Plotting a Container-Centric Future. Part Two

Plotting a Container-Centric Future. Part Two

What to look for in a partner

Containers offer huge advantages over traditional architecture and application development models. Getting the best from this new way of working however, requires detailed knowledge of how to deploy them and the benefits of doing so. To avoid making bad decisions – which could impact the ability to move to containers quickly and effectively – organisations should seek out guidance from experienced experts before jumping in. 

A little assistance during the early phases of a cloud migration, or application refactoring, will pay huge dividends when moving to containers. If you are able to find and work with an experienced partner the benefits will be realised faster, with less risk. Here are some of the essential things to look for in a partner:

Sourcing the Right Expertise

Once you’ve selected your container distribution (e.g. Rancher, Docker, OpenShift…), the adoption of new technology can be disruptive. Not just to your technology ecosystem, but to your teams and culture too. 

Another stumbling block is that the on-premise IT services methodologies, traditionally supporting COTS applications, struggle to translate to the new model of containers, microservices and cloud environments. Care should be taken to ensure that any service provider is suitably skilled and experienced in Rancher, Kubernetes and Docker to enable you on your journey.

Take the time to ask how long they have been working with the technologies, how extensive their training is, and what certifications they hold. Key decisions about application architecture and environment design will be made early in the life of your modern applications – it’s crucial to make the right ones. Seek advice from those with the scars and medals of previous battles in this arena if you want to get ahead of your competition.

Finding the Right Support

You will gain the most from a partner if you are able to engage with engineers who will work in close partnership with you. You want a partner that will collaborate to design and build robust, flexible and cost-efficient cloud provisioning, orchestration and deployment solutions for your modern applications. Take the time to identify a partner who can place automation at the heart of what they do, leveraging the latest industry tooling and techniques including system immutability, infrastructure-as-code and container orchestrators.

What’s more, you will want to work with a qualified professional services team who can provide the architecture design, pre-staging, deployment, integration, training and support requirements for each project they undertake – you could  avoid costly mistakes common in the absence of this help.

An Agnostic Approach

You should ideally find a partner who is technology-agnostic and able to give honest advice, tailored for you – rather than making recommendations on one particular technology stack. You are going to be working with them on strategic elements of your business, so leverage their experience to avoid common design and implementation pitfalls – it will save you a lot of time, and a lot of money.

Lastly, find a partner who is invested in your success. Sounds simple, but finding a partner that looks beyond the surface requirements is a rare feat, but a rewarding one. Look beyond the sticker on the tin and instead focus on how your partner can help you make changes with longevity. Our own partners – such as Rancher – achieve this by upskilling our consultants in their latest technologies and tools so we can better serve our clients. We then pay this forward to our clients by upskilling their teams as part of our Pods offering. Technology isn’t about squeezing lemons, it’s about creating a sustainable innovation that benefits all, and we pride ourselves on enabling teams to make the most of the new technologies that will need to be mastered as they start their DevOps journey. 

Lead by Example

ECS Digital are experts in the deployment of containerised applications, and we provide exactly this type of assistance to organisations of all kinds. We are service delivery and training providers for many of the leaders in the DevOps toolchain, such as Rancher, Docker, HashiCorp, Puppet, Sonatype, New Relic, CloudBees and GitHub. Click here to find out more and get in touch.

If you missed Part One of the series, you can find it here.

——–

About the author

Morgan Atkins is the container technology lead at ECS Digital, and spends his time working with the leading container tools and related technology. You will find him on site with customers from many industries, explaining how to adopt products such as Rancher, Docker and Kubernetes. Morgan is a certified Docker trainer and consultant, and is one of the leading consultants for containerised applications in the UK.

About ECS Digital

ECS Digital is a leading DevOps and Digital Transformation consultancy based in London, Singapore and Edinburgh. Being deeply embedded in the world of DevOps and the tooling that this movement is driving, ECS Digital is proud to partner with the leading software vendors in this space, including Rancher, Docker, CloudBees, Aqua, Sonatype, HashiCorp, New Relic and ServiceNow.

