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An Interview with Matt Stratton

One project I’m really excited about, and I swear it’s not because of where I work, is Chef Delivery

By Jason Hand

Matt and I first met in the Summer of 2014 at DevOpsDays Minneapolis. My first introduction came when he (and several other DoD alums) participated in an impressive round of DevOps Karaoke. Matt gave an IGNITE talk on day two of the event titled “How to Hire Your First DevOp” as well. I learned during that event that he co-hosted a DevOps specific podcast that was gaining in popularity. It made perfect sense.

Not long after Minneapolis, I began trading emails with the organizers of DevOpsDays Chicago when I learned that Matt was a co-organizer for that event. VictorOps (and myself) definitely needed to see what kinds of conversations were taking shape in the “Windy City”. Since then, Matt and I have stayed in touch and regularly cross paths at a number of events including this year’s ChefConf & DevOpsDays Rockies.

One of the suggested Open Spaces at the Chicago event was “Marketing’s Place in DevOps”. To my great surprise, this was a very well attended Open Space with many folks from both Marketing teams as well as other business units who were simply curious how to bring teams outside of Dev & Ops in to the conversation about DevOps.

As a result, Matt and his co-hosts (Trevor Hess & Bridget Kromhout) invited myself and Shannon Smith of 10th Magnitude to be guests on their podcast “Arrested DevOps” to discuss the subject in greater depth.  Since then, I’ve had many great conversation on this topic and love being able to share what I know on the matter with people who want to begin understanding DevOps and how their Marketing teams can best participate in the conversations.

Matt is wealth of information, always willing to help newcomers to the DevOps space as well as an overall amazing guy. He was an obvious choice for the DevOps Interview blog series and I look forward to collaborating and working with him on spreading the DevOps ideologies further.

Q: For those out there who are unfamiliar with who you are, can you give a quick intro?

I am a solutions architect at Chef, where I demonstrate how Chef’s automation platform provides speed and flexibility to clients’ infrastructure. Devoted to concepts like Continuous Delivery and Infrastructure as Code, with a license plate that actually says “DevOps”. I am the creator and co-host of the popular “Arrested DevOps” podcast pulling from over 15 years experience in IT operations, ranging from large financial and insurance institutions, as well as internet firms, including Apartments.com. I’ve given presentations at Microsoft-sponsored events, CAMP IT, ChefConf, and DevOpsDays. I live in Chicago and have an unhealthy obsession with Doctor Who, Firefly, and Game of Thrones.

devopslicenseplate

Q: Are there any projects or events that you’re really excited about and want to share with me?

One project I’m really excited about, and I swear it’s not because of where I work, is Chef Delivery. The idea of having an opinionated continuous delivery tool that is built upon experience with creating these pipelines for real customers, is where I think these tools should be going. Most companies are not in the business of building delivery tools – they are in the business of shipping their software. Similarly, I really love the idea that the framework is completely codified, and it should come as no surprise that I love this, as I’m obsessed with infrastructure as code.

Event-wise, there’s not a specific event that is blowing up my mind right now, but I have been getting a lot of interest from more established conferences that are adding a “DevOps track” now. Agile 2014 did this last year, and it was fantastic to see how they chose great speakers (by virtue of having great track chairs, of course) that really exposed what DevOps is all about to a community of practice who was not aware of it. Seeing these other conferences expanding in this way, but being smart about it (choosing track chairs who are part of the DevOps community, rather than trying to do it themselves) makes me very optimistic about how great messaging will be shared to the rest of the industry.

Q: Where do you feel DevOps (the big picture) is now, compared to this time last year?

I think it’s getting a little confused. It’s definitely on the radar of a lot of folks I talk to, especially here in the Midwest where I live. It’s kind of new to us (we tend to be late adopters), so there’s a lot of interest, but some confusion about what it actually means. I think that things like the DevOps Enterprise Summit have really helped clarify that DevOps is a thing for everyone – traditional shops as well as Internet companies.

I think that a lot of large enterprises HAVE been “doing the DevOps” for a while, but until recently, they were shy about sharing it publicly. So we only heard stories from places like Etsy or Netflix, which gave an incorrect public perception of who was doing DevOps. Today we are seeing companies like Target, Standard Bank, and GE Capital being willing to speak publicly about their transformations, which helps legitimize it.

