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June 12 2012

Velocity Profile: Schlomo Schapiro

This is part of the Velocity Profiles series, which highlights the work and knowledge of web ops and performance experts.

Schlomo SchapiroSchlomo Schapiro
Systems Architect, Open Source Evangelist
ImmobilienScout24
@schlomoschapiro

How did you get into web operations and performance?

Previously I was working as a consultant for Linux, open source tools and virtualization. While this is a great job, it has one major drawback: One usually does not stay with one customer long enough to enable the really big changes, especially with regard to how the customer works. When ImmobilienScout24 came along and offered me the job as a Systems Architect, this was my ticket out of consulting and into diving deeply into a single customer scenario. The challenges that ImmobilienScout24 faced were very much along the lines that occupied me as well:

  • How to change from "stable operations" to "stable change."
  • How to fully automate a large data center and stop doing repeating tasks manually.
  • How to drastically increase the velocity of our release cycles.

What are your most memorable projects?

There are a number of them:

  • An internal open source project to manage the IT desktops by the people who use them.
  • An open source project, Lab Manager Light, that turns a standard VMware vSphere environment into a self-service cloud.
  • The biggest and still very much ongoing project is the new deployment and systems automation for our data center. The approach — which is also new — is to unify the management of our Linux servers under the built-in package manager, in our case RPM. That way all files on the servers are already taken care of and we only need to centrally orchestrate the package roll-out waves and service start/stop. The tools we use for this are published here.
  • Help to nudge us to embrace DevOps last year after the development went agile some three years ago.
  • Most important of all, I feel that ImmobilienScout24 is now on its way to maintain and build upon the technological edge matching our market share as the dominating real-estate listing portal in Germany. This will actually enable us to keep growing and setting the pace in the ever-faster Internet world.

What's the toughest problem you've had to solve?

The real challenge is not to hack up a quick solution but to work as a team to build a sustainable world. Technical debt discussions are now a major part of my daily work. As tedious as they can be, I strongly believe that at our current state sustainability is at least as important as innovation.

What tools and techniques do you rely on most?

Asking questions and trying to understand with everybody together how things really work. Walking a lot through the office with a coffee cup and talking to people. Taking the time to sit down with a colleague at the keyboard and seeing things through. Sometimes it helps to shorten a discussion with a a little hacking and "look, it just works" — but this should always be a way to start a discussion. The real work is better done together as a team.

What is your web operations and performance super power?

I hope that I manage to help us all to look forward to the next day at work. I also try to simplify things until they are really simple, and I annoy everybody by nagging about separation of concerns.

Velocity 2012: Web Operations & Performance — The smartest minds in web operations and performance are coming together for the Velocity Conference, being held June 25-27 in Santa Clara, Calif.

Save 20% on registration with the code RADAR20

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June 05 2012

Velocity Profile: Kate Matsudaira

This is part of the Velocity Profiles series, which highlights the work and knowledge of web ops and performance experts.

Kate MatsudairaKate Matsudaira
VP Engineering
Decide.com
@katemats

How did you get into web operations and performance?

I started working as a software engineer, and being at Amazon working on the internals of the retail website it was almost impossible not to have some exposure to pager duty and operations. As my career progressed and I moved into leadership roles on teams working on 24/7 websites, typically spanning hundreds of servers (and now instances), it was necessary to understand operations and performance.

What was your most memorable project?

Memorable can be two things, really good or really bad. Right now I am excited about the work we have been doing on Decide.com to make our website super fast and work well across devices (and all the data mining and machine learning is also really interesting).

As for really bad, though, there was a launch almost a decade ago where we implemented an analytics datastore on top of a relational database instead of something like map/reduce. If only Hadoop and all the other great data technologies were around and prevalent back then!

What's the toughest problem you've had to solve?

Building an index of all the links on the web (a link search engine, basically) in one year with less than $1 million, including the team.

What tools and techniques do you rely on most?

Tools: pick the best one for the job at hand. Techniques: take the time to slow down before making snap judgements.

Who do you follow in the web operations and performance world?