Morgan AtkinsPlotting a Container-Centric Future. Part Two
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Plotting a Container-Centric Future. Part One

Plotting a Container-Centric Future. Part One

Containers are unlocking new and innovative ways of developing and running software. With containerisation, the potential of hybrid cloud computing is finally becoming a reality. The evolution of containers is much akin to that of Virtual Machines (VMs) 15-years ago – eyed with suspicion in the early days but are now a de facto part of every IT infrastructure. Likewise, containers are becoming the default plan for organisations in all sectors and of all shapes and sizes.

Why? For those not yet familiar, containers are lightweight, portable, virtualised, software-defined environments. Their growing popularity is due to the fact they facilitate modularity, portability and simplicity when provisioning virtual infrastructure. They represent, in many ways, a step-change in how IT functions deliver applications; reduced boot times, improved resource utilisation and a lack of infrastructure dependencies facilitating swift deployment and iterative development and test cycles.

ECS Digital’s approach to containers is simple; it’s all about choice. Tooling agnostic – everything from cloud solutions to automation and edge – we’re led by the needs of our customers. Whilst there are many commercial container distributions available today, we choose to work with two main partners; Docker and Kubernetes (specifically, Rancher). Naturally, many organisations have a few requirements when selecting a platform to host their applications. By far the most common one is the desire to attain and retain agility by not being locked into a particular offering that prevents easy migration to other cloud platforms. In reality, this means selecting a platform based on Kubernetes, as this has been proven to be the standard by which other orchestrators are judged.

In this three-part series, we will take a look at the features of Rancher, highlight those that other container orchestration management tools don’t offer out of the box, and help you find the perfect deployment partner. Let’s start with Rancher’s pivotal features…

Rancher – Extra rBACtteries Included

Rancher is widely regarded as the #1 choice for running enterprise-scale containers and Kubernetes in production. It’s the only distro that can manage all Kubernetes clusters on all Clouds. It also accelerates the adoption of open source Kubernetes while complying with corporate security and availability standards.

100% Open Source

All Rancher products are 100% open source and free to use. Rancher deploys upstream, open-source Kubernetes, so the latest features in each Kubernetes release are always available for users. Rancher has also successfully shaped Kubernetes into an enterprise offering by putting security first and making it easy for businesses to control and interact with all of their clusters from a single interface.

No Vendor Lock-In

Rancher remains agnostic about which provider to use. It gives you, the user, the freedom to quickly deploy Kubernetes anywhere, with the configuration that you want. It also abstracts vendor differences so that users can interact with each cluster in the same way. Rancher makes it possible to run multiple clusters whilst enabling you to manage each cluster independently. And if you ever decide to stop using Rancher, you can quickly and cleanly uninstall the platform as if it was never there.

Multi-Cluster Management

Rancher was built to manage Kubernetes everywhere it runs. It can easily deploy new clusters from scratch, launch EKS, GKE and AKS clusters, or even import existing Kubernetes clusters. This month, Rancher went as far as to launch RIO, a MicroPaaS that can be layered on any standard Kubernetes cluster. And the best part? It’s free! Try it out for yourself today.

In short, Rancher is a complete container management platform, with a few added bells and whistles to make using the tool both practical and able to integrate with other applications. This ease of use makes Rancher an ideal partner for businesses scaling change initiatives using containerisation technology. And we should know. After a 14-month engagement with an industry-leading asset tracking client, ECS Digital has been instrumental in delivering and operating globally deployed container applications on Rancher that will revolutionise the industry.

In part two of the series, we’ll explore what you should look for in a partner, and how choosing the right partner can help drive a successful transformation for you and your business.

——–

About the Author:

Morgan Atkins is the container technology lead at ECS Digital and is one of the leading consultants for containerised applications in the UK. Not only is Morgan a certified Docker trainer and consultant, but he also takes great pride working alongside and upskilling customers in the adoption of container products such as Rancher, Docker and Kubernetes.

About ECS Digital

ECS Digital is a leading DevOps and Digital Transformation consultancy based in London, Singapore and Edinburgh. Being deeply embedded in the world of DevOps and the tooling that this movement is driving, ECS Digital is proud to partner with the leading software vendors in this space, including Rancher, Docker, CloudBees, Aqua, Sonatype, HashiCorp, New Relic and ServiceNow.

Want to adopt Rancher in your business? Talk to the team today about how you can get started.

