December 4th, 2015
Last night I headed up to London for the December meetup of Docker London. The evening didn’t get off to a great start as I managed to cycle over a screw on the way to the station. Despite this, and the subsequent efforts of the Jubilee Line, I did just make the start in time.
The evening kicked off with Chad Metcalf from Docker demoing Tutum. It was just a slight variant of one of the demos from DockerCon so nothing really new for me here although he did talk a little about the extensions to the Compose syntax that Tutum uses. The HIGH_AVAILABILITY strategy being something that’s obviously missing from Compose/Swarm today.
Next up was Alois Mayr, a Developer Advocate at Ruxit, who did a nice job of not explicitly pushing his company’s offering but instead talked more generally about some issues experienced by a Brazillian customer of theirs that has a large deployment of Docker running on Mesos. The underlying theme was undoubtedly that, in a large microservices based architecture, you need to have a good understanding of the relationships between your services and their dependencies in order to be able to track problems back to the root cause.
Last up was an entertaining pitch by Chris Urwin, an engineering lead at HSCIC (part of the NHS) and consultant Ed Marshall. They talked about a project to move from a Microsoft VMM (and Excel spreadsheet) based setup to one using Docker and Rancher for container management. They were undoubtedly pleased with the outcomes in terms of developer productivity and the manageability of the deployed environment, not to mention reduction in cost and complexity. Although the system is not live in production yet, it is live in an environment that they share with partners that is subject to SLAs etc. Particularly striking for me was the reduction in the amount of disk space and memory that the new solution entailed.
November 26th, 2015
It was another early start on Day 2 of the conference. It’s not often I leave the hotel before breakfast starts, but fortunately breakfast was being served in the expo hall so I could refuel whilst on duty.
The morning’s general session focussed on the solutions part of the stack that Soloman had introduced the previous day. VP for Engineering, Marianna Tessel, introduced Project Nautilus which, as with the vulnerability scanner in IBM’s Bluemix offering, aims to identify issues with image content held in the registry. This was of interest to me as they have been scanning the official repository images for several months now, presumably including the websphere-liberty image for which I am a maintainer. There was also a demo of the enhancements to auto-builds in Docker Hub and the use of Tutum, Docker’s recent Docker hosting acquisition.
Particularly interesting was Docker’s announcement of the beta of Docker Universal Control Plane. This product offers on-premise management of local and/or cloud-based Docker deployments with enterprise features such as secret management and LDAP support for authentication. Although Docker were at pains to point out that there will still be integrations for monitoring vendors and plugins for alternative volume and network drivers, this announcement, combined with the acquisition of Tutum, puts Docker in competition with a significant portion of its ecosystem.
After lunch I went to sessions on Docker monitoring (didn’t learn much) and on Official Repos. In the latter, Krish Garimella expanded on Project Nautilus and described how the hope is that this will allow them to dramatically scale-out the number of official repositories whilst still ensuring the quality of the content. We also handed out the Raspberry Pis to our Code Rally winners. I was pleased that they all went to attendees who’d spent significant time perfect their cars.
The closing session was also well worth staying for. Of particular note was the hack to manage unikernels using the Docker APIs. If Docker can do for unikernels what it did for containers, this is certainly a project to watch!
November 25th, 2015
I was lucky enough to be a part of the IBM contingent attending last week’s DockerCon Europe in Barcelona. I had to earn my keep by manning the Code Rally game on the IBM booth (not to mention lugging a suitcase full of laptops to the event and porting the server-side of the game to run on IBM Containers). I did get to attend the sessions though and soak up the atmosphere.
The conference opened with a moving remembrance for those who had died in the Paris attacks the proceeding week led by Docker CTO and former Parisian Hykes. He chose to play Carl Sagan reading from Pale Blue Dot which is a though-provoking listen in its own right.
After a somewhat flat opening demo, Soloman return to the stage to introduce the Docker stack: Standards, Infrastructure, Dev Tools and Solutions. He then went on talk about the themes of quality, usability and security. The last of these was accompanied by a great demo of the Yubikey 4 for creating (and revoking) certificates for Docker Content Trust. This was given by Aanand Prasad acting as hapless developer, with Diogo Monica in the role of ops. In a nice touch, everyone in the audience found a Yubikey taped to the side of their seat (although perhaps less interesting for my children than the Lego Moby Dock!). There was also a tip of the hat to the work that my colleague Phil Estes has been leading in the community around user namespace support. The session concluded with a powerful demo of using Docker Swarm to provision 50,000 containers to 10,000 nodes running in AWS.
After racing back to the expo hall to cover the next break, I went to an “Introduction to the Docker Project” which covered how to get involved with contributing (I submitted my first PR the week before, if only to the docs). It finished early so I could also catch a glimpse of the inimitable Jessie Frazzelle doing what she does best: running random stuff under Docker (a Tor relay this time). After lunch Jessie was on again, this time with Arnaud Porterie, to provide a round-up of the latest updates to the Docker engine.
I spent the remainder of the day watching the lightning talk sessions before heading back to the booth for Happy Hour followed by the IBM sponsored conference party at the impressive maritime museum.
