Conf42 DevOps 2024 - Online

0 to 60 on Day 1: The Promise of Software Factories

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What does it take in your organization for an idea to go from 0 (idea) to 60 (deployment)? Software factories have the promise of empowering teams to take an idea and build or compose a deployable solution on day 1 and iterate fast, within the organizational guardrails


  • Every organization across the world is now a technology company. The pace of innovation is also just amazing, thanks in large to the open source community. One important factor that will make it or break it is our ability to learn, experiment and adopt quickly.
  • Murali Mallina is the founder and CEO of Softrams. He also founded Teaching for Good, an ad tech nonprofit with a twist. He shares some strategies to help your teams and organizations to create that culture and the supporting systems.
  • Avery is our new full stack developer that's just joined our team. Layla is our senior DevOps engineer. Emma is our product manager that advocates for the customer. These are common scenarios in many organizations. Each of us must support to make a difference.
  • There are three different important aspects, tools, processes and the content itself. Treat this whole exercise like you're building a product. Make sure it is fully self service. Next layer is building the overall infrastructure. Last but the most important aspect is the governance.
  • platform engineering and internal developer portals or internal development portals. In our internal implementation we call codename Eagle. We bring both platform engineering as well as IDP as one product or service. Both are equally important for this innovation platform to be successful in your organization.
  • First look for managed services within your cloud before you venture into bringing them onto your own surface. The more you use matured products or managed products in this ecosystem, you will be the better off. Every single service that you bring you is just increasing your total cost of ownership exponentially.
  • Do not try to build your own cloud. Make sure that you use as many serverless services as possible. Build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete. Appreciate if you take a minute to share your thoughts and questions.


This transcript was autogenerated. To make changes, submit a PR.
Sash for joining this session at the Conf 42 DevOps 2024. Hope you're having a great time. Thanks a ton to the organizers for putting this event together and allowing us to share what we are learning with everybody else in the ecosystem. What a great time to be building software. Not only every organization across the world is now a technology company and more precisely a software technology company, but the pace of innovation is also just amazing, thanks in large to the open source community. In my view, that makes it all possible in the first place with radical advances in AI infrastructure and software development methodology. As such, we are reaching the tipping point of creating a level playing field to turn your ideas into successful ventures, no matter where you are, who you are, or your socioeconomic background or identity looks like. I believe that one important factor that will make it or break it is our ability to learn, experiment and adopt quickly. In this context, I would like to share our journey at Softrams and a few strategies to help your teams and organizations to create that culture and the supporting systems to take ideas to ventures and create incredible value rather quickly. Just a little bit about me before we start, my name is Murali Mallina and about seven years ago I joined Softrams and since then we have been helping our teams to build and operate a few mission critical software systems for our federal agency customers. I'm also the founder and CEO at Teaching for Good, which is an ad tech nonprofit with a twist. We build ad tech and support systems to help anybody in the world to teams, train, mentor or coach, and use that passion for education as the vehicle to raise money for a nonprofit of your own choice and the platform itself is 100% free to use. I am kind of just shy of celebrating 25 years of professional software development and I have been very fortunate to work with and build teams across the world from Germany, China, France, India, UK, Russia, and of course in the United States itself. I have started my career in telecom switching software and then went on to work on edtech, supply chain, healthcare and civic services. If you want to reach out anytime, please hit me up on LinkedIn. I do have a Twitter account, but I don't tweet that much, so please use LinkedIn for all practical purposes. As part of my presentation, I would like to use these five personos to illustrate various aspects and kind of tell you the story from different angles. Avery is our new full stack developer that's just joined our team and eager to contribute. Layla is our senior DevOps engineer that loves and often fights for Emacs as the best ide ever the Lucy and the staff engineer that is responsible for the governance, security and various other aspects related to compliance. Meet Sneha, our full stack developer that is incredibly talented end to end. And finally Emma, our product manager that always advocates for the customer and end users to build great experiences across the products and services. Of course, all these names are fictitious and I have a vested interest in picking up all female personnel for this presentation. It is totally intentional. I want to take a moment to acknowledge the diversity I meant lag thereof in the tech industry and I believe that each of us must support to make a difference. Let me start with an example. I'm pretty sure you