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Tag: Who Runs It

You Build It SRE Run It

How does Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) approach production support? Why is it conditional, and how do error budgets try to avoid the inter-team conflicts of You Build It Ops Run It?

This is part of the Who Runs It series.

Coming soon

The Who Runs It series:

  1. You Build It Ops Run It
  2. You Build It You Run It
  3. You Build It Ops Run It at scale
  4. You Build It You Run It at scale
  5. You Build It Ops Sometimes Run It
  6. Implementing You Build It You Run It at scale
  7. You Build It SRE Run It

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Thierry de Pauw.

You Build It Ops Sometimes Run It

Why is a hybrid of You Build It Ops Run It and You Build It You Run It doomed to fail at scale?

This is part of the Who Runs It series.

Introduction

You Build It Ops Sometimes Run It refers to a mix of You Build It You Run It and You Build It Ops Run It. A minority of applications are supported by Delivery teams, whereas the majority are supported by a Monitoring team in Operations. This can be accomplished by splitting applications into higher and lower availability targets.

Some vendors may erroneously refer to this as Site Reliability Engineering (SRE). SRE refers to a central, on-call Delivery team supporting high availability, stable applications that meet stringent entry criteria. You Build It Ops Sometimes Run It is completely different to SRE, as the Monitoring team is disempowered and supports lower availability applications . The role and responsibilities of the Monitoring team are simply a hybrid of the Operations Bridge and Application Operations teams in the ITIL v3 Service Operation standard.

Out of hours, higher availability applications are supported by their L1 Delivery teams. Lower availability applications are supported by the L1 Monitoring team, who will receive alerts and respond to incidents. When necessary, the Monitoring team will escalate to  L2 Delivery team members on best endeavours. 

Support costs for Monitoring will be paid out of OpEx. Support costs for L1 Delivery teams should be paid out of CapEx, to ensure product managers balance desired availability with on-call costs. An L1 Delivery team member will be paid a flat standby rate, and a per-incident callout rate. An L2 Delivery team member will do best endeavours unpaid, and might be compensated per-callout with time off in lieu.

Inherited Discontinuous Delivery and inoperability

Proponents of You Build It Ops Sometimes Run It will argue it is a low cost, wafer thin support team that simply follows runbooks to resolve straightforward incidents, and Delivery teams can be called out when necessary. However, many of the disadvantages of You Build It Ops Run It are inherited:

  • Long time to restore – support ticket handoffs between Monitoring and Delivery teams will delay availability restoration during complex incidents
  • Very high knowledge synchronisation costs – application and incident knowledge will not be shared between multiple Delivery teams and the Monitoring team without significant coordination costs, such as handover meetings
  • Slow operational improvements – problems and workarounds identified by Monitoring will languish in Delivery backlogs for weeks or months, building up application complexity for future incidents
  • No focus on outcomes – applications will be built as outputs only, with little regard for product hypotheses
  • Fragile architecture – failure scenarios will not be designed into applications, increasing failure blast radius
  • Inadequate telemetry – dashboards and alerts by the Monitoring team will only be able to include low-level operational metrics
  • Traffic ignorance – challenges in live traffic management will be localised, and unable to inform application design decisions
  • Restricted collaboration – joint incident response between Monitoring and Delivery teams will be hampered by different ways of working and tools
  • Unfair on-call expectations – Delivery team members will be expected  to  be available out of hours without compensation for the inconvenience, and disruption to their lives

The Delivery teams on-call for high availability applications will have strong operability incentives. However, with a Monitoring team responsible for a majority of applications, most Delivery teams will be unaware of or uninvolved in incidents. Those Delivery teams will have little reason to prioritise operational features, and the Monitoring team will be powerless to do so. Widespread inoperability, and an increased vulnerability to production incidents is unavoidable.

