Velocity NY Speaker Preview: Blackrock 3 Partners

Photo by Anthony Delanoix, Courtesy of

— This is Part 3 of Load Impact’s Velocity NY Preview Series. Load Impact is chatting with some of the cutting-edge developers and executives who will be speaking at Velocity NY Oct. 12-14.

“It was impossible to get regular work done because we were running around putting out fires all day.”

Does that sound familiar?

When it comes to your website, app, API, SaaS product or infrastructure, a minor problem can turn into a major crisis very quickly, and that can hurt your reputation with customers and cost you time and money.

That’s why Blackrock 3 Partners, a team made up of firefighters and technology professionals, are coming to Velocity NY to teach you the finer points of incident management.

In their tutorial, Incident Management for DevOps, Rob Schnepp, Ron Vidal and Chris Hawley will demonstrate the parallels between putting out a five-alarm fire in an apartment building and responding to a data breach.

“There’s a lot of interest in how the fire service does business because we look organized and it works,” said Schnepp. “But there’s a mystique about it because not everyone understands how organized and structured it really is.”

Blackrock 3 uses terms like “Peacetime vs. Wartime” communication and operations, “war games in production” and other phrases traditionally used by the military.

That’s not because a crashed server is equivalent to a person being seriously injured in battle, but it’s because handling adverse conditions is a skill that can be learned, practiced and fine-tuned.

The team at Blackrock 3 stresses that software companies can create an ecosystem to respond to emergencies, minimize impact and learn from those experiences. That includes setting strategies for immediate response, practicing how to start correcting problems in the middle of the crisis and designating an “incident commander.”

In order to do that, Blackrock 3 often goes to their “war games in production” strategy with their clients, which can be surprising to some.

“There are times where we go in to work with a company and plan to break stuff on purpose,” said Vidal. “Sometimes people are taken back by that at first, but how else can you prepare for the randomness of the world unless you really have to solve a problem under some level of pressure?”

After an incident has been controlled and resolved, Blackrock 3 puts a heavy focus on thorough after action reviews — commonly known by many as “post mortems.” Emergency services even have a structured plan for post mortems, too, which is another practice Blackrock 3 is bringing to its partners.

“Post mortems almost always focus on the technology aspect of a problem,” said Schnepp. “They rarely evaluate the human response and how to make that better.”

Blackrock 3 suggests striving for honest, blame-free after action reviews that analyze people’s thought process and logic during a crisis and how future training can improve responses moving forward.

While people normally wouldn’t think the fire department or other emergency services has much in common with technology companies on the surface, Schnepp and Vidal said startup founders, CTOs and everyone they’ve worked with “gets it” from the beginning.

“The same management tactics people use on oil spills can work in the tech business,” said Schnepp. “It’s not a magical formula, but the results are magical.”

Check out Blackrock 3’s Book

The team’s vast experience responding to a wide range of catastrophic events not only led them to forming Blackrock 3, but they recently authored the book, Incident Management for Operations, published by O’Reilly Media.

— Attend Blackrock 3 Partners’ tutorial and much more at Velocity NY. Use this coupon code — RAGNAR20 — for 20 percent off your pass. CLICK HERE TO REGISTER.

Contact us anytime on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn and let us know if you’re attending Velocity. We’re always happy to meet up and chat.

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Velocity NY Speaker Preview: Bryan Liles of DigitalOcean

— This is Part 1 of Load Impact’s Velocity NY Preview Series. Load Impact is chatting with some of the cutting-edge developers and executives who will be speaking at Velocity NY Oct. 12-14.

Bryan Liles of DigitalOcean isn’t looking to solve the diversity and inclusion problem in tech, but he knows he can leave the industry better than he found it.

Bryan’s Velocity keynote, The Darker Side of Tech, will explore the cognitive biases that prevent people from trying new software or new development processes and hiring from a more diverse pool of employees and executives.

“People’s biases are not allowing them to see the problems they are causing,” Bryan said. “It’s not just about diversity — it’s about inclusion.”

The problem of inclusion in tech (and many other industries) is systemic in the United States. It started with hundreds of years of people not getting opportunities based on race, religion and economic standing.

Bryan’s presentation at Velocity will relate operating system bias to racial bias — not something people might expect — but it makes perfect sense after brief examination.

