Infrastructure as code tops IT’s DevOps challenges

IT operations pros have some work to do to automate the infrastructure underpinning DevOps initiatives.

While cultural barriers are some of the most daunting DevOps challenges, IT operations practitioners say that capturing infrastructure as code is the most significant technical hurdle to supporting modern application development practices.

Even though configuration management tools such as Puppet and Chef that enable infrastructure as code have been on the market for years, the concept can still be difficult for some IT pros to grasp.

Not everyone has yet bought into the concept of taking a traditional rack and stack infrastructure with management of IPs in Excel spreadsheets, and automation through Bash scripts and Ruby code, according to Pauly Comtois, vice president of DevOps for a multi-national media company.

“A lot of our customer organizations barely have operations automated in any way,” echoed Nirmal Mehta, senior lead technologist for the strategic innovation group at Booz Allen Hamilton Inc., a consulting firm based in McLean, Va., who works with government organizations to establish a DevOps culture.

“It’s 2016, and we should be able to automate those deployments,” he said. “Once you do that, you can start to use the exact same tools to manage the infrastructure that you use for your application code.”

A big reason why companies have been slow to automate their operations is that infrastructure as code work can be more easily discussed than done — legacy applications often weren’t designed with tools such as Chef or Puppet in mind.

Third-party software that runs on Windows isn’t conducive to automation via the command line, Comtois pointed out. “What makes that really technically challenging is when that piece of software also happens to be critical to the workflow of that organization, so I can’t just go in and rip it out and replace it with something else.”

These issues can be overcome, but “some transitions are more painful than others,” he said.

Security teams also have to be brought on board with managing infrastructure as code, according to Mehta.

“Infrastructure as code and configuration management make compliance a lot easier, but that also means that compliance is no longer a thing that you do once a year,” he said. “It gets enveloped in the DevOps process [just like] any piece of code needs to go through.”

The majority of time spent by IT operations into the foreseeable future will be transitioning manual processes into infrastructure as code, or automated steps that follow the same pipeline that application code does, according to Mehta.

DevOps and IT ops: a two-way street

You know the top challenges, but do you know where they stem from? Learn how a changing DevOps culture affect IT pros’ day-to-day responsibilities and the tools you can use to bridge that gap.

Infrastructure as code benefits

So why go through the technical headaches to establish infrastructure as code?

According to experienced DevOps practitioners, it’s the only way to create an automated IT infrastructure that adequately supports automated application development testing and release cycles.

“In our environment, Jenkins makes many calls into Ansible to build stuff and deploy and configure it,” said Baron Schwartz, founder and CEO of VividCortex, a database monitoring SaaS provider based in Charlottesville, Va. “Whatever we want to be automated, we have CircleCI calling a Web service that pokes Jenkins, which runs Ansible — it sounds like a Rube Goldberg machine, but it works well.”

Even things the VividCortex team wants to kick off manually use a chat bot to call into Jenkins and kick off a build job with Ansible, Schwartz said.

Getting IT ops staffs used to the concept of infrastructure as code is key to securing their buy-in as DevOps is more broadly rolled out in an environment, according to Caedman Oakley, DevOps evangelist for Ooyala Inc., a video processing service headquartered in Mountain View, Calif.

“Operations doesn’t want to see things change unless [it] know[s] what controls are in place,” Oakley said. “Everything being written in a Chef recipe or in cookbooks means [operations] can see what the change was and … knows exactly who did the change and why it’s happening — and that actually is the greatest opener to adoption on the operations side.”

Ultimately infrastructure as code simplifies infrastructure management, Oakley said.

“Operations can just go manage the infrastructure now, and don’t have to worry about figuring out why one server is slightly different from another,” he said.  “You can just fire up an instance any way you want to.”

Beth Pariseau is senior news writer for TechTarget’s Data Center and Virtualization Media Group. Write to her at or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.



India’s IT Party is over. Reinvent yourself or suffer

India’s  IT industry is unlikely to remain the amazing job-engine that it has been. For the past two decades, the fastest way to increase your income has been to land a job with an IT company. The industry has provided a ticket to prosperity for millions of young Indians; children of security guards, drivers, peons and cooks catapulted themselves and their families firmly into the middle class in a single generation by landing a job in a BPO. Hundreds of engineering colleges mushroomed overnight churning out over a million graduates a year to feel the insatiable demand of India’s IT factories.