The notion of a wafer thin Monitoring team is fundamentally naive. If an IT department has an entrenched culture of You Build It Ops Run It At Scale, there will be a predisposition towards Operations support. Delivery teams on-call for higher availability applications will be viewed as a mere exception to the rule. Over time, there will be a drift to the Monitoring team taking over office hours support, and then higher availability applications out of hours. At that point, the Monitoring team is just another Application Operations team, and all the disadvantages of You Build It Ops Run It At Scale are assured.

The Who Runs It series:

  1. You Build It Ops Run It
  2. You Build It You Run It
  3. You Build It Ops Run It at scale
  4. You Build It You Run It at scale
  5. You Build It Ops Sometimes Run It
  6. Implementing You Build It You Run It at scale
  7. You Build It SRE Run It

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Thierry de Pauw.

You Build It Ops Run It at scale

Why does Operations production support become less effective as Delivery teams and applications increase in scale?

This is part of the Who Runs It series.

What is You Build It You Run It, and why does it have such a positive impact on operability? Why is it important to balance support cost effectiveness with operability incentives?

What is You Build It You Run It, and why does it have such a positive impact on operability? Why is it important to balance support cost effectiveness with operability incentives?

This is part of the Who Runs It series.

Introduction

An IT As A Cost Centre organisation beholden to Plan-Build-Run will have a Delivery group responsible for building applications, and an Operations group responsible for deploying applications and production support. When there are 10+ Delivery teams and applications, this can be referred to as You Build It Ops Run It at scale. For example, imagine a single technology value stream used by 10 delivery teams, and each team builds a separate customer-facing application.

As with You Build It Ops Run It, there will be multi-level production support in accordance with the ITIL v3 Service Operation standard:

L1 and L2 Operations teams will be paid standby and callout costs out of Operational Expenditure (OpEx), and L3 Delivery team members on best endeavours are not paid. The key difference at scale is Operations workload. In particular, Application Operations will have to manage deployments and L2 incident response for 10+ applications. It will be extremely difficult for Application Operations to keep track of when a deployment is required, which alert corresponds to which application, and which Delivery team can help with a particular application.

Discontinuous Delivery and inoperability

At scale, You Build It Ops Run It magnifies the problems with You Build Ops Run It, with a negative impact on both Continuous Delivery and operability:

  • Long time to restore – support ticket handoffs between Ops Bridge, Application Operations, and multiple Delivery teams will delay availability restoration on failure
  • Very high knowledge synchronisation costs – Application Operations will find it difficult to ingest knowledge of multiple applications and share incident knowledge with multiple Delivery teams
  • No focus on customer outcomes – applications will be built as outputs only, with little time for product hypotheses
  • Fragile architecture – failure scenarios will not be designed into user journeys and applications, increasing failure blast radius
  • Inadequate telemetry – dashboards and alerts from Applications Operations will only be able to show low-level operational metrics
  • Traffic ignorance – applications will be built with little knowledge of how traffic flows through different dependencies
  • Restricted collaboration – incident response between Application Operations and multiple Delivery teams will be hampered by different ways of working
  • Unfair on-call expectations – Delivery team members will be expected to do unpaid on-call out of hours

These problems will make it less likely that application availability targets can consistently be met, and will increase Time To Restore (TTR) on availability loss. Production incidents will be more frequent, and revenue impact will potentially be much greater. This is a direct result of the lack of operability incentives. Application Operations cannot build operability into 10+ applications they do not own. Delivery teams will have little reason to do so when they have little to no responsibility for incident response.

A Theory Of Constraints lens on Continuous Delivery shows that reducing rework and queue times is key to deployment throughput. With 10+ Delivery teams and applications the Application Operations workload will become intolerable, and team member burnout will be a real possibility. Queue time for deployments will mount up, and the countermeasure to release candidates blocking on Application Operations will be time-consuming management escalations. If product demand calls for more than weekly deployments, the rework and delays incurred in Application Operations will result in long-term Discontinuous Delivery.

