst playing ‘Fortnite’.

Knowing that this exciting new world of edge computing has the potential to improve cloud adoption, mobile first development and IoT adoption, getting started early is important.

Deploying your own edge nodes near your customers globally might be a little expensive, and probably not as good as a massive Cloud provider with very deep pockets. Fear not, Cloud providers such as Google Cloud Platform (GCP) are offering Edge computing, today!

Get involved with Google Peering and host a node on Google Behave or start using GCP’s established network to improve the quality and reach of your applications and services.

Starting your Cloud journey? Realise the potential of your Cloud platform with a Cloud Health Assessment or SDLC review. ECS Digital can provide recommendations and assistance when it comes to implementation and can roll out concepts such as edge computing and enterprise applications at scale – click here to get your Cloud journey under way.

Morgan AtkinsBuilding your business on the edge
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An unforgettable trip to the sunshine state – DockerCon 2018

An unforgettable trip to the sunshine state – DockerCon 2018

Earlier this month, ECS Digital attended DockerCon 2018 in the sunshine state. Docker returned home to hold the largest container convention of the year, playing host to a wide range of partners and guests – ranging from Private Cloud providers to AI based testing start-ups. The colourful mix of both vendor and attendees made for an interesting and informative week in San Francisco.

ECS Digital enjoy a health partnership with Docker, providing highly skilled and experienced Professional Services engineers. When we are not directly sponsoring DockerCon, we therefore like to take the opportunity to attend and support the Docker ecosystem and meet the rich tapestry of companies and individuals it is comprised of.

During this year’s DockerCon, we met with a whole host of ecosystem vendors and attended a number of brilliant keynotes and practitioner talks on the different Hallway Tracks. Below is the top news from the event and our ‘top tools’ discoveries. We’ve also added a summary of the announcements made this year and the technologies to watch over the next year. 

Top News

Docker Desktop: 

A new application designed to streamline the creation of container-based apps with a shiny new GUI and templates for common patterns. 

Kubernetes: 

Big news from last year’s DockerCon EU was the introduction of Kubernetes into the docker EE platform! Now, Docker has announced the ability to run Kubernetes on windows host, allowing for great adoption of Docker EE and containers on a multitude of operating systems and container orchestrators. 

Docker EE Updates: 

Federated Docker EE clusters (a tech demo took place at DockerCon). This is a really exciting and potentially revolutionary integration. Docker EE are introducing the ability to operate any type of managed container platform. This means Docker EE users will be able to onboard Kubernetes PaaS offerings such as EKS, AKS, GKE, and even on perm Kubernetes. This provides a true multi-cloud management interface from a single pane of glass, adding so much more choice to the user. 

Dockers Growth: 

Docker announced some really impressive numbers this year, highlighting that the business is continuing to go from strength to strength: 

“More than a billion images pulled from Docker Hub every 2 weeks, 50 billion images pulled to date” 

 

Top Tools

Monitoring: 

Datadog – Datadog is a monitoring service for Cloud-scale applications, bringing together data from servers, databases, tools, and services to present a unified view of an entire stack. 

Instana – an APM solution for containerised microservice applications, Instana uses automation and artificial intelligence (AI) to deliver the visibility needed to effectively manage the performance of today’s dynamic applications across the DevOps lifecycle. Founded by application monitoring veterans, Instana provides true AI-powered APM to help organisations deliver high performance applications today and in the future.  

Testing & Security: 

ForAllSecure’s ‘Mayhem’ – a start-up leveraging advanced fuzzing and symbolic execution to test software for potential security vulnerabilities. 

Kong – a scalable, open source API Layer (also known as an API Gateway, or API Middleware). Kong runs in front of any RESTful API and is extended through Plugins, which provide extra functionality and services beyond the core platform. 

Cool Hack Sessions

One of the most anticipated sessions at DockerCon is Cool Hacks, a showcase of the members in the Docker community pushing the envelope on what can be achieved with Docker. In short, it’s a demo heavy session, showing trends of what innovators are building on top of the Docker platform.  