can easily see and relate to some of these in your organizations as well. Emma is our product manager and she got a great new idea for a new service while talking to the customers and she believes that it could make huge difference to our customers. So she quickly jotted down the idea, ran it by a few friendly customers, and added few more details so that the entire team can now visualize exactly what this means. I would like to ask each of you to think just for a minute in the context of your work, your organization and your teams, what will happen next. Assume for the sake of simplicity that every stakeholder agrees that there is a value in this idea. What does it take from here to build and deploy that specific feature that Emma has been talking about CTO, a sandbox or to your lower level environments to be able to do a demo to your customers and let us take it to the next step. What does it take to push this version all the way to production and make it available to your customers? Just take a pause and think about this. Next we will take a look at the full stack. Developer Sneha Sneha has been keeping up herself with what's going on in the ecosystem and she has been learning about lots of different things. Charge GPT LLMs for example. With her extensive experience on the product itself and relationships with customers, she identified a few opportunities to bring charge GPT to change the way customers experience the product and there is definitely lots of potential CTO bring additional revenue as well if everything works out. Given that some of these new services are not fully vetted in the organization, Sneha may probably need a sandbox environment readily available that could access some of the deidentified data. To be able to build this PoC and show value to your internal teams first and as well as to the customers, think for a minute. This is nothing unusual about the use case or need for such an environment. What does it take in your organization to be able to help Sneha to provide an environment, access to some of the data, as well as, if needed, integrations with other systems in a safe and secure manner to be able to build this PoC? And if POC works out great with minimal to low changes, we should be able to productize the idea and integrate into other systems and go for a launch as well. So take a minute to think about what does it take in your current organization for Sneha to be able to get all the access environment kind of CI CD pipelines to be able to build and demo the PoC to internal teams and possibly to some friendly customers? Next, let us take a look at a slightly different use case. This may look isolated, but it's totally important piece of the puzzle and it's very impactful factor for teams in many organizations across the board. Avery is our newly joined developer and we need to onboard her to the team and would love to have her contribute to an important product release that is coming up past. This requires Avery to understand the system, know where everything is, code integrations, development processes, delivery mechanisms, just to name a I want to request one more time to pause just for a minute and think what do you do today to onboard? And what does it take for Avery to contribute her first pr to the product? Again, please take a minute to think about all these three scenarios. These are pretty common in many organizations. Everybody have lots of ideas. Developers are always learning and always wanted to try out new things so that they can bring that innovation and concepts into whatever they're working on. And we are always hiring people. You always have new team members joining your team, and I'm pretty sure some of you are personally responsible to onboard new members as well. So in each of these scenarios, it used to take really long time in order of months, for example. And in many places, while that number may be shrinking and getting faster and faster and getting better, it is still a few months to a few weeks per most, and only a small fraction of organizations. Based on my experience, you can do this in a matter of weeks, CTO days. Of course, there are lots of factors that will influence this aspect. And while I'm truly acknowledging what each of you will go through to make anything happen in your organization, it is possible to build these systems, supporting systems, and create a culture where we could definitely bring these numbers down to a week, two days, and I would like to share our journey of bringing that down all the way to a day, to a few hours to get things moving. Let me take you back. CTO 2018 we have been discussing about certain things that we wanted to do as a team at the time and evaluating a few alternatives, and we have started working on some of these as well. And I have sent this message that morning to bring everything together and requesting for an end CTO end demo to be able to show that value. And there are lots of things going on in this message. So let me break it up and we will go step by step. I just zoomed it in so that we can actually see and read this message that's in the slack message and let us go step by step. All I'm asking is that I should be able to request a new project to be created for my idea. I will specify a name and the system of the tools of the platform. Whatever you call it should be able to go ahead and create a repository for me. And this is not just a blank repository. I'm asking for a specific service. In this case, I wanted to build a rust API microservice, and there are varieties of boilerplates available, and I'm going to choose one of the boilerplates that matches what I'm looking at to build and so it should copy that boilerplate. Creates a branch at the time, Dev is our main branch. We use trunk based development and dev is