Artur Bergman, Cliff Moon, Ben Black, John Allspaw, Rob Treat, and Theo Schlossnagle.

What is your web operations and performance super power?

Software architecture. You have to design your applications to be operational.

Velocity 2012: Web Operations & Performance — The smartest minds in web operations and performance are coming together for the Velocity Conference, being held June 25-27 in Santa Clara, Calif.

Save 20% on registration with the code RADAR20

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May 16 2012

Velocity Profile: Justin Huff

This is part of the Velocity Profiles series, which highlights the work and knowledge of web ops and performance experts.

Justin HuffJustin Huff
Software Engineer
PicMonkey
@jjhuff

How did you get into web operations and performance?

Picnik's founders Mike Harrington and Darrin Massena needed someone who knew something about Linux. Darrin and I had known each other for a few years, so my name came up. At the time, I was doing embedded systems work, but ended up moonlighting for Picnik. It wasn't long before I came over full time. I always expected to help them get off the ground and then they'd find a "real sysadmin" to take over. Turns out, I ended up enjoying ops! I was lucky enough to straddle the world between ops and back-end dev. Sound familiar?

What is your most memorable project?

Completing a tight database upgrade at a Starbucks mid-way between Seattle and Portland. "Replicate faster, PLEASE!" Also, in the build-up to Picnik's acquisition by Google, Mike asked me what it would take to handle 10 times our current traffic and to do it in 30 days. We doubled Picnik's hardware, including a complete network overhaul. It went flawlessly and continued to serve Picnik until Google shut it down in April of this year.

What's the toughest problem you've had to solve?

When Flickr launched with Picnik as its photo editor, we started to see really weird behavior causing some Flickr API calls to hang. I spent a good chunk of that day on the phone with John Allspaw and finally identified an issue with how our NAT box was munging TCP timestamps that were interacting badly with Flickr's servers. I learned a couple things: First, both John and I were able to gather highly detailed info (tcpdumps) at key points in our networks (and hosts) — sometimes you just have to go deep; second, it's absolutely imperative that you have good technical contacts with your partners.

What tools and techniques do you rely on most?

Graphs and monitoring are critical. Vim, because I can't figure out Emacs. Automation, because I can't even remember what I had for breakfast.

Who do you follow in the web operations and performance world?

Bryan Berry (@bryanwb) is great. Joe Williams (@williamsjoe) is doing great stuff — and his Twitter profile pic is awesome.

What is your web operations and performance super power?

I think I'm good at building, maintaining, and understanding complete systems. Other engineering disciplines are typically concerned about the details of a single part of a larger system. As web engineers, we have to grok the system, the components, and their interactions ... at 2 AM.

Velocity 2012: Web Operations & Performance — The smartest minds in web operations and performance are coming together for the Velocity Conference, being held June 25-27 in Santa Clara, Calif.

Save 20% on registration with the code RADAR20

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May 09 2012

Velocity Profile: Nicole Sullivan

This is part of the Velocity Profiles series, which highlights the work and knowledge of web ops & performance experts.

Nicole SullivanNicole Sullivan
Architect
Stubbornella
@stubbornella

How did you get into web operations & performance?

Accidentally. Years back, I got hired into a company in France that was building a website for one of the major cell phone providers over there. They had some serious performance issues — the site was crashing in Internet Explorer (IE) pretty much any time you interacted with the page. It was a hunt to figure out what was going on because, at that time, there really wasn't a lot of published performance information out there. So, I ended up finding out that filters in the CSS file were causing IE to crash. That hunt to identify the problem and then the subsequent hunts to simplify the page so that other errors wouldn't have such a big impact was really fun. That's what got me into it.

What is your most memorable project?

Optimizing Facebook's CSS back in 2009 was a memorable project. They had 1.9 MB of CSS, which is just huge. That project is when I realized that most performance issues and most code issues are actually human issues. But you have to solve the human issues or the bad code will just keep popping up — sort of like performance Whac-A-Mole.

Another project that was cool was Box.net. They had a lot of CSS, but more than the quantity, it was really tangled. They would have to rewrite things over and over again, just because everything was so context-dependent. That one was fun because it was neat to see the team end up being able to build things much faster once their front-end architecture issues were removed.

