Upcoming Meetup: Agile Transformation at the Microsoft TFS/VSTS team

You might remember that I attended the DevOps Fast Track training last month. So I jumped at the opportunity of bringing some of this content to the Agile-at-Scale User Group of which I am a co-lead with Leland Newsom.

This month’s topic will be on the Microsoft Agile transformation his team went from circa 2009 and still goes on until today. At the DevOps Fast Track summit it was my favorite talk, and I will revisit the topic to also bring my experience as Microsoft TFS product team member, and how it contrasts with today’s new dynamics.

Here is the talk abstract:

Meetup Topic: Agile Transformation at Microsoft TFS/VSTS team
Microsoft went from having a cycle of 18 months between releases, to almost daily releases of VSTS. Let’s examine the inside story of this extraordinary Agile transformation, and what lessons we can take from it.

You can register for the meeting at https://www.meetup.com/AgileAustin/events/243893417/.

See you there!

DevOps Fast Track training for Partners: learning how Microsoft tools scale to allow lightning fast DevOps

A couple of weeks ago I finally attended the long waited DevOps FastTrack Airlift 2017.

clip_image002These four days were packed on advanced information of how Microsoft’s VSTS team does DevOps. The team is comprised of about 800 people, and they work on both TFS and VSTS (I learned that only about 8% of the code is different between them, pretty much the same product to me).

A brief look at the agenda of the first three days (the fourth was NDA) show how the VSTS team uses its own product to its maximum capabilities:

DAY 1.1:  [KEYNOTE] Microsoft DevOps Transformation

DAY 1.2:  Agile Transformation and Planning

DAY 1.3:  A Day in the Life of an Engineer

DAY 1.4:  Running the Business on Metrics

DAY 2.1:  Architecture and Microservices

DAY 2.2:  Security

DAY 2.3:  Quality and Testing

DAY 2.4:  Deployment Practices

DAY 3.1:  Production Telemetry and Live Site Culture

DAY 3.2:  How We Do DevOps at Microsoft: Wrap-Up Session

DAY 3.3:  Visual Studio Partner Lightning Talks

a.   Modern Requirements

b.   Redgate

c.   WhiteSource

d.   Aqua


What is great about this internal usage (known at Microsoft as “eating your own dog food”) when added to the ten thousand people that use it for Windows development, and other several thousands for Exchange, Office, etc, is that is allows for testing it at a scale that cannot be matched by any other development tool provider.

For instance, even if Atlassian has (last I heard) about 600 developers, which is in the same order of magnitude of the VSTS team, they can’t beat having 40 thousand developers using the “beta” versions and having to do their daily work on the most recent bits.

Microsoft VSTS is primed for scalability from the very core of its engineering process, and it shows. If you are looking at similar tools for your enterprise, I recommend looking closely not only at their scalability numbers, but also their track record for support escalation.

Some tool vendors will have issues, clearly visible to the public, that had been opened more than 6 years ago and have made no progress to resolution. This is not necessarily wrong but it does indicate whether the tool provider actually has enterprise customers as their priority. With Microsoft VSTS you are also engaging with a clear incident escalation path that leads no doubts to resolution time: it is days, not months, and definitely not years, and if something can’t be resolved it will be marked as such, not be left open.

Several customers have been migrating to TFS from competing tools and are amazed at how their support load just decreases, from having to be working on every weekend to put out fires caused by load on build or issue tracking systems, to just having no issue at all and getting their weekend back. With VSTS it goes even further, as now the administrators don’t have to worry about patching, upgrading etc.

These four days have been eye opening. With the follow up email I got the following invitation:

“We encourage you to leverage the content below as you present to customers, conferences, user groups and/or colleagues.  We look forward to sharing the Microsoft DevOps Transformation story across as many audiences as possible.” , which I am happy to oblige:

I am happy to oblige, given the high quality of the content.  I will be using the materials at customers starting immediately as a way to show a possible ideal implementation of a cutting edge DevOps practice. Not that we need to replicate exactly what Microsoft is doing – not many companies have the same resources, in the topic DevOps, Microsoft is at the level of Amazon, Netflix, Facebook or Google – but we can always look at their experience to extract ideas of where to direct our efforts, since Microsoft is using the same tools as we are.

