WinOps Conf 2016 – DevOps-ification of Windows Server

(This was originally a guest post at SkeltonThatcher.com, which is co-founded by Matthew Skelton (co-author of Continuous Delivery with Windows and .NET ))


WinOps
describes itself as “the world’s only dedicated conference to ‘Windows in a DevOps world’”.  The 2016 conference took place on 24 May in London; the event partner is Microsoft themselves, who are also well represented in the speakers with Jeffrey Snover, Ed Wilson and Michael Greene.

Here is the tl;dr:

  1. “The DevOps-ification of Windows Server” – Jeffrey Snover
  2. Azure Automation DSC looks very promising for a ‘DSC on Rails’ approach
  3. Pester has matured as a PowerShell testing framework
  4. All 100 copies of the book Continuous Delivery with Windows and .NET were taken!

Keynote – Jeffrey Snover on Windows Server 2016 and Nano Server

Jeffrey Snover kicked the day off with a walk through the history of Windows Server; from the creation of Windows NT through to the plans for Windows Server 2016.  Jeffrey tells us that Windows Server 2016 is the result of “DevOpsification of Windows”.  This was the first sign of the day the the word DevOps seems to have a different meaning at this conference, which focuses on tooling and automation rather than cross-team communication and collaboration. This “DevOpsification” includes support for operational validation testing, containers, package managers as well as other features to aid automation and configuration.  He also talked about Nano server as being the Cloud optimised edition of Windows Server 2016 which appeared to bring the most interest from the audience.

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Iris Classon – make no assumptions and question everything

Next, Iris Classon illustrated how Konstruct took their on-premise architecture to the Cloud, by literally live sketching the design and choices made.  Iris covered the questions they asked themselves at each decision point: which cloud provider? What kind of data storage? How to handle security? How to approach automation?   These questions were insightful and and reassuring to hear other teams asking themselves as the start their cloud journey.  The rest of the architecture discussion was very specific to the platform Iris is working on and so not as transferable.

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100 copies of Continuous Delivery with Windows and .NET – all gone!

During the short break, Matthew Skelton and I laid out the free printed copies of our book “Continuous Delivery with Windows and .Net” which were snapped up very quickly.  I had a couple of interesting chats with people around the book who all stated they appreciated the short form of the book and would be taking copies into their offices for their colleagues.

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Ed Wilson – Azure Automation is like DSC on steroids

Configuration Management at scale was the focus of Ed Wilson’s talk. Ed gives a quick overview of Desired State Configuration for the management and maintenance of Windows Servers.  He then goes on to explain that DSC is part of the Azure Automation service which reduces the need to set up and manage your own DSC pull or reporting servers and easily provides resource management for your Azure services.  It sounds that DSC on Azure is a much smoother experience than the current self-hosting solutions.

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Michael Greene – Release Pipelines and Pester for automated testing

Michael Greene’s talk was based on the whitepaper “The Release Pipeline Model”, which he co-authored with Steven Murawski.  The paper and the talk covered development practices applied to Windows Server and Cloud systems, i.e. Infrastructure as Code.  The talk started at the basics by describing source control and how the use of it can double as an audit log and single source of truth.  It then covered continuous integration and build, followed by automated testing using Pester and finally release of the changes.

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Lunch – yay for veggie!

Lunch is an important part of any conference – the food needs to be sustaining, whilst being easy to serve and the there needs to be enough space and time for the all-important “hallway track” conversations.  The large basement area of the Skilsmatter venue lent itself well to this task and there was a lot of mingling with the sponsor stands too.  The catering gets a thumbs up from me for having a hot vegetarian option.

Richard Siddaway – Nano Server Technical Preview 5

After lunch the track split into two parallel tracks.  I chose to see the demo of the latest changes in TP5 of Windows Server Nano and Containers from Richard Siddaway.  It’s obvious from the demo that despite being the fifth technical preview, there is more work needed before Nano is ready for RTM.  Still, what we did see was very encouraging.  Using Powershell, Richard was able to script the creation of both a host Nano server and container Nano server.  Using only the facilities available in the package manager he installed the needed roles and set them running.

Panel on DevOps Culture – DevOps teams, killing CABs, and Y-shaped developers

I chose to attend the panel “DevOps Culture in a Windows” instead of the more popular “DevOps Technology in a Windows World”.  The former focussed on culture, which I feel is the trickier part of adopting DevOps and the latter focussed on tooling, plus it was an all male panel.  I wrote about 4 pages of notes from the panel session, there were lots of interesting bits of information and I didn’t manage to catch it all.  There were discussion included topics such as: whether a DevOps team is a good thing (sometimes, if used as an incubator to spread the approach); tips for adopting DevOps (don’t set out to directly change culture, it must grow from self-reflection); the Y-Shaped developer (knows many things, with areas of specialism); killing Change Advisory Boards (work with Auditors to teach the accountability present in newer development methodologies); legacy applications (and that the industry is terrible at decommissioning products).  It was probably my favourite session of the day.

Matteo Emili – feature flags support frequent releases

Next I attended Matteo Emili’s presentation on “Development and QA dilemmas in DevOps”.  Unfortunately the videographer was having technical difficulties resulting in Matteo’s talk starting late and being cut short.  The talk itself was a demo driven discussion of what I would call Continuous Delivery practices – small frequent change and regular releases supported by feature flags.  It didn’t feel like the content tied back to the talk title which I am assuming is because the talk was cut short and Matteo was unable to wrap it up cleanly.

Wrap-up

Finally, I took part in a panel titled “What does the Future hold?”.  My co-panellists included Jeffrey Snover, Michael Greene and Richard Siddaway.  We fielded questions on DevOps adoption, serverless architecture and what what skills to learn.  The panel was captured in this sketch:

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Overall, the conference was informative with regards to the future that Microsoft are working towards although many of the talks felt introductory when tackling development practices – more than once was version control mentioned as something people need to learn.  With the release of Windows Server 2016 fully out, WinOps 2017 could prove to be a very interesting event.

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