One of the most impressive Cool Hack showcased this year was Gloo –  demoed by Ldit Levine (@Idit_Levine). Gloo opens the world of serverless framework, allowing users to manage request paths for a microservice application interfacing with cloud-based services like AWS Lambda, or any other self-hosted container based serverless frameworks such as OpenFaas.  

The important feature of Gloo is it can be placed in front of a monolithic application and redirect individual calls to a separate endpoint. This allows users to slice up and replace a monolith piece by piece until the entirety is migrated –  all whilst running in Docker EE. 

DockerCon 2018 is over, but the ideas shared, and the relationships made will continue to grow. We had an amazing time and are thankful to Docker for hosting an amazing event, and for bringing together such a rich variety of people and product.

We hope to see everybody again next year when DockerCon returns to San Francisco, but if you can’t wait till then, join ECS Digital in Barcelona this December for DockerCon EU! 

 

Morgan AtkinsAn unforgettable trip to the sunshine state – DockerCon 2018
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Securing your transformation

Securing your transformation

At least 42% of CEOs have already begun a business digital transformation, with IT-related priorities at an all-time high (Gartner Survey Results). While CEOs are beginning to understand and set digital transformation agendas, the responsibility for delivering the promised benefits lies with the CIO. This means that CIOs are equally responsible for ensuring a company’s digital transformation has the processes in place to safeguard security measures and remain complaint with regulations.

73% of CIOs see cybersecurity as a key area of investment in 2018 and 2019. And at the same time, digital transformation is seen as the highest priority strategy to support organisational growth goals. Investing in DevOps is a highly recommended place to start.

This blog looks at how DevOps practices result in more secure systems by design, enabling CIOs to achieve their transformational targets whilst strengthening security.

 

Baking in security from the start

All too often, security has been seen as something to be bolted on to a project after the important features have been completed and tested. This approach was problematic even in the time before agile, with months or years between releases meaning there was time to add in security and test before going live.

Today, with an ever-growing cyber threat and organisations striving for continuous delivery with weekly or daily releases, leaving security to the last minute is simply not an option.

The answer lies in the way DevOps rewrites the old ways of working, shifting security left in the SDLC (Software Development Lifecycle) until it is present by default in every iteration.

It does this through a number of approaches, starting with the culture. All teams and individuals involved need to understand not just the ‘how’ but, the ‘Why’! Buying in to the idea that working toward one shared objective that has security at its foundation is essential to success.

Developers should be educated of the importance of introducing security into the SDLC and its impact on delivery. In fostering a culture of care, workarounds are reduced, removing vulnerabilities and creating more secure systems from the outset.

Promoting a blame-free culture where people feel they can find new ways of working, fail fast and learn from each iteration is imperative – with guidance coming from an overall agile framework. Practitioners often do their best work when they are given the opportunity to exercise the very wealth of knowledge and experience they were hired for in the first place.

 

A practical approach to security 

Automated testing is key, and not just because it reduces human error. It ensures consistent quality gates throughout the SDLC, including security check markers. This not only increases confidence in the software being delivered, it guarantees everything that has passed through the lifecycle has been cleared by security. 

DevOps also enables transparency across the SDLC. Using IaC (Infrastructure as Code), teams are able to use the similar SDLC as the application they host will eventually be hosting. This allows for security check marks to be applied to these elements, ensuring compliance, policies and security best-practices have been adhered to. 

Greater visibility promotes proactiveness, with configuration changes and issues monitored across the overall systems in real time. This in turn offers the ability to identify and action potential security breaches as they happen – for example stopping applications without interrupting other systems before it become a threat. This is a way of working that hasn’t been possible until DevOps’ holistic approach to software development. 

These benefits of DevOps means QA and security are built in to the testing processes, with software unable to move though the lifecycle if it does not comply with pre-agreed standards. 

Harry McLaren, Managing Consultant at ECS Security, explains more about managing security in a DevOps environment: 

DevOps and the corresponding tooling means you can respond faster in the development lifecycle. You can fail fast and fail safe. It’s not possible to remove 100% of risk but it is possible to eliminate the vast majority of it. By using like for like code in a development environment, with mirrored dependencies and so on, we can safely fail without risk before the release goes anywhere near the live environment. 