The Who Runs It series

  1. You It Build It Ops Run It
  2. You Build It You Run It
  3. You Build It Ops Run It at scale
  4. You Build It You Run It at scale
  5. You Build It Ops Sometimes Run It
  6. Implementing You Build It You Run It at scale
  7. You Build IT SRE Run It

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Thierry de Pauw.

You Build It Ops Runs It

Why do disparate Delivery and Operations teams result in long-term Discontinuous Delivery of inoperable applications?

This is part of the Who Runs It series.

Introduction

An organisation modelled on IT As A Cost Centre and Plan-Build-Run will have an Operations group in its IT department. Operations teams will be responsible for all Run activities, including deployments and production support for all applications. This can be referred to as You Build It Ops Run It. For example, consider a technology value stream comprising 1 development team in Delivery and an Application Operations team.

You Build It Ops Run It usually involves multi-level production support, in line with the ITIL v3 Service Operation standard:

The Service Desk will receive customer requests, and Operations Bridge will monitor dashboards and receive alerts. Both L1 teams will be trained to resolve simple technology issues, and to escalate more complicated tickets to L2. Application Operations will respond to incidents that require technology specialisation, and when necessary will escalate to an L3 Delivery team to contribute their expertise to an incident.

Cost accounting in IT As A Cost Centre creates a funding divide. A Delivery team will be budgeted under Capital Expenditure (CapEx), whereas Operations teams will be under Operational Expenditure (OpEx). An Operations team member will be paid a flat standby rate and a per-incident callout rate. A Delivery team member will not be paid for standby, and might be unofficially compensated per-callout with time off in lieu. Operations will be under continual pressure to reduce OpEx spending, and the Service Desk,  Ops Bridge, and/or Application Operations might be outsourced to third party suppliers.

Discontinuous Delivery and inoperability

In ITSM and why three-tier support should be replaced with Swarming, Jon Hall argues “the current organizational structure of the vast majority of IT support organisations is fundamentally flawed”. Multi-level support in You Build It Ops Run It means non-trivial tickets will go from Service Desk or Ops Bridge through triage queues until the best-placed responder team is found. Repeated, unilateral ticket reassignments can occur between teams and individuals. Those handoffs can increase incident resolution time by hours, days, or even weeks. Rework can also be incurred as Application Operations introduce workarounds and data fixes, which await resolution in a Delivery backlog for months before prioritisation.

In addition, You Build It Ops Run It has major disadvantages for fast customer feedback and iterative product development:

  • Long deployment lead times – handoffs with Application Operations will inflate lead times by hours or days
  • High knowledge synchronisation costs – Delivery team application knowledge and Application Operations incident knowledge will be lost in handoffs, without substantial synchronisation efforts
  • Focus on outputs – software will be built as an output, with little to no understanding of product hypotheses or customer outcomes
  • Fragile architecture – applications will be architected without limits on failure blast radius, and exposed to high impact incidents
  • Inadequate telemetry – dashboards and alerts created by Application Operations in isolation will only be able to use operational metrics
  • Traffic ignorance – challenges involved in managing live traffic will be localised and unable to inform design decisions
  • Restricted collaboration – Application Operations and Delivery teams will find joint incident response hard, due to differences in ways of working and tools, and lack of Delivery team access to production
  • Unfair on-call expectations –  Delivery team members will be expected to be available out of hours without compensation for the inconvenience, and disruption to their lives

These problems can be traced back to incentives. With Application Operations responsible for production support, a Delivery team will be unaware of or uninvolved in production incidents. Application Operations cannot build operability into applications they do not own, and a Delivery team will have little reason to prioritise operational features. As a result, inoperability is inevitable.

You Build It Ops Run It injects substantial delays and rework into a technology value stream. This is likely to constrain Continuous Delivery if product demand is high. If weekly or fewer deployments are sufficient to meet demand, then Continuous Delivery is possible. However, if product demand calls for more than weekly deployments then You Build It Ops Run It can only lead to Discontinuous Delivery.

