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:

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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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.



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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DevOps Playground Meetup #4: Hands on with Packer

DevOps Playground Meetup #4: Hands on with Packer

Fourth meetup and counting!

Thursday’s DevOps Playground was the biggest gathering at Forest Technologies so far.

The fourth instalment focused on the HashiCorp Packer tool and was presented by our very own Ivan Audisio.

The purpose: to provide an environment where we can nurture our thirst for knowledge (and maybe a beer or two) by giving the opportunity to get hands on with some of the latest DevOps tools.

HashiCorp’s Packer

Packer is a tool that allows us to create machine and container images for multiple platforms. It is a very small and simple tool to set up, that only needs a JSON template to run.

After dumping our files into a folder, we were good to mess around with the code.


For those familiar with creating Virtual Machines, you might know that it can be a time consuming activity. Thanks to Packer, we were able to show that a fully functioning OS can be installed and configured with an apache server, using just one simple command.

Our playground only gave us time to generate one image for VirtualBox, but the possibilities are endless.

All of our participants were left with enough knowledge to know how to use Packer to create identical images for multiple platforms, using the source configuration file that we used.

Everything we ran through can be found on our GitHub page. We have uploaded all of the files that were used in the playground and also another template to create an image under AWS as promised. You can get to it by clicking here.

We would like to thank once again all the participants of Thursday’s meetup. We hope that you enjoyed the playground as much as we did preparing it for you. Your good vibes are giving us great enthusiasm to continue these events that are becoming tradition for us.

We hope to see you again in our next meetup! You can keep yourself up to date with upcoming events by checking our Meetup page or following us on Twitter!


Ivan.AudisioDevOps Playground Meetup #4: Hands on with Packer
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Beer, Pizza, 150 People and Thought Provoking discussion – LondonDevOps

Beer, Pizza, 150 People and Thought Provoking discussion – LondonDevOps

It was a privilege to host and sponsor the 7th LondonDevOps meetup at our offices. It looked a little ambitious that we would fill all the chairs, let alone consume the wall of beer we had laid on but as you can see by the photos we had a packed house.

It was great to meet so many people with a variety of thoughts and approaches on DevOps. First up to present was Ruxit’s Alois Reitbauer discussing ”
The Dark Art of Building an Alerting System”.

Next up was Gareth Rusgrove from Puppetlabs and DevOps weekly with a thought provoking presentation on the ”
The end of the general purpose operating system”. His deck can be found here.

To help everone digest the information from the presentations it was time for a present from Papa Johns (30 to be precise), more beer and time to discuss those topics and more amongst ourselves. The brave continued on to the bar downstairs.

Following some serious work and grovelling to our cleaner our office returned to it’s usual serene format.

It really was great to see everyone and we can’t wait for the next gathering. Thanks again to our friends at Crane Software for arranging and everyone who attended.

Cy NichollsBeer, Pizza, 150 People and Thought Provoking discussion – LondonDevOps
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