November 2nd, 2015
Yesterday was the first Sunday of November which can only mean one thing: the November Classic. We were down to help on the start. Christine was down to run first and I was on duty calling out names (always an embarrassing job when you can’t remember the names of people you’ve known for decades!). As is usually the case with SOC, the start was well staffed and the children weren’t needed so they sat in their folding chairs and read (something that Duncan wouldn’t have been able to do a year ago). The mist took a while to burn off but it was otherwise dry and the autumn colours were lovely.
I didn’t get off to a great start on my run wasting about 3 minutes on the second control which shows up well on RouteGadget. (Christine tells me the path I should have set off down was not obvious but no excuse really as the angle was totally wrong.) Next wobble was at 18 where I must have been stood on top of the control before running away and then coming back again. In my haste to get away I then veered off to the left on the next leg but didn’t lose much time correcting myself.
When we eventually made it to the assembly field to download I was going to complain that I seemed to have an extra four minutes on my time but then remembered I had auto-pause enabled on my Garmin. Shows just how much standing around I must have been doing! The time was good enough to win the Brown course though even if all the action was on the Black. Mostly I was just pleased that, other than when climbing through the odd fence, my back hadn’t given me any problems on the way round (and doesn’t appear to be any the worse for it today).
October 29th, 2015
I picked up a copy of Docker in Production – Lessons from the Trenches during a recent O’Reilly sale, hoping to pick up some tips to pass on to customers that I work with. I have to say that I was disappointed! It’s not that the book isn’t full of useful information. It is. After a good start, it just failed to deliver on the title for me.
After covering the basics and the likely areas of concern, it introduces an example with the wise words that not everyone is looking to deploy a platform for running tens of thousands of containers and that even small deployments can benefit from their use. The example describes a simple environment using systemd to stand up a static topology with the ability to provide environment specific configuration. Just the sort of concrete material I was hoping for.
The next couple of chapters provided further examples from a second company: one using a simple scripted approach and another using AWS Beanstalk. So far, so good. At this point the book changed tack though and switched to covering different subject areas such as security, building and storing images, configuration management, networking, scheduling, service discovery, and concluding with logging and monitoring. Although, as I say, there was lots of good information scattered throughout, these chapters somehow felt like they were just giving an overview of the current state of the Docker ecosystem without giving much in the way of guidance as to how to select from the myriad of options to create a production-ready solution.
Perhaps I’m being unfair and this is simply a reflection on the current state of play. Whilst the Docker feature set is still being fleshed out there are still many compromises to be made and over time we may see more repeatable deployment patterns emerging. The fact that much of the material in the book was not new to me is probably a reflection of the efforts I am taking to keep up with what is a rapidly transforming area.
One final thought: it will be interesting to contrast this book with the free eBooks series that The New Stack has just begun. The first book, entitled “The Docker and Container Ecosystem”, includes some interesting metrics to suggest who are the main players. The catalogue of services and projects that form the second half of the book is truly eye-watering and whilst it can be seen as an indicator of vibrancy, it does indicate a real need to be able to provide guidance to those who do not have the time or inclination to immerse themselves in this world.
October 5th, 2015
Christine had entered the Clarendon Half Marathon this year but, as the day approached, her achilles was still playing up and, with a week to go, she transferred her entry to me. Stood on the start line I was in something of a quandry as how to tackle the race: I had done no preparation this time but last time I had run I had won! On top of this, the first 1km is the flattest of the course so you can’t waste it easing yourself in. As it was, I set off somewhere near the back of the top 10 and at a pace which didn’t feel excessively fast.
I had been undecided over footwear too as my off-road shoes are disintegrating. I’d eventually gone with road shoes which was the right choice as the conditions under foot were the best I’ve known them. Indeed, it was a glorious day with lots of blue sky and a nice cool breeze.
When we reached the climb up to Farley Mount at 7 miles I can’t claim to have been feeling particularly strong but there was the incentive of a steady stream of marathon runners to pick off. Although you’re only just over half way when you reach the top, mentally it feels like you’ve broken the back of the race. I overtook a couple of my fellow half-marathon runners as I descended to where my fan-club was waiting to cheer me on and this gave me sufficient impetus to continue pushing to the end, despite the nasty undulations in the last 5k.
I eventually finished in just over 1:28 which was only half a minute slower than my previous winning time. Even that wouldn’t have been nearly good enough this year with the winner taking an impressive 1:20. I was more than satisfied with my 5th place though and I’ve only been hobbling slightly today!
October 5th, 2015
It was Duncan’s sixth birthday at the weekend which proved to be a remarkably relaxed affair. One of the coaches from Duncan’s weekly football training would come and give a fun session for Duncan and a group of his friends. There was a bit of injury time but thankfully no red cards (although the birthday boy indulged in a bit of cheating). Conveniently, having booked the sports hall at work, you can’t bring your own food, so the party tea was catered for admirably by the clubhouse. That just left the cake which some bright spark had decided should be in the shape of a football. Christine baked the two halves and then, whilst she enjoyed an evening with her book group mums, muggins was left to convert them in to something resembling a football! The end result seemed to pass muster though.