The Who Runs It series:

  1. You Build It Ops Run It
  2. You Build It You Run It
  3. You Build It Ops It at scale
  4. You Build It You Run It at scale
  5. You Build It Ops Sometimes Run It
  6. Implementing You Build It You Run It at scale
  7. You Build It SRE Run It

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Thierry de Pauw.

Who Runs It

What are the different options for production support in IT as a Cost Centre? How can deployment throughput and application reliability be improved in unison? Why is You Build It You Run It so effective for both Continuous Delivery and Operability?

This series of articles describes a taxonomy for production support methods in IT as a Cost Centre, and their impact on both Continuous Delivery and Operability.

  1. You Build It Ops Run It
  2. You Build It You Run It
  3. You Build It Ops Run It at scale
  4. You Build It You Run It at scale
  5. You Build It Ops Sometimes Run It
  6. Implementing You Build It You Run It at scale
  7. You Build It SRE Run It [TBA]

The series is summarised below. Availability targets should be chosen according to estimates of revenue loss on failure, which can be verified by Chaos Engineering or actual production incidents. There is an order of magnitude of additional engineering effort/time associated with an additional nine of availability. You Build It SRE Run It is best suited to four nines of reliability and more, You Build It You Run It is required for weekly deploys or more, and Ops Run It remains relevant when product demand is low.

Implementing You Build It You Run It at scale

How can You Build It You Run It at scale be implemented? How can support costs be balanced with operational incentives, to ensure multiple teams can benefit from Continuous Delivery and operability at scale?

This is part of the Who Runs It series.

Introduction

Traditionally, an IT As A Cost Centre organisation with roots in Plan-Build-Run will have Delivery teams responsible for building applications, and Operations teams responsible for deployments and production support. You Build It You Run It at scale fundamentally changes that organisational model. It means 10+ Delivery teams are responsible for deploying and supporting their own 10+ applications.

Applying You Build It You Run It at scale maximises the potential for fast deployment lead times, and fast incident resolution times across an IT department. It incentivises Delivery teams to increase operability via failure design, product telemetry, and cumulative learning. It is a revenue insurance policy, that offers high risk coverage at a high premium. This is in contrast to You Build It Ops Run It at scale, which offers much lower risk coverage at a lower premium.

You Build It You Run It at scale can be intimidating. It has a higher engineering cost than You Build It Ops Run It at scale, as the table stakes are higher. These include a centralised catalogue of service ownership, detailed runbooks, on-call training, and global operability measures. It can also have support costs that are significantly higher than You Build It Ops Run It at scale.

At its extreme, You Build It You Run It at scale will have D support rotas for D Delivery teams. The out of hours support costs for D rotas will be greater than 2 rotas in You Build It Ops Run It at scale, unless Operations support is on an exorbitant third party contract. As a result You Build It Ops Run It at scale can be an attractive insurance policy, despite its severe disadvantages on risk coverage. This should not be surprising, as graceful extensibility trades off with robust optimality. As Mary Patterson et al stated in Resilience and Precarious Success, “fundamental goals (such as safety) tend to be sacrificed with increasing pressure to achieve acute goals (faster, better, and cheaper)”. 

You Build It You Run It at scale does not have to mean 1 Delivery team on-call for every 1 application. It offers cost effectiveness as well as high risk coverage when support costs are balanced with operability incentives and risk of revenue loss. The challenge is to minimise standby costs without weakening operability incentives.

By availability target

The level of production support afforded to an application in You Build It You Run It at scale should be based on its availability target. In office hours, Delivery teams support their own applications, and halt any feature development to respond to an application alert. Out of hours, production support for an application is dictated by its availability target and rate of product demand.

Applications with a low availability target have no out of hours support. This is low cost, easy to implement, and counter-intuitively does not sacrifice operability incentives. A Delivery team responsible for dealing with overnight incidents on the next working day will be incentivised to design an application that can gracefully degrade over a number of hours.  No on-call is also fairer than best endeavours, as there is no expectation for  Delivery team members to disrupt their personal lives without compensation.

