By: Emily Freeman (@editingemily)
Edited By: Corey Quinn (@quinnypig)
The DevOps Christmas Carol is a bastardized, satirical version of Charles Dickens’ iconic work, A Christmas Carol.
It’s Christmas Eve and we find Scrooge, a caricature of a San Francisco-based, VC-backed tech startup CEO haunted by Peter Drucker’s ghost — who warns him of the visits of three ghosts: the Ghost of DevOps Past, the Ghost of DevOps Present and the Ghost of DevOps Yet to Come. (Victorians were seriously wordy.)
Scrooge’s company, Humbug.ly, has adopted DevOps, but their Tiny Tim app is still in danger of falling over. And Scrooge is still complaining about that AWS bill.
I want you to laugh at the absurdity of our industry, remember the failures of yesterday, learn the lessons of today and embrace the challenges of tomorrow.
Above all else, Merry Christmas, Chag Sameach and Happy New Year. May everyone’s 2018 be better than the dumpster fire that was this year.
Old Peter Drucker was as dead as a doornail. (I don’t exactly know what’s dead about a doornail, but we’ll go with it.)
Drucker had been dead for many years. Every DevOpsDays deck included a Drucker quote. And many shots had been consumed playing the Drunker Drucker drinking game.
Scrooge was your average SF CEO. His grandfather was business partners with Drucker and Scrooge continues to worship the Drucker deity.
It was Christmas Eve and Scrooge sat in his glass-enclosed office drinking artisanal, small-batch coffee. His cool disposition was warmed thinking about the yacht he would buy when his startup, Humbug.ly, IPO’d.
Sure, they had unlimited vacation. But no one ever took it — even on Christmas Eve. His employees loved working that much.
He watched the developers and operations folks gather for standup in the “Innovate” conference room. It was great to see the teams working together. After all, they had spent $180,000 on a consultant to “do the DevOps.”
“A merry Christmas, uncle!” His sister had forced Scrooge to hire his cheery nephew as an intern.
“Bah!” said Scrooge, “Humbug!”
“Christmas a humbug, uncle!” said Scrooge’s nephew. “You don’t mean that, I am sure?”
“I do,” said Scrooge. “Merry Christmas! What reason have you to be merry? I pay you $19 an hour and you live in a closet with 4 other men in Oakland.”
The receptionist quietly tapped the glass door. “Two men from Homeless Helpers of San Francisco are here to see you.” Scrooge waved them in.
“At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge,” said the gentleman, “it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time.”
“I thought we were just moving them to San Jose,” replied Scrooge.
Seeing clearly it would be useless to pursue their point, the two men withdrew, mumbling about hate in the Trump era.
The day drew to a close. Scrooge dismounted from his Aeron chair and put on his sweatshirt and flat-brimmed hat.
“You’ll want all day tomorrow, I suppose?” said Scrooge to his employees, whose standing desks were packed as tightly as an Amazon box filled with Cyber Monday regret. “I suppose you must have the whole day. But if the site goes down, I expect all of you to jump on Slack and observe helplessly as Samantha restarts the servers.”
Scrooge took his melancholy dinner at his usual farm-to-table tavern. Walking home on the busy sidewalk, Scrooge approached his doorman only to see Drucker, staring at him. His demeanor vacant, his body translucent. Scrooge was shook. He brushed past the ghostly figure and hurried toward the elevator.
Satisfied he had too many glasses of wine with dinner, Scrooge shut the door and settled in for the night. Suddenly, Siri, Alexa, Cortana and Google joined together to make a horrific AI cacophony.
This was followed by a clanking noise, as if someone were dragging a heavy chain over the hardwood floors. Scrooge remembered to have heard that ghosts in haunted houses were described as dragging chains.
The bedroom door flew open with a booming sound and then he heard the noise much louder, coming straight towards his door.
His color changed when he saw the same face. The very same. Drucker, in his suit, drew a chain clasped about his middle. It was made of servers, CPUs, and endless dongles.
Scrooge fell upon his knees, and clasped his hands before his face. “Mercy!” he said. “Dreadful apparition, why do you trouble me?”
“I wear the chain I forged in life. Oh! Captive, bound, and double-ironed,” cried the phantom.
“But you were always a good man of business and operations, Peter,” faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.
“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing his hands again. “Mankind was my business. Empathy, compassion and shared documentation were all my business. Operations was but a drop of water in the ocean of my business! You will be haunted,” resumed the Ghost, “by three spirits.”
“I—I think I’d rather not,” said Scrooge.
“Without their visits,” said the Ghost, “you cannot hope to shun the path of waterfall development, silos and your startup’s slow descent into obscurity. Expect the first tomorrow.”
With that, Drucker’s ghost vanished.