Enterprise DevOps Fast Track training

I just discovered that as part of Nebbia, a Microsoft DevOps Partner, that I will be attending an advanced training for those delivering the engagements related to the now called Enterprise DevOps Accelerator offering. As you might recall from a previous post, I had been yearning to learn more about the cutting edge of what is going on in this space.

I have been working with topics that are under the DevOps umbrella since 2005, even if the moniker, and a general agreement on what it stands for, has been defined only more recently.

The buzz around DevOps is indisputable, so much that has led some like Matthew Kern to declare that Agile is dead, and DevOps is its replacement.

I don’t know exactly what the training will be, but I look forward to it as I can also personally see the commoditization of Agile concepts, and the rise of Scaling Agile and DevOps as its natural replacements. I will come back to that on some other post.

Changing gears to a dedicated DevOps shop

Early in July I mentioned how I was attracted to the new developments in the DevOps world with VSTS, and Microsoft’s new offering to accelerate adoption of DevOps at enterprises.

So I put my heart where my mouth is and decided to join a DevOps company: Nebbia, a Microsoft DevOps and Cloud Partner. Nebbia also does custom software development and training on Cloud and DevOps related topics, so it looks I have found a great place to help others in achieving Agility not just with tools, but also with consulting on soft skills as well.

As for the the Microsoft DevOps Accelerator offer, hopefully I will one of those delivering it pretty soon. :-)

Microsoft DevOps Accelerator Offer

For enterprises wishing to have quick jumpstart on using the latest technologies to support their DevOps efforts, this Microsoft offering is an excellent deal:

“The Enterprise DevOps Accelerator is a limited-time offer for teams of 50 developers or more looking to modernize their application development infrastructure while managing costs.

This offer provides unparalleled value—it’s everything your organization needs to implement DevOps practices at more than 50% off. The offer includes:

  1. The tools your developers want, like Visual Studio Enterprise and Visual Studio Team Services (VSTS).
  2. All the build and release pipelines your team needs, hosted by us or by you, plus cloud and mobile testing resources.
  3. Discounted Azure pricing to run your lab machines or dev workstations in the cloud, and tools to help you manage resources.
  4. A two-week DevOps services engagement delivered by DevOps experts.

This offer requires the purchase of at least 50 Visual Studio Enterprise subscriptions on an Enterprise Agreement purchasing contract with Microsoft. Please complete the form to receive more information.

You can see the form you need to fill at the offer site.

At my work we have been doing this: on-boarding teams to a DevOps platform using the tools for the job, but one per week. From my observation that is too fast, given that some of the troubleshooting that adapting existing builds and pipelines to new systems require. Two weeks is better, but even that might not be enough. It is possible however to identify a pilot project that would showcase the new practices into your organization.

This is definitely a Microsoft offering I would have fun delivering.

The event you have been waiting for to bootstrap your learning about the Cloud

If you have not had an opportunity to focus on learning more about the Cloud and Azure, there is a great event coming this weekend on April 22, 2017: Global Azure Bootcamp. User groups all around the world (last I checked there were 200+). This is the fifth installment, and participation has been growing steadily each year.

Take a look at some of the possible topics (which actual ones depend on what the organizers at each location have decided to bring):

  • Advanced Analytics/Power BI Big Data and Analytics Cloud Computing DevOps

  • Intelligent Services

  • Advanced Analytics/Power BI

  • Big Data and Analytics

  • Cloud Computing

  • DevOps

  • Intelligent Services

  • IoT

  • Mixed Reality/HoloLens

  • Mobile Development

  • Open Development Framework (Docker/Python/Powershell for Linux)

  • Web Frameworks (Angular and React)

Some groups might focus just on the Cloud Computing subset. My favorite one however is DevOps. It contains three sessions with several demos and a couple of hands-on-labs.

