Laura Nolan

Senior Staff Engineer @Slack, Contributor to Seeking SRE, & SRECon Steering Committee

Laura Nolan's background is in Site Reliability Engineering, software engineering, distributed systems, and computer science. She wrote the 'Managing Critical State' chapter in the O'Reilly 'Site Reliability Engineering' book, as well as contributing to the more recent 'Seeking SRE'. She is a member of the USENIX SREcon steering committee. 

Session

Essential Complexity in Systems Architecture

Simplicity is a virtue - simple systems should be easier to understand, easier to work on, easier to operate, and thus, more reliable. Everyone agrees on this in principle, to the extent that the ideal of promoting simplicity now appears in industry job ladder descriptions.    

But what does simplicity actually look like in terms of distributed systems design? A naive approach might suggest that it means removing components of your system, reducing it to the essential business logic, and as little else as possible. However, by attempting to minimize the number of boxes on an architecture diagram we can create significant complexity elsewhere, particularly as regards understanding and controlling system behavior.    

This talk will look at some real distributed system architectures and examine the tradeoffs that they make between the number of moving parts and operability. By the end of the talk, attendees should appreciate the subtle ways that apparently simple systems can create complex and difficult to understand behaviors.

Date

Wednesday Nov 11 / 12:00PM EST (40 minutes)

Track

Distributed Systems for Developers

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Session

Production Readiness: Fighting Fires or Building Better Systems?

In 2018 Tanya Reilly gave a talk called ‘The History of Fire Escapes’ in which she argues that we need to ‘focus on better software, not better incident response’. When I was recently asked how much time SREs should spend firefighting, that talk came to mind. The ideal amount of time to spend responding to incidents is 0 (which we never achieve, but that’s the goal). A healthy SRE team spends most of its time improving the systems it is responsible for.

Reilly also argues that ‘software needs a fire code’, in other words, a set of best practices to prevent or mitigate failures - just as building regulations have evolved over time to reduce the incidence and impact of building fires.

We don’t have fire codes for software. But many organisations use Production Readiness Reviews (PRRs) as a model to improve reliability of software systems. This talk will discuss why we don’t have a fire code for software; what PRRs can and cannot achieve in terms of reliability; the difference between PRRs run by a team that is onboarding a service and PRRs run by consulting teams; and what to do when all your team does is fight fires.

Date

Wednesday Nov 10 / 11:10AM EST (40 minutes)

Track

Production Readiness

Topics

Production ReadinessDevopsInfrastructureSREDistributed Programming

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PANEL DISCUSSION

Panel: Real-World Production Readiness

What does it mean for an app to truly be ready for Production? Join Ines Sombra (Senior Director of Engineering at Fastly), Kolton Andrus (CEO of Gremlin), and Laura Nolan (Seeking SRE Contributor) as we discuss production readiness. Topics we’ll dive into range from the “practice” of SRE, how you think about data when it comes to production readiness, and strategies for resiliency, such as chaos engineering, gamedays, and, of course, production readiness reviews.

Date

Wednesday Nov 10 / 02:10PM EST (40 minutes)

Track

Production Readiness

Topics

Production ReadinessDevopsInfrastructureSREChaos EngineeringCloud ComputingMicroservicesDistributed Systems

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