“It’s vital to get buy-in from your security team, involving them in the initial conversation when it comes to DevOps. Today’s consumers see security as a priority, they take it for granted. If you break that trust, there can be far-reaching reputational consequences as well as short-term practical ones.” 

2-2

 

The future of security 

We’re seeing a shift in how the big players respond to security breaches. There is a trend towards far more public ownership of the breach and transparency as to how the organisation intends to fix or mitigate risk in the future.  

Whilst traditional companies – including some in the banking sector – are more reluctant to take a public stance because of the severity of reputational threat, modern companies are adopting a different tact.   

Amazon and Reddit are two such companies, demonstrating an openness of sharing ideas around how to avoid or deal with security breaches. Netflix is another, going as far as to release ChaosMonkey – an opensource service which identifies groups of systems and randomly terminates one of the systems in a group. Whilst deliberate termination of a system seems illogical, failure happens, and being able to challenge your system’s architecture at a time that suits your business is invaluable.  

This open sharing of information is not only bolstering the leaders’ business reputations, they are changing the digital landscape by enabling businesses to build fully resilient applications that can face modern problems.   

McLaren agrees: The general trend is that transparency is becoming a differentiator. Monitoring and early warning are hugely important in order to get insights into what’s occurring. My advice is to empower your developers with data and KPIs – and challenge them.” 

 

Organisations with mature DevOps practices are able to build fully-resilient applications that can cope in the face of today’s threat landscape. They do this by building in security early and testing rigorously in a safe environment. 

Would you like to learn more about how DevOps can help to secure your digital transformation? Contact us today for more information. 

Morgan AtkinsSecuring your transformation
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Alexa: Building Skills for the World of Tomorrow

Alexa: Building Skills for the World of Tomorrow

We have all seen the TV Ads with someone asking Alexa (Amazons personal assistant AI) to dim the lights or start playing ‘The Grand Tour’ on Prime Video, and this technology is growing larger and faster every day.

Most commercial technologies like computers and internet started their lives in the hands of big businesses and large institutes that could afford the large initial RnD costs. In light of this, the Amazon team have taken a reverse approach and employed a small scale, iterative expansion of the product.

By providing developers access to the Alexa development kit and opening the voice service to the public, Amazon have made Alexa development a straightforward, painless and rewarding process.

Amazon incentivises its cult following of open source developers by rewarding those who create great skills that others want to use. Amazon announced:

“Publish a new skill this month and get an Alexa water bottle to help you stay hydrated during your coding sessions. If more than 75 customers use your skill in its first 30 days in the Alexa Skills Store, you can also qualify to receive an Echo Dot to help you make Alexa even smarter. The skill with the most unique users within its first 30 days after publishing in February will also earn an Echo Spot.”

Vocal Skills Revolution

We should all remember the mobile app revolution along with the tremendous increase in the number of smartphone users  experienced in global mobile app markets . A massive increase in the user base drove innovation, producing better mobile phones. An organised marketplace for app download, timely updates, advanced app development platforms became the norm. Most significantly, the development of some very useful and revolutionary apps have become part of our everyday lives. With the number of users almost doubling over the last 5 years, mobile app developers can reach more consumers than ever.

At ECS Digital, we believe Voice will experience the same type of growth as mobile applications did.

While consumers command more of their day to day life using voice-controlled technologies, from smart TVs to Alexa enabled electric cars, we can be safe in the knowledge that the voice revolution is coming and will change the way future generations interact with technology.

Alexa for Business

What is Alexa for Business?

Alexa for Business makes it easy for you to use Alexa in your organisation. Alexa for Business provides tools to manage Alexa devices, enrol users and configure skills across those devices. You can build your own context-aware voice skills using the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) and conferencing device APIs, and you can make them available as private skills for your organisation.

What is an Alexa Skill?