Applications with a high availability target and a high rate of product demand each have their own team rota. A team rota is a single Delivery team member on-call for one or more applications from their team. This is classic You Build It You Run It, and produces the maximum operability incentives as the Delivery team have sole responsibility for their application. When product demand for an application is filled, it should be downgraded to a domain rota.

Applications with a medium availability target share a domain rota. A domain rota is a single Delivery team member on-call for a logical grouping of applications with an established affinity, from multiple Delivery teams.

The domain construct should be as fine-grained and flexible as possible. It needs to minimise on-call cognitive load, simplify knowledge sharing between teams, and focus on organisational outcomes. The following constructs should be considered:

  • Product domains – sibling teams should already be tied together by customer journeys and/or sales channels
  • Architectural domains – sibling teams should already know how their applications fit into technology capabilities

The following constructs should be rejected:

  • Geographic domains – per-location rotas for teams split between locations would produce a mishmash of applications, cross-cutting product and architectural boundaries and increasing on-call cognitive load
  • Technology domains – per-tech rotas for teams split between frontend and backend technologies would completely lack a focus on organisational outcomes

A domain rota will create strong operability incentives for multiple Delivery teams, as they have a shared on-call responsibility for their applications. It is also cost effective as people on-call do not scale linearly with teams or applications.  However, domain rotas can be challenging if knowledge sharing barriers exist, such as multiple teams in one domain with dissimilar engineering skills and/or technology choices.  It is important to be pragmatic, and technology choices can be used as a tiebreaker on a product or architectural construct where necessary.

For example, a Fruits R Us organisation has 10 Delivery teams, each with 1 application. There are 3 availability targets of 99.0%, 99.5%, and 99.9%. An on-call rota is £3Kpcm in standby costs. If all 10 applications had their own rota, the support cost of £30Kpcm would likely be unacceptable.

Assume Fruits R Us managers assign minimum revenue losses of £20K, £50K, and £100K to their availability targets, and ask product owners to consider their minimum potential revenue losses per target. The Product and Checkout applications could lose £100K+ in 43 minutes, so they remain at 99.9% and have their own rotas. 4 applications in the same Fulfilment domain could lose £50K+ in 3 hours, so they are downgraded to 99.5% and share a Fulfilment domain rota across 4 teams. 4 applications in the Stock domain could lose £20K in 7 hours but no more, so they are downgraded to 99.0% with no out of hours on-call. This would result in a support cost of £9Kpcm while retaining strong operability incentives.

Optimising costs

A number of techniques can be used to optimise support costs for You Build It You Run It Per Availability Target:

  • Recalibrate application availability targets. Application revenue analytics should regularly be analysed, and compared with the engineering time and on-call costs linked to an availability target. Where possible, availability targets should be downgraded. It should also be possible to upgrade a target, including fixed time windows for peak trading periods
  • Minimise failure blast radius. Rigorous testing and deployment practices including Canary Deployments, Dark Launching, and Circuit Breakers should reduce the cost of application failure, and allow for availability targets to be gradually downgraded. These practices should be validated with automated and exploratory Chaos  Engineering on a regular basis
  • Align out of hours support with core trading hours. A majority of website revenue might occur in one timezone, and within core trading hours. In that scenario, production support hours could be redefined from 0000-2359 to 0600-2200 or similar. This could remove the need for out of hours support 2200-0600, and alerts would be investigated by Delivery teams on the following morning
  • Automated, time-limited shuttering on failure. A majority of product owners might be satisfied with shuttering on failure out of hours, as opposed to application restoration. If so, an automated shutter with per-application user messaging could be activated on application failure, for a configurable time period out of hours. This could remove the need for out of hours support entirely, but would require a significant engineering investment upfront and operability incentives would need to be carefully considered

This list is not exhaustive. As with any other Continuous Delivery or operability practice, You Build It You Run It at scale should be founded upon the Improvement Kata. Ongoing experimentation is the key to success.