What's the toughest problem you've had to solve?

One of the toughest problems I have to solve, and I have to solve it all the time, is how to make performance and operations improvements work in a legacy world. We don't work in a world where we can just wipe the slate clean and do it right from the start. We work in a world where the website has to stay up and we have to make these changes while everything is running. The balance between keeping the legacy running and managing to do improvements, until the legacy can be removed, is probably the hardest problem. And it happens on almost every project.

What tools and techniques do you rely on most?

The work from the Chrome team has been making me really happy lately. They're pushing the boundaries in front-end code, JavaScript, CSS, and especially dev tools. I was on Firefox Dev Tools for a long time, but there was too much incompatibility between different versions of Firefox and the tools that I absolutely needed to do my job every day. So I swapped, reluctantly, over to Chrome and have actually found that the Chrome Developer Tools have made some substantial improvements in terms of usability and the kinds of information that you can get out of the tools. It's pretty cool stuff.

Who do you follow in the web operations & performance world?

Chris Coyier is constantly experimenting, throwing stuff out there, trying new techniques, trying out the browser stuff, and finding the rough edges where things don't work very well. Tab Atkins and Alex Russell are both involved in Chrome and standards at Google. They're amazing people to follow. Another person is Lea Verou. She really pushes the edge in tooling around CSS and taking the specs and bending them to do things they maybe weren't intended to do. I also follow people who are doing LESS and SASS because the preprocessing languages are an interesting development and have a whole different set of performance constraints.

What is your web operations & performance super power?

I think I do pretty well with CSS stuff. I've been doing it for more than a decade now. Friends will send me CSS issues that they're struggling with and I can jump in and pretty quickly identify why it isn't working. Somehow, I've internalized all of the different bits of the different browsers and just kind of know what to do or what not to do.

Velocity 2012: Web Operations & Performance — The smartest minds in web operations and performance are coming together for the Velocity Conference, being held June 25-27 in Santa Clara, Calif.

Save 20% on registration with the code RADAR20

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May 08 2012

jQuery took on a common problem and then grew through support

As part of our Velocity Profiles series, we're highlighting interesting conversations we've had with web ops and performance pros.

In the following interview from Velocity 2011, jQuery creator John Resig (@jeresig) discusses the early days of jQuery, the obstacles of cross-platform mobile development, and JavaScript's golden age.

Highlights from the interview include:

  • The initial goals for jQuery and why it caught on — Resig's web app projects kept bumping up against cross-browser issues, so he took a step back and built a JavaScript library that addressed his frustrations. He also notes that good documentation and feedback mechanisms are big reasons why jQuery caught on so quickly. "Put yourself in the shoes of someone who's trying to use your thing," he says. [Discussed 22 seconds in.]

  • The challenges of developing jQuery Mobile — "It's been a rocky adventure," Resig says. The core issue is the same as on the desktop side — cross-browser compatibility — but Resig says there's an extra twist: mobile has "even more browsers, and they're weirder." [Discussed at 2:28.]
  • Is JavaScript in a golden age? — It's in a "prolonged golden age," Resig says. The key shift is that many developers now acknowledge JavaScript's importance. "You can't build a web application without understanding JavaScript. JavaScript is a fundamental aspect of any sort of web development you do today." [Discussed at 4:05.]

The full interview is available in the following video.

Velocity 2012: Web Operations & Performance — The smartest minds in web operations and performance are coming together for the Velocity Conference, being held June 25-27 in Santa Clara, Calif.

Save 20% on registration with the code RADAR20

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May 02 2012

Velocity Profile: Sergey Chernyshev

This is part of the Velocity Profiles series, which highlights the work and knowledge of web ops and performance experts.

Sergey ChernyshevSergey Chernyshev
Director of web systems and applications, truTV
Organizer, New York Web Performance Meetup
@sergeyche, @perfplanet

How did you get into web operations and performance?