Alexa is Amazon’s voice service and the brain behind tens of millions of devices like the Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, and Echo Show. It provides capabilities, or skills, that enable customers to create a more personalised experience. There are now tens of thousands of skills from companies like Starbucks, Uber, and Capital One as well as other innovative designers and developers.

Alexa Voice Service

The Alexa Voice Service (AVS) enables you to integrate Alexa directly into your products. We provide you with access to a suite of resources to quickly and easily build Alexa-enabled products, including APIs, hardware and software development tools, and documentation. With AVS, you can add a new intelligent interface to your products and offer your customers access to a growing number of Alexa features, smart home integrations, and skills.

What is the Alexa Skills Kit?

The Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) is a collection of self-service APIs, tools, documentation, and code samples that makes it fast and easy for you to add skills. ASK enables designers, developers, and brands to build engaging skills and reach customers through tens of millions of Alexa-enabled devices. With ASK, you can leverage Amazon’s knowledge and pioneering work in the field of voice design.

ECS Digital and Amazon Alexa

With Alexa for business being released in the US and coming to the rest of the world soon, we at ECS Digital have been using her to increase productivity and enable innovation within the office. We have been working on a few different initiatives coining the term OfficeOps.

Here are some of them:

Booking a meeting room

Working in a large consultancy,  it can be difficult to know if a meeting room is free. Moreover, booking said room can be a complicated and confusing process. The answer: create an internal/Dev skill to track the availability of a room, who has it and for how long. This skill also allows users to book a room on the spot, allowing our colleagues to interact with the booking process by literally asking the room for a booking slot .

Interactive Training

As a fast-moving DevOps consultancy, ECS Digital are always looking for innovative ways to improve our skills. For a long time now, we have been using Alexa to learn new skills and brush up on existing ones by using her as a pop quiz master. Colleagues located in our London Bridge office can ask Alexa to test their knowledge about a technology, helping them to maintain a high level of competency.

Summary

All evidence suggests that voice is here to stay, and will drive the next wave of technical innovation, both in business and at home, making those laborious, everyday tasks a little easier and futuristic. However, our assessment comes with a note: work still needs to be done in order make voice the standard, but we are confident that changes will be made swiftly.

Visit our services to explore how we enable organisations to transform their internal cultures, to make it easier for teams to collaborate, and adopt practices such as Continuous Integration, Continuous Delivery, and Continuous Testing. 

Morgan AtkinsAlexa: Building Skills for the World of Tomorrow
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What you missed at Dockercon17

What you missed at Dockercon17

Fresh off the flight from Austin, Texas where this years Dockercon17 was held. We just couldn’t wait to get the latest information out!

Any fans of containers will have, no doubt, heard the number of new features to the Dockerecosystem. If we were to mention all of them, we would be here for days so, we’ve helped focus on a few really interesting announcements from the event.

If there was any doubt that Docker’s momentum was slowing down, feast your eyes on the infographic below:

DockerCon.jpg

Oracle Containers

One of the biggest announcements from this years’ Dockercon was Oracle’s commitment to provide officially supported containerised versions of their most popular tool, as well as, the promise of more official images to come.

Oracle.pngThe news of an officially supported Oracle container comes as a welcome addition to the Docker ecosystem. As many of us will know – using a large Oracle database is sometimes unavoidable, but, having the option to integrate Oracle’s newest offering with your Docker tool chain, will allow for the best of both worlds, lightweight, immutable containers, and the reliability and feature-rich content of Oracle.

Microsoft running Linux on Windows

Microsoft also attended this years’ Dockcon17 and had a lot to tell us about the work they have been doing with Docker over the last 2 years. Those of us who follow Docker and their rapidly changing ecosystem will already know about the ability to run Docker natively on Windows server 2016, but you may also know that due to the way Docker works, running Linux containers on Windows has not been possible, until now!

Microsoft and Docker announced the ability to run Linux containers on Windows Server 2016 with the use of the new Linux kit.

Moby’s Cool Hacks

Play-with-Docker

Marcos Nils and Jonathan Leibiusky, the winners of this years ‘Moby’s Cool Hacks’ closed Dockercon17 with an amazing demo of their winning entry ‘Play-with-Docker.’ A browser based playground for Docker, allowing users to spawn short lived Docker containers in seconds, this power platform is great for both learning and teaching Docker.