As an example of how bias can hinder technical progress, Bryan will point to the genesis of Linux and how decision-makers’ bias blinded them from something amazing for years. While its beginnings are traced back to 1991, it took nearly two decades for many mainstream companies to understand the power and security of Linux and implement it.

As Jeffrey Hammond of Forrester Research said in 2010, “Linux has crossed the chasm into mainstream adoption.”

But why did it take so long for people to see the light on Linux, and how will Bryan compare that to inclusion in tech?

“People only know what they know, and we’re missing out on extremely smart people when our biases get in the way,” Bryan said.

So, it doesn’t matter if we’re talking about adopting Linux or hiring someone from an “urban” area with a “black” or “ethnic” name. Either way, decision-makers hurt their company by not giving every option and candidate a fair chance to succeed — even if they don’t know they’re doing it.

One of the barriers Bryan has encountered when giving this kind of presentation is it can make people uncomfortable, which is somewhat understandable. However, he knows that’s not a good reason to shy away from talking about it. Bryan’s seen plenty of people shuffle for the door when he’s started to make points about inclusion in previous talks, and that doesn’t help anybody.

“Whenever I’m saying this, I’m not saying that you personally are a racist,” Bryan said. “I’m saying the people who benefit from this aren’t doing enough to make it better.”

One of the promising things we’re seeing is technology has become more available for a wider demographic, and Bryan noted that can help break down some of the barriers people have to entering the tech industry.

Even then, it’s important to consider that schools like Stanford, MIT and Carnegie Mellon are incredibly expensive and still aren’t reasonably available for everyone. So, the deep roots of the problem will take time to remove.

Bryan is adamant that a couple of keynotes and editorials aren’t going to fix the problem, but again, he doesn’t want us to “solve” anything right now.

“All we need to think about is a bunch of little wins,” he said. “If we can make it better for this guy, or this girl, and they can pay it forward, we’ll be better off than we once were, and that’s all I’m trying to do.”

“I just want to leave the things I touched better off than how I found them.”

— Check out Bryan’s keynote and many more at Velocity NY. Use this coupon code — RAGNAR20 — for 20 percent off your pass. CLICK HERE TO REGISTER.

Contact us anytime on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn and let us know if you’re attending Velocity. We’re always happy to meet up and chat.

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Velocity NY: A Gratuitously Early Preview

Velocity NY is 75 days away, and we’re already super excited to meet the attendees, presenters and sponsors.

So, here’s a gratuitously early preview of a few presentations that are sure to be awesome.

HTTP/2 vs. HTTP/1.1: A Performance Analysis

HTTP/2 is on its way, and developers, ops, testers, QA and (of course) DevOps need to be ready for it.

This presentation focuses on the results of a study by Load Impact founder Ragnar Lönn alongside curl and libcurl founder Daniel Stenberg.

The Swedish duo’s study measures the performance impact of HTTP/2 and how user experience will differ between the two protocols.

And as a special treat for the audience, Lönn and Stenberg will be unveiling a free tool for that shows how any existing website will behave on HTTP/2.

The Chronicles of the Lion

While this presentation is the early front-runner for our favorite title of a talk, the substance is pretty great, too.

ING, the largest retail bank in the Netherlands, recently pivoted its development strategy to the DevOps methodology — and now they’re onto another step in evolving their software strategy — citing the popular Spotify model.

Presenters Ingrid Algra and Jan-Joust Bouwman are two IT leaders at ING who are helping implement the change in the massive bank.

Perhaps the best part of the presentation is that ING’s transition to this development strategy only started in April, so the findings will be fresh. Also, it’s important to consider they likely submitted this abstract to Velocity before making the change — which is a pretty confident move considering gigantic organizational changes are never easy!

Canary in the Coal Mine: Introducing a Deployment Process to the Enterprise

While DevOps and Continuous Delivery have been around for a while, many larger, more traditional companies are just now changing their software development strategy.

It’s been said many times that all companies are basically becoming software companies, and transitioning to agile and DevOps is the next wave of that evolution.

In this talk, Daniel Lockhart of Verizon Digital Media Services will lay out the old way of software deployment and describe the challenges he faced when implementing new processes at Verizon.

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