I've been doing web development and operations since 1996. Before there were different people running websites, one person was responsible for everything. So in addition to adding features, I was making sure websites were running and running fast. In 2007, I heard Steve Souders and Teni Thurer present their first findings at the Web 2.0 Expo, and after that, I was converted to the church of web performance optimization (WPO).

What is your most memorable project?

The most memorable are the two projects I'm most active on: Show Slow and running the New York Web Performance Meetup.

What's the toughest problem you've had to solve?

The toughest is to make people believe that WPO is important and change perspectives on how to approach performance. It's far from solved, but I hope I helped by kick-starting a local community movement — we now have 16 active groups across the globe with more than 5,000 members.

What tools and techniques do you rely on most?

Show Slow and WebPageTest.

Who do you follow in the web operations and performance world?

I run the @perfplanet account on Twitter where I follow a bunch of people and re-tweet WPO-related tweets. You can see my list here.

In addition, Brad Fitzpatrick of LiveJournal fame isn't doing much of this work these days, but he's behind many great technologies, including Memcached, Gearman and more.

Velocity 2012: Web Operations & Performance — The smartest minds in web operations and performance are coming together for the Velocity Conference, being held June 25-27 in Santa Clara, Calif.

Save 20% on registration with the code RADAR20

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April 18 2012

Velocity Profile: Hooman Beheshti

This is part of the Velocity Profiles series, which highlights the work and knowledge of web ops and performance experts.

Hooman BeheshtiHooman Beheshti
Vice President of Technology
Strangeloop

How did you get into web operations and performance?

Out of school, I ended up with one of the first load balancing vendors, which is where I learned about everything that has to do with the networking and protocol side of the web. From there, I kind of moved up the stack: I helped found a high-performance caching company; then joined a next generation ADC vendor focusing on web acceleration; and then hooked up with Strangeloop, where we focus on advanced front-end optimization (FEO) for web performance. It's been a pretty cool ride, and I'm still learning every day.

What is your most memorable project?

Two come to mind. About 10 years ago, we had a huge problem trying to solve network proximity problems with geo load balancing. The normal DNS-based solutions weren't good enough. We came up with a pretty clever and more accurate way of measuring network proximity. It's a solution I'm still pretty proud of. More recently, and in a completely different direction, I've been involved with projects where we're leveraging the power of Google Analytics in creative ways to keep track of user behavior when it comes to web performance. It's kind of like what Artur Bergman talked about last year at Velocity, but we've gone further and included more things that give us different types of insight. It's a great example of positively exploiting available tools in new and cheeky ways.

What's the toughest problem you've had to solve?

In the world of web performance, measurement remains a huge challenge. There are way too many tools, metrics, and vendors out there, all doing measurement differently, and ironically, all legit! So, the challenge isn't always finding the right thing to measure, it's to understand which subset of metrics to consider based on the situation. Add to that the fact that there's a lot of confusion about this propagated by everyone who thinks their way is the only right way, coupled with the possibility that we may not actually have the right measurement yet, and this becomes an incredibly complex issue. I can't say that we've solved it, but I do keep finding myself learning new things and educating people about these complexities. So, the fact that people are listening and wanting to learn is a positive step toward solving the problem.

What tools and techniques do you rely on most?

I'm a techy geek, so my favorite tools are those that help me be a good sleuth. At the lowest level, the one tool I can't live without is Wireshark for getting and studying network packet captures. We've dubbed it "The Truth Serum" because of how it proves itself to be the ultimate authority when it comes to figuring out what the hell is going on.

In the browser, I use HTTPWatch all the time to study how my browser processes web pages. It's an excellent tool for getting timings, object breakdowns, and HTTP details.

And my favorite performance tool is WebPagetest. I use the public version, we have a private instance, and I even have one on my laptop. It's an awesome tool for getting an as-close-to-accurate-as-possible reflection of how pages perform in real browsers, with real-world characteristics. It has provided, and continues to provide, a great service for the performance industry.

Velocity 2012: Web Operations & Performance — The smartest minds in web operations and performance are coming together for the Velocity Conference, being held June 25-27 in Santa Clara, Calif.

Save 20% on registration with the code RADAR20

Related:

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