This Docker swarm cluster hosted in AWS (Amazon Web Services) allows for a wide range of applications, and as they demonstrated, not only was Docker in Docker possible, but also, Swarm in Swarm. Marcos and Jonathan offered around 30 step-by-step tutorials to get you from novice to Docker pro in no time.
Play with Docker copy-1.png

FaaS (Function as a Service)

Alex Ellis presented the second Cool Hack, Functions as a Service (FaaS). FaaS leverages Docker swarm to provide serverless functions, with each container running a watchdog process that hosts a web server; allowing a post request to be forwarded to a desired process, via STDIN.

The response is sent back to the caller via STDOUT. This type of architecture allows for small repeatable pieces of code to be used in order to create complex actions.

Ellis demonstrated one of these actions in the form of an Alexa request, using an Amazon Dot, he asked Alexa to trigger his custom function, with an input parameter, then using a separate verbal request, Ellis, was able to verify the result of the initial request.

FaaS.png

Ellis created a bunch of samples to get help you get started with the first function, but remember, functions can be written in any language, so no need to learn a complex new language. The FaaS can be automatically scaled using the baked-in Prometheus to gather metrics and scale up and down for demand.

You can see the functions used in Alex’s demo in this Github repository: https://github.com/alexellis/faas-dockercon/

Moby Project

Another announcement from Dockercon17 was the release of the Moby Project, a new open source project to advance the software containerization movement  – we will have a detailed blog about this very soon, so keep a look out!

Overall, Dockercon17 was a great event all round, not to mention the amazing evening event on Rainey Street with Docker’s own Container Bar! (obviously we had to have a few there!)  we are looking forward to Dockercon EU in Copenhagen later this year.

Until then, we will play with some of the new announcements and let you know how we get on.

Morgan AtkinsWhat you missed at Dockercon17
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DevOps Playground Meetup #7: Hands on with Kubernetes

DevOps Playground Meetup #7: Hands on with Kubernetes

Our 7th DevOps Playground focused on Kubernetes: an open-source platform for automating deployment, scaling, and operating application containers across a cluster.

On Thursday 29th September, we once again hosted our well-loved DevOps Playground. At these events, we provide the opportunity for anyone to explore and use the newest and most popular technology the industry has to offer.

Last Thursday was one of our biggest turnouts. We had 20+ awesome practitioners turn up for their chance to get some hand on experience with Google’s Kubernetes (and the obligatory pizza and beer!)

Content for the evening was designed and created by our very own Mourad Trabelsi with myself and other ECS Digital guys supporting the event (drinking the beer and eating the pizza).

Why did we choose Kubernetes?

As an Automation house and DevOps heavy weight, we know the importance of microservice architecture and containerization.

A number of large clients have scaling issues – not routed in their ability to produce scalable products – but in their ability to manage massively complex estates with thousands (sometimes millions) of moving parts.

Tools such as Docker can struggle to schedule and manage tasks across multiple nodes in your cluster, and really work best when you’re able to manually manipulate and configure on a single host.

This is why we often need to bring other players into the mix.

Kubernetes, commonly referred to as “k8s”, is an open-source container cluster manager, originally designed by Google and donated to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation. It is both a powerful and free tool.

It aims to provide a “platform for automating deployment, scaling, and operations of application containers across clusters of hosts“, providing container-centric infrastructure. It enables better control over your container ecosystem.

Hands on with Kubernetes

We began the evening by generating an AWS instance for each of the attendees to build their clusters within. We provide credentials to access a sandboxed area of our own development Amazon account, so that our attendees can get down to the good stuff and not waste time on loading screens (an inevitability when we all have different laptops running different operating systems and configuration).

We deployed containers, duplicated them, introduced a load balance in front of them and performed a rolling update on all of the created containers.

We used two versions of the same nginx Docker container (nginx:1.10, nginx:1.11.4) to represent a periodic update that happens regularly, in the real world.