Morgan AtkinsPlotting a Container-Centric Future. Part One
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It’s here, Docker Enterprise 3.0 – Build, Ship, Share, Run

It’s here, Docker Enterprise 3.0 – Build, Ship, Share, Run

DockerCon US 2019 has come and gone for another year! But despair not fellow Docker fans, Docker has left us with a meaty and fairly comprehensive list of announcements for us to chomp on, until DockerCon EU at least, if it decides to go ahead…

Now, before we start imagining a world without DockerCon EU, let us work our way through some of the notable key announcements from this year in San Francisco!

For anyone who has been living under a rock or drinking far too much open source Kool-Aid, Docker Enterprise is an end-to-end container-as-a-service (CaaS) platfor. Since its launch in 2017, it has been a one stop shop for public, private or hybrid cloud container management for both Linux and Windows.

At DockerCon 2019, Docker Inc released the next major iteration of the public beta: Docker Enterprise 3.0! Part of this release was the following three areas of note, namely Docker Desktop Enterprise, Docker Apps + CNAB and DKS. Let’s take a look at these in more detail:

Docker Desktop Enterprise

As the name suggests, Docker Desktop Enterprise (DDE) is a new developer tool that extends the Docker Enterprise Platform to developers’ desktops. Not only does this improve developer productivity, it accelerates time-to-market for new applications too.

DDE sounds a lot like “Docker for [Mac/Windows] 2.0”. And in some ways it’s a very similar tool, except for some extra enterprise features, more uniformed UI and some much needed yard rails. The addition of DDE will help stabilise adoption and allow unskilled engineers to leverage Docker in their workflow in a more meaningful way.

DDE also provides a secure way to configure, deploy and manage developer environments while enforcing safe development standards that align to corporate policies and practices. IT teams and application architects can present developers with application templates designed specifically for their team, to bootstrap and standardise the development process and provide a consistent environment all the way to production.

Docker Application + CNAB

Docker Applications is a stroke of genius from the product team at Docker. This simple application allows you to create an application for predefined components, adding more guard rails to help accelerate adoption and enable more and more people to use and enjoy Docker!

This is a new set of tooling that enables end-to-end application consistency and scalability from developers to operators. It allows users to manage complex applications as simply as individual containers, with tools to build, push, and deploy multi-container applications as self-contained objects. Tools such as:

Docker Application is based on CNAB – a joint collaboration of Docker, Microsoft, Bitnami, HashiCorp and CodeFresh. Docker Application Templates make sharing and standardisation of applications simpler and more scalable by creating templates for applications and their deployment parameters. In addition to creating and sharing, docker app easily generate Dockerfiles and the associated files for common application frameworks without expert Docker knowledge and enables development to get up to speed faster by letting developers focus on their business logic.

Docker Kubernetes Service (DKS)

This will make Kubernetes easier, more secure, and more accessible to the entire organisation.

DKS is compatible with Kubernetes YAML, Helm charts, and the Docker Compose tool for creating multi-container applications. It also provides an automated way to install and configure Kubernetes applications across hybrid and multi-cloud deployments. Other capabilities include security, access control, and lifecycle management. Docker Enterprise customers also can use Docker Swarm to orchestrate Docker containers.

It’s still a little unclear about what DKS is. Whilst it could be the answer to AWS’ EKS or Azure’s AKS, it honestly just sounds like a new and cooler name for Docker EE – as we all should know Docker EE has supported both Swarm and Kubernetes since 2017 and therefore has had a Kubernetes service Out of the Box. If this is true, it seems that Docker is trying to appeal to a wider audience through the descriptions and capabilities of its new tools.

Concluding thoughts

So, that’s it for another year! For more about the DockerCon San Francisco 2019, Docker have written a great wrap up blog, including all the key note live streams videos for you to watch at your leisure. Enjoy!

Morgan AtkinsIt’s here, Docker Enterprise 3.0 – Build, Ship, Share, Run
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Opening the Windows on Kubernetes 1.14

Opening the Windows on Kubernetes 1.14

Those of us who have been working in the DevOps industry for a while will be well versed in the Windows conundrum but for the sake of clarity here is an example of what it is and the problem that it poses. Let’s take a CTO within an enterprise organisation – someone in charge of a complex estate of business applications. This estate might include numerous Linux-based applications or in some cases hundreds of legacy windows-based applications. This CTO is already a containerisation convert and is bought into the benefits of added portability, security and agility, and like many organisations in the industry, he recognises Kubernetes as the standard for container orchestration. However, up until now, container orchestration for Windows applications has been limited – and this limitation has caused conflict between the need to run Windows containers in Productions and the largely agreed best practice approach of using Kubernetes.