This party is coming to an end. A combination of slowing demand, rising competition and technological change means that companies will hire far fewer people. And this is not a temporary blip- this is the new normal. Wipro’s CEO has bravely admitted that automation can displace a third of all jobs within three years while Infosys CEO Sikka aims to increase revenue per employee by 50%. Even NASSCOM, the chronically optimistic industry association, admits that companies will hire far fewer people.  Not only will the lines of new graduate waiting for job offers grow rapidly longer every year, but so too will the lines of the newly unemployed as all companies focus more on utilization, employee productivity and performance. Employees doing tasks that can be automated, the armies of middle managers who supervise them and all those with mediocre performance reviews and without hot skills are living on borrowed time.

So what do you do if you are a member of these endangered species? What constitutes good career advice in these times? I’d say that the first thing is to embrace reality and recognize that the game has changed for good. The worst thing to do is be wishful and wait for the good times to return. They won’t. But there’re still lots of opportunities. What’s happening in the industry is ‘creative destruction”. New technologies are destroying old jobs but creating many new ones. There is an insatiable demand for developers of mobile and web applications. For data engineers and scientists. For cyber security expertise. So for anyone who is a quick learner, anyone with real expertise, there will be abundant opportunities.

There has also never been a better time for anyone with an iota of entrepreneurial instinct.  India is still a supply constrained economy and so there is room to start every kind of business: beauty parlour,  bakery, catering, car-washing, mobile/electronics repair, laundry, housekeeping, tailoring. For entrepreneurs with a social conscience, there is a massive need for social enterprises that deliver affordable healthcare, education and financial services. Not only are there abundant opportunities but startups are “in” and there is no shame at all in failure.  The ranks of Angel investors is swelling and it has never been so easy to get funded. There is even a website that provides step by step instructions to would-be entrepreneurs.

For those who prefer a good old-fashioned job, there are abundant jobs in old economy companies which are struggling to find every kind of talent- accountants, manufacturing and service engineers, salesreps.  Technology is enabling the emergence of new ‘sharing services” such as Uber or Ola that enable lucrative self-employment; it is not uncommon to find cab drivers who make 30-40,000  rupees/month.

My main point should be clear. While India may have a big challenge overall in creating enough jobs   for its youthful population, at the individual level, there is no shortage of opportunities. The most important thing is a positive attitude. The IT boom was a tide that lifted all boats- even the most mediocre ones. However, this has bred an entitlement mentality and a lot of mediocrity. To prosper in the new world, two things will really matter. The first is the right attitude. This means a hunger to succeed. Being proactive in seeking opportunities not waiting either till you are fired or for something to drop into your lap . A willingness to take risks and the tenacity to work hard and make something a success. Humility. Frugality.  The second is the ability to try and learn new things. The rate of change in our world is astonishing; whatever skills we have will largely be irrelevant in a decade. People are also living much longer. So the ability to learn new things, develop new competencies and periodically reinvent ourselves is a crucial one. Sadly too many of us have no curiosity and no interest in reading nor learning. The future will not be kind to such people.

“The snake which cannot cast its skin has to die.”- Friedrich Nietzsche

(First published as an opinion piece in Times of India)


Similar articles : Interview on Emerging IT trends by T.K. Kurien,CEO of Wipro

Is the Web Browser Dying?

-Mar 8, 2015

The web isn’t dying, but in checking its pulse, we could be worried about the wrong patient, maybe the web browser is?

Wired magazine proclaimed the death of the web browser way back in 1997, when push technology was going to take over the world, and again there was a panic in 2010. Now it’s The Wall Street Journal’s turn in a recent article by Christopher Mims proclaiming the rise of the native app.

Mountains of data tell us that, in aggregate, we are spending more time in apps that, previously, we once spent surfing the Web. We’re in love with apps, and they’ve taken over. On phones, 86% of our time is spent in apps, and just 14% is spent on the Web, according to mobile-analytics company Flurry.

This might seem like just a % change however in the old days, we printed out directions from the website MapQuest that were often wrong or confusing. Today we call up Waze or g-maps on our phones and are routed around traffic in real time. For those who remember the old way, this is a miracle.

Everything about apps feels like a win for users—they are faster and easier to use than what came before. But underneath all that convenience is something sinister: the end of the very openness that allowed Internet companies to grow into some of the most powerful or important companies of the 21st century.

Take that most essential of activities for e-commerce: accepting credit cards. When made its debut on the Web, it had to pay a few percentage points in transaction fees. But Apple takes 30% of every transaction conducted within an app sold through its app store, and “very few businesses in the world can withstand that haircut,” says Chris Dixon, a venture capitalist at Andreessen Horowitz.

App stores, which are shackled to particular operating systems and devices, are walled gardens where Apple, Google , Microsoft and Amazon get to set the rules. For a while, that meant Apple banned Bitcoin, an alternative currency that many technologists believe is the most revolutionary development on the Internet since the hyperlink. Apple regularly bans apps that offend its politics, taste, or compete with its own software and services.