It was dark when Scrooge awoke from his disturbed slumber. So dark he could barely distinguish transparent window from opaque wall. The chimes of a neighboring church struck the hour and a flash lit up the room in an instant. Scrooge stared face-to-face with an unearthly visitor.
It was a strange figure—small like a child, but old. Its hair was white with age but it’s face had not a wrinkle.
“Who, and what are you?” Scrooge demanded.
“I am the Ghost of DevOps Past.”
“Long past?” inquired Scrooge, observant of its dwarfish nature.
“DevOps is only like 10 years old. Do you even read Hacker News?” He paused. “Rise! And walk with me!”
The Ghost took his hand and together they passed through the wall, and stood upon an open convention floor.
“Good heaven! I went to this conference!” said Scrooge.
“The open space track is not quite deserted,” said the Ghost. “A solitary man, neglected by his friends, is left there still.”
In a corner of the conference, they found a long, bare, melancholy room. In a chair, a lonely man was reading near the feeble light of his phone. Scrooge wept to see poor Andrew Clay Shafer in a room alone.
“Poor man!” Scrooge cried. “I wish,” Scrooge muttered, putting his hand in his pocket, “but it’s too late now.”
“What is the matter?” asked the Spirit.
“Nothing,” said Scrooge. “Nothing. There was a developer who asked about ops yesterday. I should like to have given him something. That’s all.”
The Ghost smiled thoughtfully, and waved its hand: saying as it did so, “Let us see another conference!”
The room became a little darker. The panels shrunk and the windows cracked. They were now in the busy thoroughfares of a city, where shadowy passengers passed along the narrow streets and Medieval architecture.
The Ghost stopped at a certain door and ushered Scrooge in. “Why it’s old Patrick Dubois! Bless his heart.”
“Another round!” Dubois announced.
“This is the first DevOpsDays afterparty in Ghent,” explained the Ghost.
Away they all went, twenty couple at once toward the bar. Round and round in various stages of awkward grouping.
“Belgians sure know how to party,” said Scrooge.
“Sure. But it’s a tech conference so it’s still pretty awkward,” remarked the Ghost. “A small matter,” it continued, “to make these silly folks so full of gratitude. It only takes a t-shirt and a beer.”
“Small!” echoed Scrooge.
“Why! Is it not? He has spent but a few dollars of your mortal money. Is that so much he deserves this praise?”
“It isn’t that, Spirit. He has the power to render us happy or unhappy. To make our service light or burdensome. Say that his power lies in words and looks, in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count ’em up. The happiness he gives, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune.”
He felt the Spirit’s glance, and stopped.
“What is the matter?” asked the Ghost.
“Nothing particular,” said Scrooge.
“Something, I think?” the Ghost insisted.
“No,” said Scrooge, “No, I should like to be able to say a word or two to my employees just now. That’s all.”
“My time grows short,” observed the Spirit. “Quick!”
It produced an immediate effect. Scrooge saw himself. He was not alone but with two former employees. The tension in the room was overwhelming.
“The code didn’t change,” explained the developer. “There’s no way we caused this out—”
“That’s bullshit!” interjected the SRE. “There was a deploy 10 minutes before the site went down. Of course that’s the issue here. These developers push out crappy code.”
“At least we can code,” replied the developer, cruelly.
“No more,” cried Scrooge. “No more. I don’t wish to see it.”
But the relentless Ghost pinioned him in both his arms and forced him to observe.
“Spirit!” said Scrooge in a broken voice, “remove me from this place. Remove me. I cannot bear it!”
He turned upon the Ghost, and seeing that it looked upon him with a face in which some strange way there were fragments of all the faces it had shown him. “Leave me! Take me back. Haunt me no longer!” Scrooge wrestled with the spirit with all his force. Light flooded the ground and he found himself exhausted. Overcome with drowsiness, Scrooge fell into a deep sleep.
Awaking in the middle of a prodigiously tough snore and sitting up, Scrooge was surprised to be alone. Now, being prepared for almost anything, he shuffled in his slippers to the bedroom door. The moment Scrooge’s hand was on the lock, a strange voice called him by his name and bade him enter. He obeyed.
It was his own room, there was no doubt. But it had undergone a surprising transformation. The walls and ceiling were hung with living green and bright gleaming berries glistened.
“Come in!” exclaimed the Ghost. “Come in and know me better, man!”
Scrooge entered timidly and hung his head. The Spirit’s eyes were clear and kind but he didn’t like to meet them.
“I am the Ghost of DevOps Present,” said the Spirit. “Look upon me!”
Scrooge reverently did so. It was clothed in one simple green robe, bordered with white fur. This garment hung so loosely on the figure that its capacious breast was bare.
