lessons learn while devops@posterous

I’m a proud former employee of Posterous and worked there for the 10 months prior to the twitter acquisition.
Although it was a short time  we experienced a lot of growth and it was very intense with a lot of changes in user behavior, product and infrastructure.
Like everything in life when you look back you can always find better ways to do things.
Its been about six months since I left and below are a few of the lessons that I’ve learned and will take with me to my next gig.

MySQL:

– Install a gui tool to help manage the DB’s. Yeah gui’s sound lame but they put a lot of valuable information together in one place and don’t cost you anything.

– Always have a spare slave that you can use to test out new configs, place in service for a while, iterate.

– Go to every MySQL meet up possible, they are a huge source of information and you will walk away from everyone with one or more new trick up your sleeve.

FIGHT SPRAWL:

– Every time you introduce a new technology make it a requirement to have it replace an existing technology in addition to supporting a new feature.
In most cases this isn’t a stretch as a lot of technologies are similar to each other (redis/memcached), (riak/mongodb) etc……

ADMIT YOUR SHORT COMINGS, FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE:

Posterous was rails shop with an abundance of really skilled developers which meant we moved at a rapid pace, multiple deployments a day….we were constantly in a state of change.
Working in an environment like that has advantages and disadvantages.
The disadvantages are that change equals risk.
Advantages are that we were able to push changes to the site soon after the code change, which means if something when wrong the developer didn’t have to context switch to fix the problem.
We spent a lot of time addressing the negative side of rapid development by attempting to introduce a QA process meant to slow things down and prevent mistakes.
Now that I look back I think we should have focused on the positive side of rapid change by speeding up the deployment process and pushing code even more often.
In a perfect world you have a automated QA test that runs in 1 minute and has a 100% coverage….or maybe thats not the perfect world but fantasy island I’m thinking of.

FORCE YOURSELF TO PLAN LONG:

In a rapidly moving start-up with a burn rate it seems like a waste of time to plan long but when it comes to infrastructure its absolutely necessary.
I can go to most web companies and when they talk about their infrastructure there are always one off services that they considered “legacy”.
Legacy is code word for we rolled it out without thinking more than a month out.
Once a month take the key people offsite for a few hours to white board your current infrastructure and what it would look like you got to design it from scratch….that is your long term plan. Now when choosing a new technology you already know how it will fit in long term.

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