DevOps Playground: more than just another lecture

As the DevOps Playground enters its fourth year, we take the opportunity to look back at how the DPG was initially formed and its subsequent success.

Why ECS Digital started the DevOps Playground:

Meetups are a great way to meet like-minded people, learn something new and eat as much pizza as is humanly possible. Technology focused meetups however, often leave one excited and hopeful about a new product or technology with no easy way to explore them. Couple that with our busy lives and these new technologies will only ever be added to the long list of “Tools I will definitely try one day soon!”

As a result, we at ECS Digital decided that we could satisfy the tech industry insatiable desire for pizza as well as allowing people to really experience new tooling without impacting their ever-shrinking social calendars.

In addition to showcasing new technologies and allowing people to get hands-on experience with those tools, the DevOps Playground acts as a platform for ECS Digital’s own talent to build a name for themselves and demonstrate the breadth and depth of knowledge ECS Digital wield within a number of different technology areas.

Attendees can expect to follow along with a structured and comprehensive exercise, designed to jumpstart new users with unfamiliar technologies and to highlight the best ways to use the technology going forward.


What happens at a DevOps Playground?

Each month, you are welcome to join us as we explore new technology / tools in one of our four locations – London, Singapore, Pune and Edinburgh. Each Playground lasts for around 2.5 hours, with a chunk of that time set aside for you to run and use the chosen tech / tools on your own laptop.

Our engineers will be on hand throughout the Playground to help you navigate your way round the technology, with the hope that you leave feeling more confident than you did when you arrived. Open to all tech enthusiasts, this is the perfect environment to learn, network and play – and there’s usually free pizza. Pizza AND tech, what’s not to love!

How the Playground has evolved:

Our environments:

With the success of the Playground’s brand and the ever-increasing number of global members, we have had to innovate in order to keep up with demand. During the Playground infancy, the standard method for distributing slide decks, resources and the all-important technology environment was a chucky VDI. Due to its size, we would have to load them onto 8GB USB sticks and physically hand them to attendees on the door. This obviously meant that we would spend the first 15-20 minutes of every meetup waiting for people to copy massive files on to their personal computers and then load up VMs, and that was before we had even started the technical part of the evening.

Realising that this method of distribution was not going to scale, we had to look internally to our engineers for a solution that could be used by a wide variety of capabilities.

In true DevOps fashion, after a few iterations we settled on a dynamic cloud instance for every attendee with a web-based terminal (wetty). This allows us to spin up exactly the number of instances required for an individual event and bring them down once the event has concluded, reducing not only the cost but the potential risk associated with having 80 cloud instances running publicly.

As the success of our London based meetup continues to grow from strength to strength, back in 2018 we took the DevOps playground brand global, setting up three additional meetup events in Singapore, Pune and Edinburgh. This new global reach has help us spread the ECS Digital message and introduce new technologies and concepts to even more people.

A powerful recruiting tool:

The DevOps Playground has been a strategic tool used during our recruitment process, with many candidates being identified and subsequently hired as a direct result of them attending our events. These new additions have been afforded the opportunity to meet the ECS Digital team in a relaxed setting and with no obligations and in fact, with most cases, individuals were not actively seeking new employment opportunities.

What the future looks like:

World domination! Maybe not… but we do want to continue building our reach and contributing to the wider DevOps community. Due to the popularity of our London events, our current location is hitting capacity on a regular basis. We’d love to work with other tech enthusiasts who have access to bigger spaces so we can open the Playgrounds up to more of our community. If you happen to have a large space and want to support the DevOps Playground by letting us borrow it for an evening, we’d love to hear from you!

We would also love the opportunity to collaborate with other meetup groups. If you have an idea of how we can better serve our communities, get in touch and let’s talk over how we can turn those ideas into value for our members.

And last but certainly not least, technology is genderless and we want to continue promoting its application to as diverse a group as possible – starting with hosting more Women In Tech DevOps Playgrounds following the success of our WIT event last year. Whilst men are welcome to attend, these events are super important for creating an environment where women feel comfortable learning about new technology in what is traditionally a male-dominated industry.

How to get involved:

As mentioned above, we host our DevOps Playgrounds once a month in four locations. These are all publicised on Meetup as soon as the team have the details available:

You can also find all the information you need about DevOps Playground, upcoming events, past events and the Playground Panda on our website.

What next?

Hopefully the above has tempted you to come and say hello to the DevOps Playground team in person! Our upcoming events are published on this website / Meetup groups (links above) so pick the one most local to you, grab your laptop and follow the smell of pizza. Go on, you’ve got nothing to lose but maybe lots to gain!

Morgan AtkinsDevOps Playground: more than just another lecture
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DevOps Playground: Hands-on Visual Regression with AyeSpy

The Speaker: Matt Lowry –

Do you get frustrated by tools like Selenium where you are testing webpages in ways where it’s not intended?

Are you struggling to reduce the manual overhead of asserting that your site looks visually correct and checking that it has not regressed after implementing new changes? Visual regression testing is one of the lesser known tools in the SDET toolbox, but when implemented properly can be incredibly powerful.

AyeSpy is a new tool that we helped one of our clients News UK create to address some of the issues that existing open source visual regression tools provide. In this video, we will learn what AyeSpy is about and as usual, as this is a hands-on session, we’ll show you how to use AyeSpy to visually test your application on different viewports.

Thank you to everyone who attended. If you want to learn more about the tool, check out my recent blog on how AyeSpy is already delivering an incredible amount of business value to our client The Times.

Interested in attending our next DevOps Playground events? Follow us on Meetup to receive a notification about the next event.