our main branch. And create that branch for me and set up all the hooks needed for that repo to be able to do CI as well as CD continuous integration and continuous deployment and as part of the CI should be able to build it. And I push the code up as part of the PR run teams. And once all the tests are passed, go ahead and deploy it to an environment and to make it available for all the internal teams to start with, to be able to use this and test it and do the demos. For example, we also want to configure a cname for that sample service that is just being deployed and of course provide that URL with the team so that now at least we can start with the health check. And now that this all setup is available for me to go and start building and iterating on my idea, everything is all set up. Every iteration can quickly go to deployment and everybody in the team should be able to access that really quickly. There are lots of things going on here. So to understand a little bit better, I would like to go ahead and group these as capabilities that we can build into a system or a platform, whatever you call it. I extracted some of those capabilities and grouped them into four different segments, starting with the first quadrant labeled as knowledge. This brings together the domain knowledge of the organization into a commonplace one single place where everybody can go and get it collects all kinds of services, applications, libraries, components, design, systems, starter templates, et cetera. And in some organizations, one team doesn't know exactly what the other team is working on. And this part of the puzzle is instrumental for product teams like SNeha, the full stack developer, or Emma, the product manager, to know the lay of the land, to be able to understand the whole system, what is currently available. This allows them to think about maybe they could take this new idea. They don't need to build it from scratch. They could probably be composed from existing services, or use one of these services and build on top of them, for example. And the next segment going clockwise is infrastructure, beginning with the code repositories, creating those sandbox environments, as well as the lower end production environments that require to host these applications, as well as the physical and virtual environments in the cloud, for example, where these can be deployed, developed, build, hosted and deployed. Typically in many organizations, a DevOps team will handle a large portion of this responsibility to be able to build and operate these systems. Going to the third segment, it's about the workflow, the eventual delivery itself, CI CD pipelines, like I mentioned, configuration for each environment to be able to go to production. And another critical aspect of operations of a production system is the observability. All kinds of metrics, logs, ISO, infrastructure itself to be able to scale and perform reliably. The last one, but one of the most trickiest segments of all is the governance segment. All kinds of safeguards, cost controls, access controls, the new isle of our era, the data and variety of processes and workflows with guardrails built in. While this diagram illustrates all the key segments, it doesn't fully cover the list of capabilities we need to support the entire lifecycle of any product or any idea. So I put together this diagram and you can see I have added two more sections to it, if you will, research and design as well. Typically many products and discussions in the ecosystem, and they talk about software factory or platform engineering or internal developer portals. They do not sufficiently cover this aspect of it, the research and design. But I believe this is really important to include the full lifecycle. And you can see here in the research area, it's very important for the product teams to have access to data analytics as well as any of the existing research. All the information is cataloged as well as all the organization level policies that are available to be able to iterate on the idea quickly as part of the research. And when it comes to design, to be able to build products with consistent user experience, you need appropriate organizational branding or product branding. Design system itself, assets compose, UA, libraries and the guardrails that I'm talking about. So these two are in addition to the build deploy operate that we looked at as four different segments, starting with the starters, generators, libraries, services that are already existing, repository for source code, infrastructure, environment, CI, CD and whole nine yards that we just mentioned about. So a good ideal state of the system must include both research and design as well, so that we can support the product teams to take an idea and go all the day down. CTO deploy it into the environments where customer can access it. And this brings us to the next step and putting all these things together, and we want to give it a name. And there are multiple different aspects and multiple concepts. People refer to these in the ecosystem. And in my view, this is what we call a software factory is specifically there are three different important aspects, tools, processes and the content itself. And of course we want to build on top of the existing knowledge instead of reinventing the wheel every single time. So we are going to adapt, assemble and configure these tools, processes and content. CTO make everything work and I would like to move away from that theoretical definition and bring a little bit of extra focus to some of these aspects and talk about how we can evolve as a team. And these are arranged as concentric circles for a reason, based on what we learned. Again, totally opinionated and biased based on our context and what we are building. Our suggestion