GitLab Commit 2020 – Brownfield Topics

Which sessions will be most relevant and useful?

The GitLab Commit this summer is free for all with unlimited attendance due to the pandemic. This creates an opportunity for tons of people to have access to fantastic ideas that can help their organizations, teams, and individually.

Many of the sessions are focused on bleeding edge methods and assume cloud native is where you are now, or where you are going soon. Some of the sessions are more generic and focus on processes that can be applied to pre-transformation projects. Some specifically cover the transformational aspects.

Two Disclaimers

  1. I am a GitLab employee and think its a great application that can facilitate a lot of positive changes in terms of agility and DevOps.
  2. Many of the sessions I am referencing I have not seen and don’t know if they’re a commercial or actually useful.

For both of these, I’d just say that you shouldn’t come out of a session thinking “oh, only [gitlab, google, redhat] solved this problem so I have to buy that.” If you get that impression, the session likely focused on a proprietary solution rather than the mindset and methodology changes. It’s not necessarily a waste of time to be exposed to these things, but the specific solution proposed in the session is likely not the only or even the best solution.

For GitLab running the whole conference, they obviously want more licensed users. The free GitLab offering is actually a fantastic cornerstone for much of transformation so definitely start there if you’re just exploring these ideas for the first time.

GitLab Commit in general

It used to be an in-person event where people would gather and discuss topics related to GitLab. The focus was on bringing users and customers together to share their biggest wins. This relates to how GitLab’s offerings are mostly primitives that can be combined in interesting ways to create amazing outcomes. When a customer has a novel combination of these partial features, their real-world proven experience is incredibly valuable to us at GitLab as well as the wider user community.

This year, with the pandemic

This year it’s virtual, like all other events. The virtual aspect reduces some of that interpersonal aspect but greatly increases the range of idea distribution. I recommend everyone take a few minutes to read the whole schedule and see if there are some interesting sessions.

Also, they’re running most of the sessions multiple times over the course of 24 hours. Some cross-track conflicts can be resolvied by coming back several hours later.

Interesting things:

  • Topics covered, obviously
  • Organization presenting (could be vendors, competitors, or potential partners)
  • Individuals presenting

If you want to take the coward’s way out, I list several of the more interesting Brownfield-related topics below.

For the networking experience

Check out the transformation networking session for some chat with people who are also working on the same issues.

Later in the day, there’s also a public sector transformation session.

Sessions that are particularly interesting for legacy teams

Since this list got long, I’m going to preface each one with an category and score. Since I’m only listing relevant items, the score is either low or high. The Categories will be either org, project, or tool. They’re listed in chronological order as they appear on the schedule to make them easy to find and sign up for.

The list

org: high Automation, mastery, purpose

Tmobile talks about how culture is the only real indicator of whether an organization can and will do well with Agile and DevOps. It’s likely one of the most important sessions of the whole event.

tool: low Measuring DevOps

Google cloud folks talk about metrics. GCP requires rearchitecting so some of their suggestions may not be applicable to legacy apps… but the metrics and how they’re used should be good for strategic vision.

org: low Community model

State Farm talks about the community model for software reuse and cross-team collaboration. This ties into brownfield apps as a way to focus on which new capabilities may lead to the best incremental improvements across a portfolio of legacy applications.

tool: low Small step toward DevOps

Rolls Royce talks about their COVID-driven transformation steps and how GitLab enabled them. The description doesn’t provide enough information on what the step is, so it may not be particularly applicable. It does say it’s relevant to in-flight development efforts which would imply Brownfield applicability. This one conflicts with the next one, so if your org is struggling more with tooling watch this one, if it’s more about collaboration, watch the next one.

org: high Collaboration beyond code

GNOME foundation talks about how non-developers working in GitLab improves workflows. It looks like it’s along the lines of inner-sourcing where you follow some Open Source workflows to bring more capabilities with less software. This one conflicts with the previously listed Rolls Royce one, so if you’re more interested in cross-org collaboration, watch this one.

tool: high Where no one has gone before

STRASBAG talks about their first few steps into containerization and gitlab as the cornerstone. This talk may focus on greenfield efforts but the wider org change aspects could be interesting.

org: high Automated governance

RedHat talks about how to automate governance during a DevOps transformation. This should be focused on the transformation effort, though some of redhat’s solution recommendations lead to unfortunate vendor lock-in. John Willis is also fun to listen to and full of knowledge and experience so it’s a high recommendation.

org: low Government and highly regulated industries

This talk is by Nic Chaillan about what he has started in the DoD area as the chief software officer. It mostly follows an anti-pattern I’ve discussed previously but if you’ve never heard his talk before, it’s worth the time.

project: low Scientific computing

Scientific computing and HPC work is often very Brownfield, often including Fortran. This session may be an example of how a project has added increments of DevOps to an in-flight effort to achieve higher quality and compliance.

org: low Non-traditional retrospective

Many brownfield orgs struggle with psychological safety more than anything else. The biggest blocker to making any sort of progress is related to that hurdle. This talk should be a great way to get an understanding of what can be done to foster that cultural enhancement. This session conflicts with the next so if cultural issues are more important than tooling, watch this one.

tools: low Minimum viable Devopsness

This session focuses on a greenfield approach within a legacy style organization. It’s not fully aligned with the purpose of this site, however the session will likely be packed with useful bits. Integrating DevOps into a tech stack is much easier than integrating it into an organization. If the devops tools are more important, watch this one.

high Scaling DevOps at the NSA

Just watch this one. It’s gotta be interesting…

org: high Gitting lean

This is a transformation anecdote about how Issuetrak used GitLab to make the leap to Agile.

tool: low Policy-as-code automation

This is likely to be a commercial for MindPoint, though some of the points they make may be important in a general sense. Things that can be used to design a policy and compliance plan without necessarily investing in automation or -as-code right out of the gate.

tool: low Compliance with GitLab

This is likely a GitLab commercial because a lot of the compliance mechanisms are licensed. Just as the above session, it’s likely full of useful bits that can lead to a better plan. It is product-specific but if you’re already using GitLab, it may help with change management and re-aligning compliance for better velocity.

org: low Remote DevOps culture

The folks at Mattermost talk about how to build great software using remote tools and fostering a strong DevOps culture.

tool: low Workload portability

Talks about how to make workloads portable between private and public clouds with a focus on compliance. Likely specific to Kubernetes so it may not be applicable for truly legacy applications, but may provide some good guard rails.

Follow-on content

Any of these sessions that are particularly relevant will likely turn into their own articles. If you have any suggestions, feel free to reach out on email or twitter.