The Startup Dance
I like startups. Arctiq is not only my third in a row, but I’ve also worked at several over the 20 years I’ve dabbled in IT. One thing that makes Arctiq unique in the startup space is that they are 100% bootstrapped and they’re not building a traditional product. Well, not yet anyway.
I respect bootstrapping. I bootstrapped my own hosting company a few years ago. It was a managed WordPress hosting service before there were any in Canada. I saw an opportunity to offer a secure, managed, technical service to clients who could’t risk being compromised. In addition to security, I spent a lot of my time building automation around provisioning new customer sites and managing a growing network of virtual private servers and cloud instances. Deploying new infrastructure manually is time consuming and is prone to human error. A highly available website infrastructure has a lot of moving parts that need to be coordinated and configured.
Using tools like Ansible I was able to take the guess work out of building my network of high performing and resilient WordPress nodes. All aspects of the platform including provisioning and hardening a new server, configuring database replication, web servers and applications servers were all automated with Ansible playbooks.
Operational tasks that are typically run occasionally like rotating SSH keys, updating WordPress and database configuration changes were performed across dozens of servers with single ad hoc Ansible commands. I quickly fell in love with Ansible and had one of those moments thinking, “How did I ever live without this tool?!”. I didn’t have the time to learn Puppet or Chef. I tried a few other automation tools before landing on Ansible, but once landed I knew that with its agent-less SSH based communication layer, fairly ubiquitous YAML configuration syntax and vibrant open source community with a massive treasure trove of documentation, I had found my ultimate automation tool to support the growth of the company.
An Automation Comparison, and a Winner
The next startup I worked for built a cloud native health benefits platform where I helped manage the infrastructure and automation of the development and deployment pipeline. They are not an Ansible shop, but they did use SaltStack which has a moderate learning curve compared to Chef and Puppet. In my opinion it takes a back seat to Ansible with respect to agility and architecture. Getting my hands dirty with another orchestration system gave me first hand experience with the advantages and disadvantages of both. The bottom line is that I can build automation with Ansible significantly faster than I can with any other tool.
Finding the Igloo
I was ready to get back to focusing on building platforms in the cloud with the best open source tools available. Who does that kinda’ thing in Toronto? It didn’t take long to run a quick search on those key terms which pointed squarely at Arctiq.
I couldn’t believe my eyes! These guys were leveraging all the tools and talking about the incredible transformations they were facilitating by delivering DevOps principles and practices to some of Canada’s largest and most prestigious companies. After meeting with the partners I realized they didn’t just talk – they walked the walk! The depth of knowledge and breadth of real world enterprise experience for a startup of this size was an exciting revelation.
So I took the plunge and accepted the obligatory technical mission. The presentation was an all hands on deck affair which was a lot of fun. A bit daunting, but collaboration is in the air here at Arctiq and my mission’s final act was just another example of the strong culture being fostered. Going through my accomplishments (and failures), I received in return many insightful comments, commiseration about the pitfalls, and some hearty congratulations. It was a great introduction to the team and the culture.
I have just completed my third month with Arctiq, and it’s been quite the ride so far! Customer engagements, presentations, fixing bugs and adding features to open source projects, partner events, technical certifications, and writing blog posts are just some of the interesting things I’ve been working on since early January. In their previous blog posts my cohorts did a great job of describing that working at Actiq is like drinking from the firehose and stepping out of one’s comfort zone.
And I couldn’t agree more!