But the problem with apps runs much deeper than the ways they can be controlled by centralized gatekeepers. The Web was invented by academics whose goal was sharing information. Tim Berners-Lee was just trying to make it easy for scientists to publish data they were putting together during construction of CERN, the world’s biggest particle accelerator.

No one involved knew they were giving birth to the biggest creator and destroyer of wealth anyone had ever seen. So, unlike with app stores, there was no drive to control the early Web. Standards bodies arose—like the United Nations, but for programming languages. Companies that would have liked to wipe each other off the map were forced, by the very nature of the Web, to come together and agree on revisions to the common language for Web pages.

The result: Anyone could put up a Web page or launch a new service, and anyone could access it. Google was born in a garage. Facebook was born in Mark Zuckerberg ’s dorm room.

But app stores don’t work like that. The lists of most-downloaded apps now drive consumer adoption of those apps. Search on app stores is broken.

The Web was intended to expose information. It was so devoted to sharing above all else that it didn’t include any way to pay for things—something some of its early architects regret to this day, since it forced the Web to survive on advertising.

The Web wasn’t perfect, but it created a commons where people could exchange information and goods. It forced companies to build technology that was explicitly designed to be compatible with competitors’ technology. Microsoft’s Web browser had to faithfully render Apple’s website. If it didn’t, consumers would use another one, such as Firefox or Google’s Chrome, which has since taken over.

Today, as apps take over, the Web’s architects are abandoning it. Google’s newest experiment in email nirvana, called Inbox, is available for both Android and Apple’s iOS, but on the Web it doesn’t work in any browser except Chrome. The process of creating new Web standards has slowed to a crawl. Meanwhile, companies with app stores are devoted to making those stores better than—and entirely incompatible with—app stores built by competitors

The contrary and more positive view comes from John Gruber of ‘daring fireball’ who asserts that: “The rise of native apps has brought more innovation, rather than diminished it.
If you expand your view of ‘the Web’ from merely that which renders inside the confines of a Web browser to instead encompass all network traffic sent over HTTP/S, the explosive growth of native mobile apps is just another stage in the growth of the Web,”

Gruber is asserting a definition of the web that suits his argument. It’s a good argument and fair in its analysis however what does this say about the issue of control?

We shall wait and see however I am looking to spread my buying online and decrease my ‘apple app’ spends because a 30% cut just aint right 🙂


Jeffrey Favaloro


My Life On February 23, 2030

I just woke up at my optimal REM sleep time calculated by bedroom sensors. My bed reads my brain waves all night and sensors in the room monitor the amount of oxygen that my lungs converted into carbon dioxyde. I go to the bathroom and anything leaving my body is instantly analyzed and uploaded to my personal medical data cloud.

My breakfast food has just been 3D printed from ingredients genetically modified to decrease my cholesterol and glucose to optimal levels. My ham and cheese omelette tastes delicious and no animals were killed; it has become forbidden in most countries to kill any live animal. No need to be vegan to avoid killing anymore.

I have an appointment with Elon Musk to offer him an investment in my electric plane startup and even though business meetings are mostly done via hologram representations, I still really enjoy in-person meetings. My self-driving Telsa takes me to the nearest hyperloop station where I can get to L.A. in twenty minutes, so it’s not a big deal to travel anymore. It has become really expensive to have your own private car as governments only want self driving cars everywhere — these have reduced deaths from auto accidents by 95%. Private cars might soon be entirely forbidden as they cause too many problems. They’re a very expensive luxury for the time being.

There is no traffic anywhere as there are very few cars. There is very little parking space in cities as most cars are self driving. Uber has replaced all drivers with self driving cars, which are pretty much always moving. I remember when we used to have those idle parked cars everywhere. Tens of millions of jobs in the car industry have disappeared, car and truck drivers, car insurance companies, car dealers and repair stations, all gone. You can cross any street without even looking as the self driving cars’ sensors became so good cars just stop automatically as they “see” you about to cross the street. A lot of the data needed to create the machine learning algorithms behind self-driving cars was created by people in once-poor countries through an NGO called Samasource, which closed its doors when extreme poverty was eradicated in the last decade.

As I get to Elon’s office, I get my messages projected on the latest version of Google Glass that Tony Fadell has managed to fit in a contact lens. Voice recognition has become so good that nobody types anything anymore — you can just say what you want to answer. Since Tony and I are good friends, he let me test the latest beta version of his mind-reading software update for Glass. Now I just think my reply and it shows up instantly on my retina and I can just think “send it” to get it to anyone I want. Nobody has a smartphone anymore, though I remember what it was like to use my thumbs to send text messages.

