"Deep Survival": Thinking through it with your software infrastructure

Posted by John Morada on May 5, 2020 10:35:18 PM
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“Training is an attempt to make predictions more accurate in a given environment. But as the environment changes (and it always does), what you need is versatility, the ability to perceive what’s really happening and adapt to it.” --Laurence Gonzalez, Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why

Social distancing sent a lot of business environments into the unknown, remaking how we live and work. Thanks to your shiny new Kubernetes cluster(s), you’re in a good position to stay responsive and scale for whatever lies ahead in 2020. Staying rapidly responsive and ahead of the curve always serves businesses well, but it’s especially helpful during unprecedented times like today. Having to work remotely while maintaining mission systems doesn't require a new way of thinking or even architecting your toolchain. It's probably second nature since your telnet days.

As author and journalist Laurence Gonzalez discusses in his book, Deep Survival, there are distinguishing strengths and capabilities that set survivors apart. Thriving right now takes resilience and responsiveness because change happens rapidly from angles you probably didn't think of before.

Looking to Deep Survival for inspiration yields us a lot of great food-for-thought, such as:

Know What's Around You

Surviving anything means knowing what you’re getting into. This isn’t necessarily the same as knowing everything, but it does mean knowing enough about the systems your business depends on to be in a good position to respond when change occurs.

Juliane Koepcke, whose story was retold in Deep Survival, survived a 1971 plane crash in the Peruvian jungle when she was seventeen years old. Remembering her father’s survival tip, she knew that continuing to travel downhill should eventually lead her to water and, ultimately, back to civilization in some capacity. Even without being an accomplished survivalist, she understood the system, the jungle, enough to make it out alive.

For example, you are an avid mountain climber. Just as survival likely means knowing and respecting threats like hypothermia, your knowledge of systemic threats to your Kubernetes infrastructure matters most when pods begin to fail. Those who don’t know everything they need to know can, in a pinch, get by with a healthy sense of humility to guide them.

At Agile Stacks, we take system survival very seriously. Our Engineering team spends counted hours testing and retesting the combinations of software stacks our customer deploy. A value we deliver to our customers out-of-the-box is the service to curate then orchestrate the complete build of a set of software components into a fully functional system. At the heart of this is our SuperHub® Automation Hub that takes care of all the scripting on the backend. We understand that "one size doesn't fit all" so we take the best possible tooling like Terraform by Hashicorp or AWS CloudFormation to deliver the .yaml file back to you that we used to build your deploy script. In this way, you are taking the inherent knowledge that our Engineers have built over time and now it's yours. We are passing on the knowledge of reliable and consistent scripting to our customers so they can thrive in any given situation.

Learn From What's Around You

In some parts of the world, dangerous natural phenomena masquerade as safe places. You could go for a ski run in the morning and find yourself in a blizzard in the wilderness with limited supplies, as Nick Williams did. Another story from Deep Survival, Williams’ experience shows how survivors use their understanding of risk. Unable to use equipment to help him, Williams used what he did have, which was what he knew about blizzards and a respect for where he was. He knew falling asleep even after he was exhausted was the worst possible outcome in sub-zero weather as he waited out the storm, so he leaned against a tree. If he started to fall asleep, he’d fall over and that would wake him up again so he could stay warm and stay alive.

Just like you need to understand the systems at play around you, it’s also important to know the potential risk spots. Seeing a blizzard and knowing you shouldn’t fall asleep could help you even if you lack preparation or supplies for where you are. Getting more information may spare you from what could otherwise kill you. When you’re trying something new or embarking on a strategic shift, what you learn might allow you to adjust course before it’s too late.

In a recent case study, read from Matt Fergusion, Zeeto.io CTO, about his foresight to avoid going down the rabbit hole of an incorrect Kubernetes deployment. Matt and his team knew something was amiss with their first choice vendor when feature after feature lacked the maturity they needed. There certainly was a storm brewing. So they pivoted after the project already got started. Matt called Agile Stacks to get him back on track using our automation software to do quick builds of Kubernetes. To add icing to the cake (bad pun), he took in some cost savings as well.

 

As the author, Laurence Gonzalez, explains in the book, “If you could collect the dead around you and sit by the campfire...you might find yourself in the best survival school of all.” Mistakes in a life-or-death situation can kill you, but some technology mistakes still allow us to live and see another day. In all likelihood, you know someone or know of a situation that resembles what you’re experiencing. We all love to hear about successes, but the scary stories are useful too.

I understand that working remotely doesn't get you the same empathy from your peers. Even Slack emojis can't replace the personal camaraderie of a winning outcome after 18 hours of Ops triage. In my parting words and sitting here at my home office... I wish all of you a safe and healthy rest of your week.

Topics: Business Agility, Business/IT alignment, CIO, Cloud, Cloud Computing, CTO, Infrastructure Automation, Kubernetes

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