SYS-CON MEDIA Authors: Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Yeshim Deniz, Nikita Ivanov, Sean Houghton

Related Topics: DevOps Journal, Java, SOA & WOA, Linux, Cloud Expo, Big Data Journal

DevOps Journal: Article

The DevOps Database | Part 4

A culture of continual experimentation and learning

In the final post in this series about bringing DevOps patterns to database change management, we’re going to discuss the Third Way.  Here’s a refresher on the Third Way from the introductory post in this series:

The Third Way: Culture of Continual Experimentation & Learning – This way emphasizes the benefits that can be realized through embracing experimentation, risk-taking, and learning from failure.  By adopting this kind of attitude, experimentation and risk-taking lead to innovation and improvement while embracing failure allows the organization to produce more resilient products and sharpen skills that allow teams to recover more quickly from unexpected failure when it does occur.

The Third Way is by far the most intriguing of the “The Ways” to me.  I’ve spent the lion’s share of my career in early stage start-ups where cycles of experimentation, learning, and failure are the norm.  When bringing a new product or service to market, your latest release is never your last.  It may not even be the last release this week.  You are constantly experimenting with new workflows and technology, learning about your target market, and getting more valuable information from your early failures than your early successes.  The Third Way is crucial to the success of an early stage company.

While the benefits of the Third Way still apply to more established companies and product lines, practicing it becomes more difficult.  The potential negatives of experimentation and risk-taking are much harder to stomach when you have a large base of paying customers with SLAs. This aversion to risk is most acute when you’re talking about your data platform where outages, performance problems and data loss are not an option. Complicating matters further is how difficult it can be to unwind the database changes that were affected to support a specific version of your app.  Application code can usually be uninstalled and replaced with the previous working version fairly simply should problems arise. Reverting the database changes that support that version of the application is more akin to defusing a bomb.  Database changes must be reverted delicately and meticulously to avoid errors and omissions that could negatively impact your data platform.

What DBAs and release managers need to facilitate experimentation and risk taking on the data platform is a special combination of tools and process.  This combination should make it easy to identify the root cause of issues, quickly remediate problems caused by application schema structure, and revert to a previous version of the schema safely.  When we started Datical, we spent several hours in conversation and at white boards exploring these unique needs and hammering out a path to usher the Third Way into regular database activity.

A Rollback Designed With Every Change
The biggest problem with experimentation in the data platform is how difficult it is to move backward and forward through your schema’s version history.  We feel the best way to bring more flexibility to the process of upgrading and reverting schema is an attitude shift.  Your rollback strategy for each database change must become as important as the change itself.  The best time to craft your rollback strategy is when the change itself is being designed.  When the motivation for the change is fresh in your mind and the dependencies of the object being created, dropped or altered are clearly mapped out, a developer or DBA can better craft a rollback strategy for which every contingency has been considered.  This leads to a stronger safety net and makes your application schema as agile and easily managed as your application code. The database is no longer preventing you from being bold but quickly and safely moving between versions to accommodate experimentation.

The Richness of Model Based Comparison & Remediation
I’m a native Texan, born and raised in Austin.  I know the jokes about how proud and vocal Texans can be about their home state.  That being said, I spend more time telling people about the model based approach Datical has applied to Database Change Management than I do telling them how wonderful it is that I was fortunate enough to be born in the best state in the country.  The advantages of the model based approach really shine through when it comes to experimentation and troubleshooting.  The model allows you to annotate all objects and modifications to your application’s schema with the business reason that prompted them.  This detailed history is invaluable when designing new changes or refactoring your schema as part of an experimental exercise.  You immediately know what objects are most crucial, what your dependencies are, what areas you need to tread lightly in, and what areas are ripe for experimentation due to the changing needs of your business.  Designing intelligently eliminates risk.

Troubleshooting with models is also dramatically faster and more reliable than other methods. Programmatically comparing models allows you to determine the differences between two databases much more quickly than manually comparing diagrams or SQL scripts.  You know with certainty exactly what has changed and what is missing in a fraction of the time that human review takes.

Once you have identified the differences, remediation is as simple plugging one, some or all of the determined differences into the model and deploying those changes to the non-compliant instance.

Flexible Quick Rollback
If you’ve taken our advice to implement your rollback strategy when you implement a change, recovering from disaster becomes testable, fast, and simple.  Before going to production or a sensitive environment, you should always test your rollback steps in dev, test and staging.  This will allow you to make any tweaks or changes to your rollback strategy before you are in a pinch.  Think of it like testing your smoke alarm.  Hopefully you’ll never need it, but it’s nice to know that it’ll work if you do.

Let’s say the worst happens. You deploy a new set of database changes and the application performance degrades or errors are logged.  The decision is made to revert the entire installation to the previous version.  Because you have carefully designed, tested and refined your rollback strategy, rolling back the database changes becomes a push button operation or a single invocation of a command line tool.  No more running disparate SQL scripts or undoing changes on the fly.  You can be confident that your database has been returned to the same state it was in before the upgrade.