Matt LowryDevOps Playground: Hands-on Visual Regression with AyeSpy
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Digital Women in Tech – DevOps Playground: Hands on with Cypress

As part of ECS Digital’s initiative to attract more women in technology, we held our first ever Digital Women in Tech MeetUp in our London office at Bermondsey Street where we did a hands on session about a new automation testing tool called Cypress.

Cypress is a test automation tool created by Brian Mann to help developers write automation tests from a user’s perspective. With Cypress, any actions that users can do can be simulated such as clicking a button, typing values on forms, or selecting checkboxes. It’s a tool that is written purely in JavaScript and is often compared to Selenium but it’s actually different from Selenium. The tool was created to address the issues that developers faced when writing automated tests.

In this hands on session, we went over what Cypress can offer, it’s limitations and key differences with Selenium. We then guided everyone how to connect to their remote machines and how to launch the sample React application that we were going to test. The machines provided have been pre-installed with all the software that they needed to follow the session. Once everyone was familiarised with using Cypress and its test runner, we guided everyone on how to write the test scenarios that we planned for them.

Following this video you should be able to run through this playground from the comfort of your own home.

Thank you to everyone who attended the first Digital Women in Tech MeetUp and for making it successful!

Interested in attending our next DevOps Playground events. Follow us on Meetup to receive a notification about the next event.

Marie CruzDigital Women in Tech – DevOps Playground: Hands on with Cypress
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DevOps Playground London: Hands-on with AWS Serverless

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In most IT departments you usually have an individual who’s responsibility it is to manage the servers. When your software or website has a particularly high load they can rearchitect the site to manage it.

“In essence, “serverless” is a computing model where the existence of servers is hidden. So you don’t need to worry about servers at all. All you have to worry about is  the function and programming.” – Sunil Tailor

Serverless computing is a cloud-computing execution model in which the cloud provider acts as the server, dynamically managing the allocation of machine resources. Pricing is based on the actual amount of resources consumed by an application, rather than on pre-purchased units of capacity.[1] It is a form of utility computing. In this DevOps playground, Sunil will be getting hands on with AWS’s serverless technology.

Interested in attending our next DevOps Playground events. Follow us on Meetup to receive a notification about the next event

Roy OsujiDevOps Playground London: Hands-on with AWS Serverless
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DevOps Playground London – Jenkins & Kubernetes

The 20th DevOps Playground took place at the ECS Digital offices on Bermondsey Street. The focus for the event was a hands-on demonstration of running a scalable Jenkins cluster on top of Kubernetes, provisioning pods on demand, containing a Jenkins slave image intended to execute a given pipeline.

The key points covered in this DevOps Playground were:

  • Custom Jenkins Docker image preinstalled with recommended plugins and more.
  • Creating Deployments and Services in Kubernetes.
  • Deploying a Jenkins master node to the cluster.
  • Configuring the master node to be able to provision containers.
  • Defining pipelines utilising the Jenkins Kubernetes plugin.

The event was a nice introduction to both tools, as well as it being a useful real-world scenario. The feedback from the attendees was very positive, with many of them not having much Kubernetes or Jenkins experience.

Overall, the event was a huge success and it was great to have the opportunity to meet many of you, and give back to the community.

We are looking forward to seeing you in May at our next meet-up; topic and dates to follow shortly!

Interested in attending one of our DevOps Playground events? Follow up on Meetup to receive a notification about the next event – Join us!

anthony.forsterDevOps Playground London – Jenkins & Kubernetes
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DevOps Playground London – AWS CloudFormation

The 19th DevOps Playground took place at the ECS Digital office’s in Bermondsey Street. The topic was AWS CloudFormation with a focus on Infrastructure as Code (IaC). This was my second DevOps Playground, last year I ran a meet-up showing off Serverless with AWS Lambda, available here.

The playground was composed of a number of sections, with an introduction to Infrastructure as Code, with labs to create S3 bucket to launching an EC2 instance and managing security groups. The idea behind this DevOps Playground was to introduce the basic fundamentals with enough hints for further deep dive studies people could make on their own, using the templates and links mentioned in the labs.

There was a special mention of what’s coming next in the CloudFormation in the form of Configuration Drift, which was mentioned and previewed at Re:Invent 2017.

DevOps Playground 19

Some of the keytake aways from this DevOps Playground were:

  • CloudFormation Fundamentals
  • Service Roles
  • Creating & Updating Stacks
  • Using Change Sets
  • Launching EC2 instances with bootstrap scripts
  • Creating and Updating Security Groups

The feedback from the meet-up was very positive throughout the evening, ending with pizza, beer and networking. Overall, another successful DevOps Playground where everyone present had a good time, and hopefully learned something new.

We are looking forward to seeing everyone again at our next meet-up: Hands on with Kubernetes and Jenkins.

Interested in attending one of our DevOps Playground events? Follow up on Meetup to receive a notification about the next event – Join us!

sunil.tailorDevOps Playground London – AWS CloudFormation
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DevOps Playground London – All Hands on Prometheus

Earlier this year we had our 18th DevOps Playground focusing on the very powerful monitoring tool – Prometheus, that has been gaining a lot of attention in recent years.

At the event, we first looked at a brief history of Prometheus, then our participants learned how to setup and start a Prometheus server, configure targets and basic alerts. We’ve also looked at PromQL, the powerful query language, and learned the most basic functions, and expressions we can use to get started on using Prometheus.

Following this video you should be able to run through this introduction to Prometheus from the comfort of your home! For the next playground we will be focusing on managing micro-services on Kubernetes using Istio.
We’re looking forward to seeing you there!

Interested in attending one of our DevOps Playground events? Follow up on Meetup to receive a notification about the next event – Join us!

daniel.meszarosDevOps Playground London – All Hands on Prometheus
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