Pete Cheslock began his leadership role in DevOps in 2009 at cloud-based email archiving company Sonian. The company was founded by friends and former colleagues of his, who called Cheslock for help when they got funding for the Sonian venture. He filled in wherever they needed him—as did everyone else in the first few years of the 10- to 20-person startup.
“As we grew, I saw a need for leadership for Sonian’s five-person operations team. I went to our VP of Engineering about the need for ownership of operations and said I’d love to be the one to give it a shot,” says Cheslock.
Sonian was an early user of Amazon Web Services, deploying production code with customers by 2008. Sonian had been named an AWS Startup Challenge finalist, but despite its forward-thinking approach to the cloud and infrastructure as code, many of its processes were immature.
“The application had scaling issues and we were spending an inordinate amount of time on reactive measures, dealing with application downtime and using short-term fixes for continuing issues when I took over,” says Cheslock. The young DevOps shop wasn’t able to make headway in innovative, future-looking projects.
Smothering Fires, Forging Ahead
Cheslock transitioned its team into two groups—a proactive group for innovative projects with a view to tomorrow, and a reactive team to get the worst recurring fires under control. Cheslock added himself to the latter group while remaining head of Operations. “While we attacked the hairiest issues, the proactive group worked on tooling that we needed in support of CD (continuous development) and CI (continuous integration), which made deployments much easier,” says Cheslock.
It had been taking the Sonian team about a week to deploy software for all its customer environments. The process of deployment affected much of the software stack; it required testing as well as completing and checking off several items on a lengthy deployment list.
Cheslock directed the proactive team to automate much of that checklist. Soon, they had reduced deployment time to 20 customer environments in just three hours, from five three-hour periods over five days.
Weeding Out Costly Cloud Issues
Cheslock and Sonian next began to work on cost issues. “We built an application to analyze our Amazon usage and correlate it with our Chef server, which was our single source of truth for all instances,” says Cheslock. The app revealed unused and abandoned servers that had been used for development and testing, which were still running and costing the company money.
“We found occasional spot instances where we could pay fractions of the retail price for batch workloads to cover these. We leveraged the Amazon Marketplace to make better purchases of infrastructure to save money,” says Cheslock.
Cheslock was able to shrink 800 instances on a single AWS cloud with a monthly spend of $450,000 down to 400 instances across four public cloud environments with a much smaller price tag of $200,000 a month. He accomplished this in three months, even as Sonian’s cloud operations team doubled.
Now senior director of Operations and Support at Threat Stack, Cheslock is nurturing DevOps methodologies and seeing continued growth and success there.
A few years ago, Cheslock and a few friends started a Boston-area technical operations meetup called BosOps, inviting people who managed operations at various companies to get together regularly to discuss their challenges and offer support.
“As BosOps grew, we wanted to reach a broader audience and started pulling in more people in operations or DevOps roles to gather on a quarterly basis,” says Cheslock.
Currently, BosOps has about 150 participants, who also participate in online chats using the free tier of Slack.com, a popular team-working messaging app among DevOps folk. “It’s great for people who are new to Boston,” says Cheslock.
BosOps helps by quickly connecting a professional network for people who are new to the industry or to the area, enabling them to meet like-minded people and to secure a better foothold—perhaps even find a job they like more than their current position.