“You have never seen the like of me before!” exclaimed the Ghost.
“Never,” Scrooge answered. “But you may want to cover up a bit. This is breaking some kind of code of conduct and men are getting in trouble for this kind of thing these days.”
“Touch my robe!”
“OK, this is getting awkward. And inappropriate. Seriously, you can’t expose yourself like this. House of Cards was canceled because of people like you. It’s not cool, man.”
“Touch my robe!” the Ghost bellowed.
Scrooge did as he was told, and held it fast.
The room vanished instantly. They found themselves in the conference room at Humbug.ly. The Ghost sprinkled incense from his torch on the heads of the employees sat around the table. It was a very uncommon kind of torch, for once or twice when there were angry words between some men, he shed a few drops of water on them from it, and their good humour was restored directly.
“Is there a peculiar flavor in what you sprinkle from your torch?” asked Scrooge.
“There is. My own.”
“OK, buddy, we gotta work on the subtle sexual harassment vibe you’re working with.”
Scrooge’s employees at the table began to argue about CI/CD, pipelines and testing for the new Tiny Tim app.
“We need to be deploying every ten minutes. At a minimum. That’s what Netflix does,” said Steve, confidently.
“We use Travis CI. What if we had commits immediately deploy to production?” asked Tony.
“Um, that’s a terrible idea. You want the developers tests be the only line of defense against site outages? I don’t want to be on call during that disaster.”
“There’s no reason to get an attitude, Steve.”
“Well, you’re suggesting that developers should be trusted to deploy their own code.”
“That’s exactly what I’m saying.”
“That’ll never work. QA and security need to review everything before it’s pushed out.”
“Yea, but there’s this whole concept of moving things to the left. Where ops, security, QA are all involved in feature planning and the developer architects the code with their concerns in mind. That way, we don’t have Amy spending a full week on a feature only to have security kick it back.”
“I think that’s exactly how it should work. Developers need to code better.”
“‘Coding better’ is not actionable or kind. And that kind of gatekeeping process creates silos and animosity. People will start to work around each other.”
“We’ll just add more process to prevent that.”
“Never underestimate someone in tech’s ability to use passive-aggressiveness in the workplace. Listen. Scrooge wants Tiny Tim to be reliable, agile, testable, maintainable and secure.”
“Well, that’s impossible.”
“Pfff,” remarked Scrooge. “You’re fired.”
The Ghost sped on. It was a great surprise to Scrooge, while listening to the moaning of the wind, and thinking what a solemn thing it was to move on through the lonely darkness over an unknown abyss, whose depths were secrets as profound as Death. This was the ever-present existential crisis of life. It was a great surprise to Scrooge, while thus engaged, to hear a hearty laugh.
“Ha, ha! Ha, ha, ha, ha!” laughed Scrooge’s nephew.
“He said that Christmas was a humbug, as I live!” cried Scrooge’s nephew. “He believed it too! I am sorry for him. I couldn’t be angry with him if I tried. Who suffers by his will whims! Himself, always. He takes it into this head to dislike us. No one at Humbug.ly likes him. The product owner for Tiny Tim is about to quit and Scrooge has no idea!”
Scrooge was taken aback. He built a great team. They loved him. Adored him, even. Or so he thought. It’s true he hadn’t taken time to talk to any of them in several months, but everything was going so well. They were only two months from the launch of Tiny Tim.
His nephew continued, “We’re all underpaid and overworked. Scrooge is constantly moving the goalpost. He expects us to be perfect.”
The Ghost grew older, clearly older.
“Are spirits’ lives so short?” asked Scrooge.
“My life upon this globe is very brief,” replied the Ghost. “It ends tonight. Hark! The time is drawing near.”
The Ghost parted the folds of its robe. “Look here. Look, look, down here!”
“You. Have. To. Stop. With. This.” sighed Scrooge.
From its robe it brought two children. Scrooge started back, appalled at the creatures. “Spirit! Are they yours?”
“They are Op’s,” said the Spirit, looking down upon them. “And they cling to me. This boy is Serverless. This girl is Lambda.”
The bell struck twelve. Scrooge looked about him for the Ghost and saw it not. Lifting up his eyes, he beheld a solemn Phantom, draped and hooded, coming, like a mist along the ground, towards him.
The Phantom slowly, gravely, silently approached. When it came near him, Scrooge bent down upon his knee; for in the very air through which this Spirit moved it seemed to scatter gloom and mystery.
It was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible save on outstretched hand.
“I am in the presence of the Ghost of DevOps Yet To Come?” said Scrooge.
The Spirit answered not, but pointed onward with its hand.
“Lead on!” said Scrooge. “The night is waning fast, and it is precious time to me, I know. Lead on, Spirit!”
