There’s no shortage of DevOps experts these days. These luminaries are everywhere - blogs, social media, trade shows, you name it. Most agree that DevOps best practices fall into three categories: People, Process, and Tools.
You can read all about those in this space, and elsewhere. But once you look past the slideware, the conferences, and the consultants – one question lingers.
What does DevOps look like in a workplace?
How do the principles of collaboration, instant feedback, cross-functional teams, and shared objectives actually come together in a physical office?
As we designed our new CenturyLink Cloud Development Center in Bellevue, a few delegates from the CenturyLink Cloud team had the opportunity to create the perfect environment for DevOps. And, to do it from scratch, with few restrictions. After all, this Center was one of the major components underpinning CenturyLink’s acquisition of Tier 3 nearly a year ago.
So what are some of the results?
Team rooms, organized by function. The majority of our space is dedicated to “team rooms” – large, open rooms where employees are grouped by workstream (platform team, application services team, service engineering, etc.). As we build new features and push them to production, all the people you need to interact with are literally a few feet away.
Some employees prefer to float from team room to team room, depending on what they are doing that day, or “just because.”
Desks suited to pairing. Pairing is a powerful tool for distributing knowledge across an organization – and you need wide desks to sit shoulder-to-shoulder to maximize that concept. Whether it’s a security expert, network architect, product manager, or tester, you need the physical space to work effectively and knowledge-share. And because our teams are using a single set of tools, each ‘pair’ can review dashboards and data in common repositories, to inform their decision-making.
Built-in collaboration spaces. Each team room is outfitted with gigantic whiteboards. This generous allocation of space means people are more inclined to start drawing and illustrating an idea, problem, or scenario. Near each whiteboard is a high-def TV connected to AirPlay. This wireless setup is frictionless, and far faster than fumbling with adapters and cables. Each TV is near a couch, two chairs, and coffee table. There’s even whiteboards in hallways – because sometimes hallway conversations are the most important ones.
A recurring theme: “having fun is just as important as working.” It’s easy for employers to say that work should be fun. But how do they show it? At the Center, team rooms have embedded speakers in the ceiling, so everyone can listen to music during the day. There’s even satellite TV in each team room, as well as in the largest shared spaces, too. And of course, there’s a dedicated gaming room when it’s time for a much-needed break.
The best example of fun, though, comes from drudgery of on-call engineering that’s required in cloud. Every engineer at CenturyLink Cloud pulls pager duty, a role that rotates weekly. How do you make this at least a little tolerable? By having a cool name. The on-call engineer that week gets to be “Batman.”
Spaces for “spikes.” Most R&D efforts by our team involve a deep-dive on a topic over the course of a day or two. Those engineers working on spikes do so in a dedicated space where they can immerse themselves in the task at hand.
No phone calls allowed in team rooms. Need to attend a meeting, or take a call from a remote colleague? Do it elsewhere. In general, our team eschews phone calls, since they are 1x1 conversations that exclude others by definition. And, phone calls can’t be audited the same way other channels can.
Meeting rooms of all shapes and sizes. This is the flip side of the ‘no phone call’ rule. The office has “fishbowl” rooms with space for one, as well as medium and large rooms to fit the need. And there’s plenty of them, so there’s never a shortage of space.
Large Projection Space. Adjacent to the large break area is a projection space, designed for technical ‘brown bags.’ We’ve made the space available to start-up and dev events as well, like the upcoming Seattle Cloud Foundry Meetup.
Open lunch room, complete with catered lunches. Our “no eating” in the team room rule means people actually take real breaks. When dozens of engineers sit down together to break bread, lots of ideas surface.
Few cubes.Cubes and rapid development don’t go together. The walls just seem get the way of the constant collaboration, analysis, and troubleshooting.
There are many, many other details that reflect the unique nature of this space, and the people who work there. Each room in the office references our favorite movies (“Jack Rabbit Slim’s”, “Mos Eisley Cantina,” and my favorite, “Thunderdome”), but the highlights above show how working at web scale has influenced our workplace.