Production support is a revenue insurance policy, and implementing You Build It You Run It at scale is a constant balance between support costs with operability. You Build It You Run It Per Availability Target ensures on-call Delivery team members do not scale linearly with teams and/or applications, while trading away some operability incentives and some Time To Restore – but far less than You Build It Ops Run It at scale. Overall, You Build It You Run It Per Availability Target is an excellent starting point.

The Who Runs It series:

  1. You Build It Ops Run It
  2. You Build It You Run It
  3. You Build It Ops Run It at scale
  4. You Build It You Run It at scale
  5. You Build It Ops Sometimes Run It
  6. Implementing You Build It You Run It at scale
  7. You Build It SRE Run It

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Thierry de Pauw.

You Build It You Run It at scale

How can You Build It You Run It be applied to 10+ teams and applications without an overwhelming support cost? How can operability incentives be preserved for so many teams?

This is part of the Who Runs It series.

Introduction

You Build It You Run It at scale means 10+ Delivery teams are responsible for their own deployments and production support. It is the You Build It You Run It approach, applied to multiple teams and multiple applications.

There is an L1 Service Desk team to handle customer requests. Each Delivery team is on L1 support for their applications, and creates their own monitoring dashboard and alerts. There should be a consistent toolchain for anomaly detection and alert notifications for all Delivery teams, that can incorporate those dashboards and alerts. 

The Service Desk team will tackle customer complaints and resolve simple technology issues. When an alert fires, a Delivery team will practice Stop The Line by halting feature development, and swarming on the problem within the team. That cross-functional collaboration means a problem can be quickly isolated and diagnosed, and the whole team creates new knowledge they can incorporate into future work. If the Service Desk cannot resolve an issue, they should be able to route it to the appropriate Delivery team via an application mapping in the incident management system. 

In On-Call At Any Size, Susan Fowler et al warn “multiple rotations is a key scaling challenge, requiring active attention to ensure practices remain healthy and consistent”. Funding is the first You Build It You Run It practice that needs attention at scale. On-call support for each Delivery team should be charged to the CapEx budget for that team. This will encourage each product manager to regularly work on the delicate trade-off between protecting their desired availability target out of hours and on-call costs. Central OpEx funding must be avoided, as it eliminates the need for product managers to consider on-call costs at all.

Continuous Delivery and Operability at scale

You Build It You Run It has the following advantages at scale:

  • Fast incident resolution – an alert will be immediately assigned to the team that owns the application, and can rapidly swarm to recover from failure and minimise TTR
  • Short deployment lead times – deployments can be performed on demand by a Delivery team, with no handoffs involved
  • Minimal knowledge synchronisation costs – teams can easily convert new operational information into knowledge
  • Focus on outcomes – teams are encouraged to work in smaller batches, towards customer outcomes and product hypotheses
  • Adaptive architecture – applications can be designed with failure scenarios in mind, including circuit breakers and feature toggles to reduce failure blast radius
  • Product telemetry – application dashboards and alerts can be constantly updated to include the latest product metrics
  • Situational awareness – teams will have a prior understanding of normal versus abnormal live traffic conditions that can be relied on during incident response
  • Fair on-call compensation – team members will be remunerated for the disruption to their lives incurred by supporting applications

In Accelerate, Dr Nicole Forsgren et al found “high performance is possible with all kinds of systems, provided that systems – and the teams that build and maintain them – are loosely coupled”. Accelerate research showed the key to high performance is for a team to be able to independently test and deploy its applications, with negligible coordination with other teams. You Build It You Run It enables a team to increase its throughput and achieve Continuous Delivery, by removing rework and queue times associated with deployments and production support. At scale, You Build It You Run It enables an organisation to increase overall throughput while simultaneously increasing the number of teams. This allows an organisation to move faster as it adds more people, which is a true competitive advantage.