Summary
The database has long been handled with kid gloves and for good reason.  Data is a precious resource for consumers and businesses.  Consumers provide data to businesses and trust that it will be kept safe and used to offer them better products and services.  Businesses rely on data to strategize, grow, and become more efficient and profitable.  It is the lifeblood of our economy.  As our ability to collect and process data becomes greater and greater, the rate at which an enterprise must move on what is learned from that data becomes linearly faster.  Data must be kept safe, but the database must become more agile to accommodate the growing pressure for faster value realization of business intelligence initiatives.  DevOps patterns hold the key to this necessary agility while maintaining or improving the security and integrity of data stores.  The database and DBAs need to be brought into the application design process earlier and must be treated as the first class stakeholder and commodity that they are. Companies that acknowledge this and move to adopt DevOps patterns and include their database teams will be at a distinct competitive advantage to those that don’t.  Don’t miss the boat!

More Stories By Pete Pickerill

Pete Pickerill is Vice President of Products and Co-founder of Datical. Pete is a software industry veteran who has built his career in Austin’s technology sector. Prior to co-founding Datical, he was employee number one at Phurnace Software and helped lead the company to a high profile acquisition by BMC Software, Inc. Pete has spent the majority of his career in successful startups and the companies that acquired them including Loop One (acquired by NeoPost Solutions), WholeSecurity (acquired by Symantec, Inc.) and Phurnace Software.

Latest Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that Gridstore™, the leader in hyper-converged infrastructure purpose-built to optimize Microsoft workloads, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Gridstore™ is the leader in hyper-converged infrastructure purpose-built for Microsoft workloads and designed to accelerate applications in virtualized environments. Gridstore’s hyper-converged infrastructure is the ...
There's Big Data, then there's really Big Data from the Internet of Things. IoT is evolving to include many data possibilities like new types of event, log and network data. The volumes are enormous, generating tens of billions of logs per day, which raise data challenges. Early IoT deployments are relying heavily on both the cloud and managed service providers to navigate these challenges. In her session at Big Data Expo®, Hannah Smalltree, Director at Treasure Data, discussed how IoT, Big D...
DevOps Summit 2015 New York, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long development cycles that produce software that is obsolete...
The 4th International DevOps Summit, co-located with16th International Cloud Expo – being held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY – announces that its Call for Papers is now open. Born out of proven success in agile development, cloud computing, and process automation, DevOps is a macro trend you cannot afford to miss. From showcase success stories from early adopters and web-scale businesses, DevOps is expanding to organizations of all sizes, including the world's large...
The Internet of Things promises to transform businesses (and lives), but navigating the business and technical path to success can be difficult to understand. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sean Lorenz, Technical Product Manager for Xively at LogMeIn, demonstrated how to approach creating broadly successful connected customer solutions using real world business transformation studies including New England BioLabs and more.
WebRTC defines no default signaling protocol, causing fragmentation between WebRTC silos. SIP and XMPP provide possibilities, but come with considerable complexity and are not designed for use in a web environment. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Matthew Hodgson, technical co-founder of the Matrix.org, discussed how Matrix is a new non-profit Open Source Project that defines both a new HTTP-based standard for VoIP & IM signaling and provides reference implementations.
DevOps Summit 2015 New York, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long development cycles that produce software that is obsolete...
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Chief Ar...
The Internet of Things is tied together with a thin strand that is known as time. Coincidentally, at the core of nearly all data analytics is a timestamp. When working with time series data there are a few core principles that everyone should consider, especially across datasets where time is the common boundary. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Scott, Director of Enterprise Strategy & Architecture at MapR Technologies, discussed single-value, geo-spatial, and log time series dat...
"SAP had made a big transition into the cloud as we believe it has significant value for our customers, drives innovation and is easy to consume. When you look at the SAP portfolio, SAP HANA is the underlying platform and it powers all of our platforms and all of our analytics," explained Thorsten Leiduck, VP ISVs & Digital Commerce at SAP, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 15th Cloud Expo, held Nov 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SAP is delivering break-through innovation combined with fantastic user experience powered by the market-leading in-memory technology, SAP HANA. In his General Session at 15th Cloud Expo, Thorsten Leiduck, VP ISVs & Digital Commerce, SAP, discussed how SAP and partners provide cloud and hybrid cloud solutions as well as real-time Big Data offerings that help companies of all sizes and industries run better. SAP launched an application challenge to award the most innovative SAP HANA and SAP HANA...
Connected devices and the Internet of Things are getting significant momentum in 2014. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Hunter, Chief Scientist & Technology Evangelist at Greenwave Systems, examined three key elements that together will drive mass adoption of the IoT before the end of 2015. The first element is the recent advent of robust open source protocols (like AllJoyn and WebRTC) that facilitate M2M communication. The second is broad availability of flexible, cost-effective ...
Scott Jenson leads a project called The Physical Web within the Chrome team at Google. Project members are working to take the scalability and openness of the web and use it to talk to the exponentially exploding range of smart devices. Nearly every company today working on the IoT comes up with the same basic solution: use my server and you'll be fine. But if we really believe there will be trillions of these devices, that just can't scale. We need a system that is open a scalable and by using ...
What do a firewall and a fortress have in common? They are no longer strong enough to protect the valuables housed inside. Like the walls of an old fortress, the cracks in the firewall are allowing the bad guys to slip in - unannounced and unnoticed. By the time these thieves get in, the damage is already done and the network is already compromised. Intellectual property is easily slipped out the back door leaving no trace of forced entry. If we want to reign in on these cybercriminals, it's hig...
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.