I look around and remember how we used to see so many ads everywhere — they completely disappeared. Marketing is now only highly personalized and targeted to your specific needs. I touch a door handle and it senses my hands are a little dry; as I opted-in for personalized marketing, I get an offer to try a new hand cream by Laxmi. I accept and it is instantly delivered to me by an Amazon drone. Drones are so small and silent you barely see them anymore. Laxmi has become very successful by distributing most of the profits of their beauty products to people who would otherwise be poor. Most businesses that don’t have a social or environmental mission have died out, as nobody wants to buy their products.

There is no more hunger in the world as we can 3D print pretty much any food. Extreme poverty disappeared when governments around the world signed onto the Universal Floor movement, led by the Gates Foundation and funded by the Billionaire’s Pledge that became famous decades ago. I give 5% of my income automatically as a “voluntary tax” to the Universal Floor Foundation, which is one of the most popular charities on earth and posts their results in real time to my Glass feed. We also eradicated illiteracy — I remember when education became universal and free through technology. In large cities, people still send their kids to school but anywhere else free hologram teachers are always available.

I just arrived at Elon’s office and he invites me to space for the afternoon! We take the latest spaceship resulting from the joint venture Richard Branson and Elon Musk launched a few years ago, GalaktiX. I can see the Earth from above for the first time, a planet that thanks to advances in technology is verdant and blue, despite the old threat of global warming. Space travel is amazing and has become much more affordable — a few hours’ trip to space will cost only about one thousand dollars when they launch this new product.

I feel a little sick when we come back. I don’t even have to call my virtual doctor as she was already warned by the results of my live body analysis sensors. I am testing this new under-the-skin fitbit nanodevice — it communicates with Google Glass and sends data continuously to my doctor. The prescription is delivered on a drone and I feel better in a few hours. Time to head back home.

On my way back, I get a notification that someone is trying to deliver something at my home. The dropcams identify a trusted Fedex person and I only have to think about opening the garage door so they can put the huge delivery inside. It is a 1982 mechanic Haunted House pinball machine my father had gifted me at Christmas — these throwbacks to the analog past mean a lot to me.

With all the 3D printing and automation, handmade products have become the most in-demand objects. A huge number of jobs are constantly being created around anything made entirely by humans with raw materials. Artisanal producers are all the rage —there is even a quality label that has become the new status symbol: “Certified All-Human Made”. Art explodes as people have much more free time and can make a good living out of it. I have learned to play the guitar, and use my Glass interface to practice while I ride back up to San Francisco.

Back home the first thing I do is meditate for an hour entirely disconnected, a practice I started 15 years ago. Creating space, reconnecting with my body and my mind, slowing down when everything is fast and disconnecting when everything is more connected has become as important for me as taking a shower.


The Conscious Web: When the Internet of Things Becomes Artificially Intelligent

By-  Influencer

Founder and CEO, Family Online Safety Institute

When Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates and Elon Musk all agree on something, it’s worth paying attention.

All three have warned of the potential dangers that artificial intelligence or AI can bring. The world’s foremost physicist, Hawking said that the full development of AI could “spell the end of the human race.” Musk, the tech entrepreneur who brought us PayPal, Tesla and SpaceX described artificial intelligence as our “biggest existential threat” and said that playing around with AI was like “summoning the demon.” Gates, who knows a thing or two about tech, puts himself in the “concerned” camp when it comes to machines becoming too intelligent for us humans to control.

What are these wise souls afraid of? AI is broadly described as the ability of computer systems to ape or mimic human intelligent behavior. This could be anything from recognizing speech, to visual perception, making decisions and translating languages. Examples run from Deep Blue who beat chess champion Garry Kasparov to supercomputer Watson who out guessed the world’s bestJeopardy player. Fictionally, we have “Her,” the movie that depicts the protagonist, played by Joaquin Phoenix, falling in love with his operating system, seductively voiced by Scarlet Johansson. And coming soon, “Chappie” stars a stolen police robot who is reprogrammed to make conscious choices and to feel emotions.

An important component of AI, and a key element in the fears it engenders, is the ability of machines to take action on their own without human intervention. This could take the form of a computer reprogramming itself in the face of an obstacle or restriction. In other words, to think for itself and to take action accordingly.

Needless to say, there are those in the tech world who have a more sanguine view of AI and what it could bring. Kevin Kelly, the founding editor of Wired magazine does not see the future inhabited by HAL’s – the homicidal computer on board the spaceship in “2001 A Space Odyssey.” Kelly sees a more prosaic world that looks more like Amazon Web Services, a cheap, smart, utility which is also exceedingly boring simply because it will run in the background of our lives. He says AI will enliven inert objects in the way that electricity did over a hundred years ago. “Everything that we formerly electrified, we will now cognitize.” And he sees the business plans of the next 10,000 start-ups as easy to predict: “ Take X and add AI.