I also think that it’s helping folks see that it’s possible. It’s a lot easier to take on a journey like this when you know it’s possible – if you know something CAN be done, it’s a lot less scary than if you don’t know for sure it’s possible.

Q: What are your thoughts on the biggest impacts or benefits teams can gain from adopting DevOps practices?

Frankly, they’re the same benefits that we see from adopting Agile. Greater velocity and stability, and shorter feedback loops. Ultimately, we want to decrease the cycle time between a feature idea in a product owner’s mind, and getting that idea in front of some type of customer who can provide the feedback so we can adjust. DevOps practices are a natural extension of these existing ideas, but broadened beyond just the software development piece.

Adopting these practices can also help practitioners in all areas of the business (you’ll notice I didn’t say IT; we are ALL part of “the business”) realize that we have the same goal, which is to move the needle on making our business successful. Tom Limoncelli has often pointed out that traditionally, devs and ops are incentivized differently – devs want to ship features (i.e., introduce change), and ops want to reduce instability (which, of course, change can introduce). Smarter people than I have said things like “a dev’s job is not to write code” and “ops job is not to keep web servers online”. The job of all of us is to make the business successful. Our “micro-goals” might differ slightly, but they need to roll up to a “macro-goal” of doing the things that make our business awesome.

Q: Is there anyone in the DevOps (or IT space) you would love to connect with, but haven’t so far?

I’m really lucky that I get to talk to a whole lot of amazing people, mostly due to my podcast. And Twitter. So the point of this, really, is that if you’re reading this, and there is someone you really want to connect with, either use Twitter a lot, or start your own podcast.

Q: How or where do you consume the latest ideas and topics regarding DevOps and/or Agile?

I have a multitude of channels for consuming this information – in fact, sometimes it’s a massive firehose. Twitter is a great channel for me – it’s taken me a while to get my stream “right”, but I watch for trends in the conversations (not actual “Twitter trends”, but just things that stand out to me) and then I dig deeper.

I also am a huge podcast fanatic. I’ve actually really been trying to make a concerted effort to listen to podcasts that are slightly outside of my usual space – all of the DevOps podcasts are great, but I’m enjoying listening to dev-focused podcasts to learn about what developers are caring about these days.

I also read Reddit fairly regularly, although I often have to remind myself to stay out of the comments on some subreddits for the sake of my blood pressure.

Q: Do you have any good books or resources that folks just starting to explore DevOps should check out?

Books:

The Phoenix Project – this is pretty much a given, but everyone really should read it. If you’re a career sysadmin, be warned that the first quarter of the book will trigger you from some bad memories :)

Lean Enterprise: Adopting Continuous Delivery, DevOps, and Lean Startup at Scale

Podcasts:

Arrested DevOps – I co-host this podcast with Trevor Hess and Bridget Kromhout, and our intent is to be a “DevOps 101″ – introducing concepts and discussions for someone new to DevOps, and then you can “graduate” on to the harder stuff listed below.

DevOps Cafe – these dudes are hardcore and how I started learning about DevOps. Pretty intense and you might want to level up on some other stuff before you listen to them because a lot of it will not make sense without background. I still only understand about half of what John and Damon are talking about.

The Ship Show – Pretty broad in topic, so you might want to cherry pick through episodes for the DevOps stuff. Paul is a REALLY good interviewer and when they have on good guests I always learn a lot.

Other stuff:

Adam Jacob’s talk “Chef Style DevOps Kung Fu” -  (yes, I work with Adam, but this isn’t a Chef shill; this talk really is about what DevOps is all about and I think it should be required watching for everyone)

J. Paul Reed’s talk “Five Destructive Myths of DevOps” - . One of the best talks I’ve seen lately.

I highly recommend checking out Arrested DevOps and following Matt on Twitter for those looking to understand more about the world of DevOps. If you have a special interest in infrastructure as code, configuration management, or anything related to Chef.. I can’t think of a better person to recommend to you.

The post DevOps Interview: Matt Stratton appeared first on VictorOps.

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