Kubernetes.png

 

If you missed the playground, our toys are still available to access on GitHub.

Thanks to everyone who came along. We always enjoy sharing our knowledge, pizza and beer! We hope everyone had a great time and learned something new.

As always, we’d love to hear any ideas and suggestions you might have for our next event. 

Join us on MeetUp

Morgan AtkinsDevOps Playground Meetup #7: Hands on with Kubernetes
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5 ridiculous Docker myths – busted!

5 ridiculous Docker myths – busted!

Why Docker – and containers – are now safe, secure and ready for the enterprise

Run a Google search on Docker and you’ll see a strange phenomenon – 75 per cent of the world is loudly singing its praises, while the remaining quarter is grumbling and moaning with no apparent justification. The latter is mainly down to outdated information about Docker, as well as some myths that were never true to begin with.

Confusion is never a good starting point when you’re choosing technology for the enterprise, so we’ve decided to tackle it head on. Below, in no particular order, are our top five spurious Docker myths – busted!

Busted Myth #1 – Docker is insecure

Security is incredibly important and there’s no way we would recommend a technology that doesn’t deliver on that front. Docker Enterprise Edition adds a number of key elements to ensure enterprise-class security, alongside a rolling updates programme that ensures you’re running the more secure version.

Importantly, Docker information is encrypted in both transit and rest, unlike some competitors. In addition, Role Based Access Control (RBAC) gives you control over who can access and make changes to applications.

Trusted images is Docker’s image signing system, using a key owned by your company. The corporate server can be configured to only run signed images. Tying in to this is Docker’s Vulnerability Scanning, a centralised, constantly-updated database of vulnerabilities used to scan for any security issues within containers, ensuring developers avoid costly mistakes.

Busted Myth #2 – Docker isn’t reliable

Docker used to be a classic Open Source project with features added at breakneck speed. As with any developing technology, this meant there were some caveats around using it in development and production environments.

Docker Enterprise Edition is different. This is Docker with a paid rolling support programme, bringing reliability and stability via a different release model to Docker Consumer Edition. It provides a certified apps platform on enterprise Windows or Linux operating systems and Cloud providers.

Busted Myth #3 – Docker requires the Cloud

This myth is particularly easy to bust – Docker doesn’t need Cloud, it’s as simple as that. Docker’s Build/Ship/Run ethos means that a developer can, if they wish, run an image on their local machine, then promote that same image all the way through into production. And that local machine can be pretty much anything – we’ve run Docker on Mac, Windows, Linux boxes, even a Raspberry Pi board with not a Cloud in sight.

That’s not to say the Cloud can’t come in handy. All the reasons we love the Cloud still apply, including advantages such as enhanced disaster security and recovery, multiple instances via the likes of Amazon and Azure, remote collaborative working. It’s just that Docker is totally flexible – it fits into the way you want to work

Busted Myth #4 – Docker can’t compete because it’s Open Source

The days of Open Source being something inherently untrustworthy is a misconception that went out with the dinosaurs. In fact, Docker has significant advantages, not least being the Secrets functionality that ensures security both in transit and at rest.

What we’re seeing is that Docker Enterprise Edition is being implemented by the likes of banks and retailers. These are huge enterprises that are risk averse to the nth degree – they need to get things right first time, every time.

Busted Myth #5 – Docker’s containers are too limiting

Docker’s containers are specifically designed to replicate a single kernel. This is in fact an advantage over Virtual Machines, rather than a limitation. This design results in dramatic efficiency improvements compared to VMs, giving developers the ability to run far more apps on the same servers.

What’s more, the latest version of Data Centre introduces the ability to run a Swarm cluster that includes Linux, Windows and some mainframe hosts. We particularly like the way you can deploy containers to your Swarm and allow Docker to do the tedious work of analysing what operating systems they need to run automatically by analysing the code.

Here at ECS Digital we’re always happy to talk about what we do, why and how. If you’re interested in finding out how we can help you, please do get in touch.

Morgan Atkins5 ridiculous Docker myths – busted!
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