While he acknowledges the concerns about artificial intelligence, Kelly writes, “As AI develops, we might have to engineer ways to prevent consciousness in them – our most premium AI services will be advertised as consciousness-free.” (my emphasis). And this from the author of a book called, “What Technology Wants”.

Running parallel to the extraordinary advances in the field of AI is the even bigger development of what is loosely called, The Internet of Things or IoT. This can be broadly described as the emergence of countless objects, animals and even people who have uniquely identifiable, embedded devices that are wirelessly connected to the Internet. These “nodes” can send or receive information without the need for human intervention. There are estimates that there will be 50 billion connected devices by 2020. Current examples of these “smart” devices include Nest thermostats, wifi-enabled washing machines and the increasingly connected cars with their built-in sensors that can avoid accidents and even park for you.

The US Federal Trade Commission is sufficiently concerned about the security and privacy implications of the Internet of Things, and has conducted a public workshop and released a report urging companies to adopt best practices and “bake in” procedures to minimize data collection and to ensure consumers trust in the new networked environment.

Tim O’Reilly, coiner of the phrase, “Web 2.0” sees the Internet of Things as the most important online development yet. He thinks the name is misleading – that the IoT will simply mean giving people greater access to human intelligence and that it is “really about human augmentation” and that we will shortly “expect our devices to anticipate us in all sorts of ways”. He uses the “intelligent personal assistant”,Google Now, to make his point.

So what happens with these millions of embedded devices connect to artificially intelligent machines? What does AI + IoT = ? Will it mean the end of civilization as we know it? Will our self-programming computers send out hostile orders to the chips we’ve added to our everyday objects? Or is this just another disruptive moment, similar to the harnessing of steam or the splitting of the atom? An important step in our own evolution as a species, but nothing to be too concerned about?

The answer may lie in some new thinking about consciousness. As a concept, as well as an experience, consciousness has proved remarkably hard to pin down. We all know that we have it (or at least we think we do), but scientists are unable to prove that we have it or, indeed, exactly what it is and how it arises. Dictionaries describe consciousness as the state of being awake and aware of our own existence. It is an “internal knowledge” characterized by sensation, emotions and thought.

Just over 20 years ago, an obscure Australian philosopher named David Chalmers created controversy in philosophical circles by raising what became known as the Hard Problem of Consciousness. He asked how the grey matter inside our heads gave rise to the mysterious experience of being. What makes us different than, say, a very efficient robot, one with, perhaps, artificial intelligence? And are we humans the only ones with consciousness?

Some scientists propose that consciousness is an illusion, a trick of the brain. Still others believe we will never solve the consciousness riddle. But a fewneuroscientists think we may finally figure it out, provided we accept the remarkable idea that soon computers or the Internet might one day become conscious.

In an extensive Guardian article, the author Oliver Burkeman writes that Chalmers and others have put forth a notion that all things in the universe might be or potentially be conscious “providing the information it contains is sufficiently interconnected and organized.” So could an iPhone or a thermostat be conscious? And, if so, could we have a “Conscious Web”?

Back in the earliest days of the web, the author, Jennifer Cobb Kreisberg wrote an influential piece entitled, “A Globe, Clothing Itself with a Brain.” In it she described the work of a little known Jesuit priest and paleontologist, Teilhard de Chardin, who fifty years earlier described a global sphere of thought, the “living unity of a single tissue” containing our collective thoughts, experiences and consciousness.

Teilhard called it the “nooshphere” (noo is Greek for mind). He saw it as the evolutionary step beyond our geosphere (physical world) and biosphere (biological world). The informational wiring of a being, whether it is made up of neurons or electronics, gives birth to consciousness. As the diversification of nervous connections increase, de Chardin argued, evolution is led towards greater consciousness. Or as John Perry Barlow, Grateful Dead lyricist, cyber advocate and Teilhard de Chardin fan said, “With cyberspace, we are, in effect, hard-wiring the collective consciousness”.

So, perhaps we shouldn’t be so alarmed. Maybe we are on the cusp of a breakthrough not just in the field of artificial intelligence and the emerging Internet of Things, but also in our understanding of consciousness itself. If we can resolve the privacy, security and trust issues that both AI and the IoT present, we might make an evolutionary leap of historic proportions. And it’s just possible Teilhard’s remarkable vision of an interconnected “thinking layer” is what the web has been all along.