is to start by pulling together the catalog at first and go outward and build each capability or system as part of that evolution or maturity in your implementation. And treat this whole exercise like you're building a product. And do this in an iterative fashion, focusing on the most important use case first, and then keep extending it, starting with the catalog. Make sure it is fully self service. Approval based mechanisms are okay, but make sure that they do not introduce an extra friction or delay the whole process. And if you focus on self service systems with guardrails built in, you get the best of both worlds. Next layer is of course building the overall infrastructure that is required to support the entire lifecycle, starting with the sandbox environment all the way to the production environment with observability built in. But it is super important to automate this part as well. This not only brings speed to your workflows, but also bring that consistency that is required at organizational level. And of course you can scale it once you automate it. And last but the most important aspect is the governance. We must tread this really carefully. We must include guardrails and kind of set up some thresholds to make sure that every aspect of the software is build and delivered according to your organizational security and policies, but make sure that they do not come in the way of accelerating innovation itself. That's the key. And while here I also want to bring up two other common concepts in this context, platform engineering and internal developer portals or internal development portals. Based on who you speak to and variety of products that you're looking at, these concepts are used interchangeably. However, we do see these things slightly differently. That's why I referred to this presentation itself as software factories instead of just calling it as a platform engineering or IDP. And there is no wrong or right answer here. This is how we are interpreting it. So I would like to go to a Wadley map and then show some of these practices to illustrate the evaluation, evolution and the concept of these software factories. To be able to put all these concepts in the context many organizations have CI CD at the minimum and then bring the culture of workflows as well as processes around it. Along with the team automation, the tools you will be able to build a devsecops culture and both of these are very well matured and most organizations are very familiar with these as well. Platform engineering is referred to as the capability to build common infrastructure, workflows, delivery mechanisms and distinctly maintained by a separate team, typically called as a platform engineering team and offered as a service or product to the rest of the organization. Based on our understanding, platform engineering is focused as discussed in the ecosystem is more around the devsecops area as well as building these delivery mechanisms. But take this idea to the next level and look at internal developer portals or internal development platforms to bring together that knowledge, the self service aspect of the portals as well as bring this observability pane of glass so that product teams have access in single point not only the knowledge, a catalog, but also for all the deployed services, visibility or observability and analytics that they can use to come up with next iterations of those ideas and products. In our internal implementation we call codename Eagle. We bring both platform engineering as well as IDP as one product or service because both are equally important for this innovation platform to be successful in your organization. So next, let us look at how we can build a software factory for your own team and organization. And before we go further in building that software factory, I would like to remind that if your teams currently use low code or no code platforms, you may already have a great working version of a software factory. However, many organizations these local no code platforms only cover a fraction of the workloads and applications. So we will go ahead and look at other aspects of software factory that you can build. As explained before, please do start with the catalog first, and this is probably the easiest part to get everything together, but it's also the most important and impactful part and you don't need a fancy tool to be able to do it. Just start collecting all kinds of scripts, tools, generators, starters, as well as your wiki pages, conference pages and altogether along with some appropriate documentation, that itself will give you a good chunk of what you are expecting in a software factory. In the next few iterations you will look at other use cases and other needs. Then you can look for more scalable approaches and bring a little bit of automation, for example, put a workflow around it if you want. And if your organization build infrastructure currently in a single cloud like us, or rely on serverless workloads like our teams do, you're already better off leaning on a platform approach that is already available in the cloud itself. For example, we use AWS really heavily and AWS service catalog actually takes care of almost every capability that you're expecting in your platform or a software factory. So before you start looking at a completely new platform or a new product you want to bring in to build your software factory, take a look at the service catalog as a starting point as well. And of course, if you're looking at a multicloud environments or you require lot more flexible control on various aspects of the platform, you will be evaluating some of these other products and starting from cloud foundry that is well known and well matured for a long time before even we started talking about software