Aside from my preferences though, I understand that all of the topics encompass a breadth of information that nowadays any developer need to at least be aware of. So even if you can’t attend, you can plan your own personal bootcamp for another future Saturday. It will be time well spent.

Upcoming Meetup: Avoiding Tool Friction when Scaling Agile

As you might recall, I am one of the co-leads, along with Leland Newsom, of the Agile Austin Agile-at-Scale UG. I will be presenting later in this month. The topic I will be presenting on is “Avoiding Tool Friction when Scaling Agile”, and it is based on my experience working with about a hundred and fifty ALM/DevOps customers in the last in the last eight years.

It is easy to ignore specific tool implementations when talking about scaling Agile. However tooling can be a boon or a bane for day to day activities, and as with any process implementation, Agile at Scale is no different. In this session I will examine a few real cases of “tool friction” caused by mistaken implementations, with different sets of tools, the good side of some implementations as well, and wrap up with a few rules of thumb derived from real world experience in scaling Agile.

Please register at https://www.meetup.com/AgileAustin/events/237738045/ so we can have a count of people to order lunch.

See you there!

Agile at Scale SIG - Lean Coffee on scaling Agile

It is that time of the year where we do some planning on what is coming up in our meetings. I will be leading a Lean Coffee session later this month to go over topics of your interest when scaling Agile, then create a backlog to define what we would like to see in future sessions.

Please register at https://www.meetup.com/AgileAustin/events/236835196/ so we can establish a count for food and drinks.

See you there!

Next Austin Agile at Scale SIG meeting - Scaling Agile Product Delivery with Nexus

This month we have the pleasure of having my friend Dave West (Product Owner at Scrum.org) will be flying to Austin to talk to talk about Nexus, directly from source.

Nexus has fast become one of the best ways to scale up your Agile efforts in the enterprise. However, how does it differ from Scrum-of-Scrums, which is the informal indisputable leader in the market? And from SAFe? These are questions I hope to ask Dave later this month. Here is his talk abstract:

Scaling Agile Product Delivery with Nexus – It is Turtles all the way down

Between 70 and 80% of Agile teams use Scrum. Scrum has become the de-facto standard for Agile team delivery. And with the success of Scrum organizations are now looking to employ Agile at Scale. Scaling means different things to different people, but broadly can be described as either growing the number of people delivering software in an agile way (agile product delivery) or growing the use of agile in ancillary parts of software delivery supply chain. In this talk we focus on how Nexus, an exoskeleton for Scrum can help scale your Agile product delivery. We describe the challenges in scaling Scrum and how Nexus extends Scrum to allow for multiple teams to work together in an effective and agile way. This supports teams in an incremental approach to scaling Scrum by building on the success of team level Scrum adoption.

Topics in this talk:
• What does “scaling” mean ?
• The challenges of scaling Scrum
• introducing Nexus
• Nexus in practice
• Connecting Nexuses – Nexus+
• Applying Nexus in your organization

What I like about Dave’s presentations is that he is never boring and always brings something new. Be ready for having fun, starting with the title (“turtles all the way down”) :-)

Please register at https://www.meetup.com/AgileAustin/events/234011122/ so we can get a count for food and refreshments.

See you  there!

Comparing GitFlow with Github workflow

If you ever need to compare GitFlow with GitHub flow, the article by William Buchwalter is one of the best I have found, coming from a practitioner who has lived through it. His article can be found at Git Workflow for Continuous Delivery.

I have long seen GitFlow as an easy way to adopt git when coming from more traditional, centralized workflow, but not a panacea. As a matter of fact, it always reminded me of the traditional Feature Isolation that ALM Rangers (myself included) used to recommend.

However, as you move delivery times faster and faster, there is a need to push it all to production even when feature is still under development.

Enter then the combination of very lightweight branching (just saying, from just main) with feature toggles. For fast track software development teams that can invest on all the extra instrumentation deriving from Continuous Delivery, this branching model/feature toggle usage is becoming the norm.


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