You Build It You Run It creates a healthy engineering culture at scale, in which product development consists of a balance between product ideas and operational features. 10+ Delivery teams with on-call responsibilities will be incentivised to care about operability and consistently meeting availability targets, while increasing delivery throughput to meet product demand. Delivery teams doing 24×7 on-call at scale will be encouraged to build operability into all their applications, from inception to retirement.

You Build It You Run It can incur high support costs at scale. It can be cost effective if a compromise is struck between deployment targets, operability incentives, and on-call costs that does not weaken operability incentives for Delivery teams.

Production support as revenue insurance

Production support should be thought of as a revenue insurance policy. As insurance policies, You Build It Ops Run It and You Build It You Run It are opposites at scale in terms of risk coverage and costs.

You Build It Ops Run It offers a low degree of risk coverage, limits deployment throughput, and has a potential for revenue loss on unavailability that should not be underestimated. You Build It You Run It has a higher degree of risk coverage, with no limits on deployment throughput and a short TTR to minimise revenue losses on failure.

You Build It You Run It becomes more cost effective as product demand and reliability needs increase, as deployment targets and availability targets are ratcheted up, and the need for Continuous Delivery and operability becomes ever more apparent. The right revenue insurance policy should be chosen based on the number of teams and applications, and the range of availability targets. The fuzzy model below can be used to distinguish when You Build It You Run It is appropriate – when availability targets are demanding and the number of teams and applications is 10+.

The Who Runs It series

  1. You Build It Ops Run It
  2. You Build It You Run It
  3. You Build It Ops Run It at scale
  4. You Build It You Run It at scale
  5. You Build It Ops Sometimes Run It
  6. Implementing You Build It You Run It at scale
  7. You Build It SRE Run It

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Thierry de Pauw.

You Build It You Run It

What is You Build It You Run It, and why does it have such a positive impact on operability? Why is it important to balance support cost effectiveness with operability incentives?

This is part of the Who Runs It series.

Introduction

The usual alternative to You Build It Ops Run It is for a Delivery team to assume responsibility for its Run activities, including deployments and production support. This is often referred to as You Build It You Run It.

You Build It You Run It consists of single-level swarming support, with developers on-call. There is also a Service Desk to handle customer requests. The  toolchain needs to include anomaly detection, alert notifications, messaging, and incident management tools, such as Prometheus, PagerDuty, Slack, and ServiceNow.

As with You Build It Ops Run It, Service Desk is an L1 team that receives customer requests and will resolve simple technology issues wherever possible. A development team in Delivery is also L1, and they will monitor dashboards, receive alerts, and respond to incidents. Service Desk should escalate tickets for particular website pages or user journeys into the incident management system, which would be linked to applications.

Delivery engineering costs and on-call support will both be paid out of CapEx, and Operations teams such as Service Desk will be under OpEx. As with You Build It Ops Run It, the Service Desk team might be outsourced to reduce OpEx costs. CapEx funding for You Build It You Run It will compel a product manager to balance their desired availability with on-call costs. OpEx funding for Delivery on-call should be avoided wherever possible, as it encourages product managers to artificially minimise risk tolerance and select high availability targets irregardless of on-call costs.

Continuous Delivery and operability

Swarming support means Delivery prioritising incident resolution over feature development, in line with the Continuous Delivery practice of Stop The Line and the Toyota Andon Cord. This encourages developers to limit failure blast radius wherever possible, and prevents them from deploying changes mid-incident that might exacerbate a failure. Swarming also increases learning, as it ensures developers are able to uncover perishable mid-incident information, and cross-pollinate their skills.