The Phantom moved away as it had come towards him. Scrooge followed in the shadow of its dress, which bore him up, he thought, and carried him along.
They scarcely seemed to enter the city. For the city rather seemed to spring up about them and encompass them of its own act. The Spirit stopped beside one little knot of business men. Observing that the hand was pointed to them, Scrooge advanced to listen to their talk.
“No,” said a great fat man with a monstrous chin, “I don’t know much about it, either way. I only know it’s dead.”
“When did it happen?” inquired another.
“Yesterday, I believe.”
“How much of a down round was it? Just a stop gap?”
“No. Investors have lost faith. Scrooge sold this Tiny Tim app hard. Bet all of Humbug.ly on disrupting the DevSecDataTestOps space. He could only raise half of what they did in Series A.”
“It’s over,” remarked another.
“Oh yea, he’s done.”
This was received with a general laugh.
The Phantom glided on and stopped once again in the office of Humbug.ly — it’s finger pointed to three employees fighting over who could take home the Yama cold brew tower — one nearly toppling it in the process. There were movers carrying standing desks out and employees haggling over their desks and chairs.
Scrooge watched as his office — his company — was systematically dismantled, broken down and taken away piece-by-piece. His own office was nearly empty save for a single accounting box — a solemn reminder of Scrooge’s priorities in his work.
“Spectre,” said Scrooge, “something informs me that our parting moment is at hand. I know it, but I know not how.”
The Ghost of DevOps Yet To Come conveyed him, as before. The Spirit did not stay for anything, but went straight on, as to the end just now desired, until besought by Scrooge to tarry for a moment.
The Spirit stopped; the hand was pointed elsewhere.
A pile of old computers lay before him. The Spirit stood among the aluminum graves, and pointed down to one. He advanced toward it trembling. The Phantom was exactly as it had been, but he dreaded that he saw new meaning in its solemn shape.
Scrooge crept towards it, and following the finger, read upon the screen, HUMBUG.LY — THIS WEBPAGE PARKED FREE, COURTESY OF GODADDY.COM.
“No, Spirit! Oh no, no!”
The finger was still there.
“Spirit!” he cried, tight clutching at its robe, “hear me! I am not the man I was. I will not be the man I have been but for this. I will honor DevOps in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present and the Future. The Spirits of all three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons they teach.”
Holding up his hands in a last prayer to have his fate reversed, he saw an alteration in the Phantom’s hood and dress. It shrunk, collapsed and dwindled down into a bedpost.
Yes! The bedpost was his own. The bed was his own, the room was his own.
“Oh Peter Drucker! Heaven, and DevOps be praised for this! I don’t know what to do!” cried Scrooge, laughing and crying in the same breath. Really, for a man who had been out of practice for so many years, it was a splendid laugh, a most illustrious laugh.
Scrooge hopped on Amazon with haste. He bought The Phoenix Project and The DevOps Handbook and had it delivered by drone within the hour.
“I’ll get a copy for every one of my employees!” exclaimed Scrooge.
He hopped into his Tesla and drove to his nephew’s apartment. Greeted by one of the 5 roommates, he asked to see his nephew.
“Fred!” said Scrooge.
“Why bless my soul!” cried Fred, “who’s that?”
“It’s I. Your uncle Scrooge. I have come to dinner. Will you let me in, Fred?”
The odd group had a twenty-something Christmas dinner and played Cards Against Humanity. Wonderful party, wonderful games, wonderful happiness!
But he was early at the office the next morning. If he could only be there first, and catch his employees coming in late!
The last employee stumbled in. “Hello!” growled Scrooge, in his accustomed voice, as near as he could feign it. “What do you mean by coming here at this time of day?”
“I am very sorry, sir. I am behind my time.”
“You are?” repeated Scrooge. “Yes. I think you are. Step this way, sir, if you please.”
“It’s only once a year, sir,” pleaded Bob. “It should not be repeated. Besides, we’re supposed to have flexible work hours. We have a ping-pong table for God’s sake!”
“Now, I’ll tell you what, my friend,” said Scrooge, “I am not going to stand this sort of thing any longer. And therefore,” he continued, leaping from his Aeron, “I am about to raise your salary! All of your salaries!”
Bob trembled. “Does… does this mean we’re doing that open salary thing?”
“No, don’t push it, Bob. That’s for hippies,” replied Scrooge. “A merry Christmas!”
Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all and infinitely more. The Tiny Tim app was finished on time, Humbug.ly adopted a DevOps culture, developers stopped being assholes and ops folks got more sleep.
Scrooge had no further experience with Spirits and it was always said of him that he knew how to keep DevOps well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that truly be said of all of us! And so, Ops bless us, everyone!