factories and platform engineering and the most modern products like Humanitech for example, Ops level, these are some of the new platforms that we have seen in the ecosystem coming up, so please evaluate some of these before you go and build your own. When we started in 2018, some of these modern platforms didn't exist and also based on our needs and more focused serverless workloads, we went ahead and started working on building on our own. Starting with we started with AWS, amplify, for example, Terrafi modules, terraform modules, and some experimentation with a tool called Terrafi that we wanted to build it internally. Then we ventured into AWS, CDK for example, and finally put together our platform, which we call it as Eagle on top of Kubernetes, I'm going to quickly bring up another worldly map showing the evolution as well as availability of various aspects in the ecosystem. And the reason I wanted to bring this up is that the more you use matured products or managed products in this ecosystem, you will be the better off as well as you will be able to bring and build your software factory rather quickly. You may have seen variety of services available, variety of CNCF products, for example, all the projects in CNCF, you have that flexibility to be able to use it. But my suggestion is to first look for managed services within your cloud before you venture into bringing them onto your own surface. And essentially no code, low code if you can. And most of you already know that there are a range as well as a variety of services available in the CNCF landscape that covers pretty much all use cases that you may be looking at to support your workloads. However, every single service that you bring you are just increasing your total cost of ownership exponentially. This requires setting them up, configuring them, running them, operating them, taking backups, and all the adaptive maintenance that goes with each of these software units, managing their versions, migrations, security this is really, really expensive to risk, expensive risk to bring all these services and manage by yourself. We definitely want to suggest that do not attempt unless it is definitely your core business or if you must do this as the last resort, not as the first idea itself, to be able to build your software factory using this app. So of course we also use a fair amount of AWS services beyond some of the things that can be run inside a container, since we use Kubernetes as our core platform where anything that is containerized can run on Kubernetes. But what will happen to other services like we use a lot of serverless workloads as well as managed services like S three. So we ran into this product called Crossplane. This is a great framework to bring cloud specific and all these manager services into the same umbrella so that you can provide this uniform workflow to manage all your resources and all your services like one system. And also in our system we used backstage as the portal and the knowledge base and tecton for most of our CI series workflows. And I'm not here to suggest that any of these products are the only products available. There are a range of these products available, so choose based on what fits in your context, in your organization and the experience of your teams. So I'm going to leave the discussion on the exact stack that you would like to look at. However, I believe now that we have an idea about these capabilities and why we want to bring all these capabilities together. Whatever you want to call it, platform engineering, IDP, or a software factory like we call it, what we want to do now in the next couple of minutes is to share what works based on our experience. As we conclude this presentation, the most important part I would like to start with is do not try to build your own cloud. Want to use the public cloud or private cloud? Make sure that you use as many serverless services as possible as well as fully managed services rather than creating your own cloud, even though there are great CNCF projects available for you to bring and run on your own. Kubernetes clusters, but that control and flexibility they provide are also exponentially expensive to build, operate and own those systems to be able to continuously manage. So I would say focus on the value rather than that control and flexibility and start with the most important golden path. Start with researching your current ecosystem with a journey map for example, or a value stream map or a service blueprint if you will first document the journey. What does it take in your teams, in your organizations to take that idea and go all these three steps to be able to deployable your system and then look at the most expensive steps in the process in terms of time and effort, then automate them. And of course you do it in an iterative fashion to learn more about the use cases, what is working? What is not working? Then go ahead and optimize, rinse and repeat. And since a software factory brings a huge change across the board, I would like to conclude my presentation with this quote. You never change things by fighting the existing reality to change something. Build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete. So when you introduce you may expect a ton of resistance or skepticism. So make sure to be able to move forward instead of directly going and making a pitch for the entire product. Build that initial MVP version and show the difference and you will get the buy in. I hope this helps. Thank you very much for joining this presentation. Appreciate if you take a minute to share your thoughts and questions. Have a great time at Conf 42. Thank you very much.

Murali Mallina

CTO @ Softrams

Murali Mallina's LinkedIn account

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