You Build It You Run It also has the following advantages for product development:

  • Short deployment lead times – lead times will be minimised due to no  handoffs
  • Minimal knowledge synchronisation costs – developers will be able to easily share application and incident knowledge, to better prepare themselves for future incidents
  • Focus on outcomes – teams will be empowered to deliver outcomes that test product hypotheses, and iterate based on user feedback
  • Short incident resolution times – incident response will be quickened by no support ticket handoffs or rework
  • Adaptive architecture – applications will be architected to limit failure blast radius, including bulkheads and circuit breakers
  • Product telemetry – dashboards and alerts will be continually updated by developers, to be multi-level and tailored to the product context
  • Traffic knowledge – an appreciation of the pitfalls and responsibilities inherent in managing live traffic will be factored into design work
  • Rich situational awareness – developers will respond to incidents with the same context, ways of working, and tooling
  • Clear on-call expectations – developers will be aware they are building applications they themselves will support, and they should be remunerated

You Build It You Run It creates the right incentives for operability. When Delivery is responsible for their own deployments and production support, product owners will be more aware of operational shortfalls, and pressed by developers to prioritise operational features alongside product ideas. Ensuring that application availability is the responsibility of everyone will improve outcomes and accelerate learning, particularly for developers who in IT As A Cost Centre are far removed from actual customers. Empowering delivery teams to do on-call 24×7 is the only way to maximise incentives to build operability in.

Production support as revenue insurance

The most common criticism of You Build It You Run It is that it is too expensive. Paying Delivery team members for L1 on-call standby and callout can seem costly, particularly when You Build It Ops Run It allows for L1-2 production support to be outsourced to cheaper third party suppliers. This perception should not be surprising, given David Wood’s assertion in The Flip Side Of Resilience that “graceful extensibility trades off with robust optimality”. Implementing You Build It You Run to increase adaptive capacity for future incidents may look wasteful, particularly if incidents are rare.

A more holistic perspective would be to treat production support as revenue insurance for availability targets, and consider risk in terms of revenue impact instead of incident count. A production support policy will cover:

  • Availability protection
  • Availability restoration on loss

You Build It You Run It maximises incentives for Delivery teams to focus from the outset on protecting availability, and it guarantees the callout of an L1 Delivery engineer to restore availability on loss. This should be demonstrable with a short Time To Restore (TTR), which could be measured via availability time series metrics or incident duration. That high level of risk coverage will come at a higher premium. This means You Build It You Run It will be more cost effective for applications with higher availability targets and greater potential for revenue loss.

You Build It Ops Run It offers a lower level of risk coverage at a lower premium, with weak incentives to protect application availability and an L2 Application Operations team to restore application availability. This will produce a higher TTR  than You Build It You Run It. This may be acceptable for applications with lower availability targets and/or limited potential for revenue loss.

The cost effectiveness of a production support policy can be calculated per availability target by comparing its availability restoration capability with support cost. For example, at Fruits R Us there are 3 availability targets with estimated maximum revenue losses on availability target loss. Fruits R Us has a Delivery team with an on-call cost of £3K per calendar month and a TTR of 20 minutes, and an Application Operations team with a cost of £1.5K per month and a TTR of 1 hour.

Projected availability loss per team is a function of TTR and the £ maximum availability loss per availability target, and lower losses can be calculated for the Delivery team due to its shorter TTR.

At 99.0%, Application Operations is as cost effective at availability restoration of a 7 hour 12 minute outage as the Delivery team, and Fruits R Us might consider the merits of You Build It Ops Run It. However, this would mean Application Operations would be unable to build operability in and increase availability protection, and the Delivery team would have few incentives to contribute.

At 99.5%, the Delivery team is more cost effective at availability restoration of a 3 hour 36 minute outage than Application Operations.

At 99.9%, the Delivery team is far more cost effective at availability restoration of a 43 minute 12 second outage. The 1 hour TTR of Application Operations means their £ projected availability loss is greater than the £ maximum availability loss at 99.9%. You Build It You Run It is the only choice.

The Who Runs It series:

  1. You Build It Ops Run It
  2. You Build It You Run It
  3. You Build It Ops Run It at scale
  4. You Build It You Run It at scale
  5. You Build It Ops Sometimes Run It
  6. Implementing You Build It You Run It at scale
  7. You Build It SRE Run It

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Thierry de Pauw.

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