To those less embedded in the DevOps world, this might sound like an implementation detail to be overcome by the ‘DevOps engineer’ (usually sat in a darken room), but it has a real impact on the business because of the time, resource and cost involved in solving it. To get the real benefits from a containerisation approach you need to have a unified strategy that works across your entire technology suite. Having to manage different approaches and different processes reduces the beneficial impact. Thankfully the coming together of Docker, Kubernetes and Microsoft has at last provided a solution to the problem with the launch of Kubernetes 1.14 (https://kubernetes.io/blog/2019/03/25/kubernetes-1-14-release-announcement/).

Of course, Docker has had a solution to the Windows Containers problem for a while, with a well-established and well-tested security model in the form of Docker Enterprise using Swarm orchestration. However, the rise of Kubernetes (it is increasingly the first choice among container users, with Datadog reporting its use increasing from 22.5 percent in October 2017 to 32.5 percent in October 2018) has meant that Docker had two choices. It could either continue to try and push users towards its own container orchestration solutions or it could take a more collaborative approach and embrace the fact that Kubernetes has become accepted as best of breed in this space. Thankfully for those at the sharp end of implementing containerisation strategies, they seem to have decided on the latter.

You really have to give kudos to Docker for this. It has understood the needs of its community and given it what it needs – a route to a single strategy across both Linux and Windows applications. It also means a big step forward in the move towards serverless environments.

The people who are going to feel the benefits of this most acutely (at least in the short term) are the applications teams. These are the folks at the coal face of implementing a containerisation strategy that is part of a wider IT transformation designed to speed up delivery and reduce complexity. They may also sit below a strategy team who all too often have selective blindness when it comes to looking at the technology stack and seem not to be able to see the Windows elements. It therefore falls to the men and women on the ground to deliver a series of benefits that have been sold in further up the chain based on a view of the application environment that is not entirely accurate.

So, if I am a head of architecture what can I take from the launch of Kubernetes 1.14?

Firstly – if you have been hesitant about moving forward with a containerisation approach because of the complexity of your applications environment, you now have a solution that will work across the entire environment. Not only does it mean a single control plane across different platforms and orchestrations, the UCP GUI (rather than script) means operation is simplified which will increase RUN team use.

Secondly, you can relax in the knowledge that finding yourself the right skillsets to get your containerisation strategy underway is going to be just that little bit easier!

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

There are significant benefits to containerisation, including portability, improved security and increased infrastructure efficiency. ECS Digital is a leading Docker Certified Delivery Partner and can help you use and extend the Docker Container platform.

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, we undertake 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
  • Containerise 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 Digital is also a 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 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 publishers and international energy providers. Click hereto find out more about how our Enablement PodsTM work.

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

*Kubernetes 1.14 is available for download on GitHub.

Image credit: Photo by Joseph Barrientos on Unsplash

Morgan AtkinsOpening the Windows on Kubernetes 1.14
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Out Scaling Peak Load

Out Scaling Peak Load

Not building your website for scale can be extremely detrimental to your service / product line and reputation – and can become an expensive mistake in the long term! Surges in genuine traffic are a rare opportunity, which makes it terrible timing for your website to be crashing.

In this short 25 minute talk, Morgan Atkins, DevOps and Continuous Delivery Consultant at ECS Digital, covers:

  • Why you want to engineer for scale
  • How you can build your services to scale
  • What the common success factors are
  • Where this technology is moving to next, and how this evolution will support scale beyond the Cloud

 

 

You can also watch the video for free on our YouTube channel here and learn how you can get yourself in the best position to react to unforeseen, performance-critical traffic spikes to your website.

If you want to talk to the team about any specific parts of the lecture, please reach out to hello@ecs-digital.co.uk and one of our consultants will be in touch to help answer your questions.

***

Banner Photo credit: Farzad Nazifi on Unsplash

Morgan AtkinsOut Scaling Peak Load
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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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