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What “Shifting Left” in Software Really Means for Blameless DevOps



Sal Kimmich Hacker Noon profile picture

@salkimmichSal Kimmich

Sal is passionate about evolving the best practices of site reliability engineering, distributed computing and tracing.

A few really interesting ideas came out of this week’s panel on Enabling Smart Engineering Discussions. There’s a lot of talk these days around how to practice a “blameless culture” in software engineering, and I think it’s important to note the variety of views that make up that idea.


  1. Shifting monitoring + automation left puts the health of your services and the reality of user experience at the center of business strategy
  2. A truly “blameless culture” in software must evolve from incident reporting to telemetry aimed at Proactive Observability in DevOps

What Exactly is “Blameless Culture”?

There’s a lot of discussion these days around how to practice a “blameless culture” in software engineering, and what that really means. According to Google’s SRE team, it’s essentially sharing the responsibility and awareness of an incident post-mortem in a constructive way.

I’m not going to go into a lot of detail on that type of thinking today, in part because there’s already a lot of excellent thinking on the subject. If you are new to the concept of Site Reliability Engineering, I’d really encourage you to check out the 2021 SRE Playbook for a rich understanding of the mix of both technical and operational approaches used in that field.

Handling incidents in a timely, effective way is absolutely a facet of accelerating development. Developing a Standard Operating Procedure like the one outlined above and intentional Game Days to test your systems are excellent ways to build up operational resilience to failure management. Those are protocols that all teams should have in their resilience for healthy large-scale engineering to work.

Today, however, I’d like to shift the thinking to what the day to day life of a software team looks like when we start to think of encouraging a blameless culture through a more proactive approach – and this will require us to start really understanding what it means to “shift left” in the development ecosystem.

Shifting Left: An Idea Worth Unpacking

The term “shift-left testing” was coined by Larry Smith in 2001 as an approach to development in which testing is performed earlier in the lifecycle. In software is pretty simple to understand: the more regularly I test software as I build, the more likely I am to have smaller fixes to take care of along the way. This ability has come, at least in part, from the wisdoms imparted from DevOps wisdom:

  1. The bigger the silos, the more code needed to review to solve the bug
  2. The smaller the change, the faster to fix (or rollback in a panic)
  3. Gradual, meaningful change is the goal

DevOps has made it relatively easy to ensure that the testing of the technology we are using can happen regularly and (at least in theory) smoothly, through the use of CI/CD – Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment. Yet, simply relying on the strengths of DevOps doesn’t exactly help us to understand the optimal approach to discovering that final grain of wisdom. What can we do, as developers, to test that the changes we make to our code are actually meaningful?

Jolene Kidney, who leads SRE at Getty Images, had an incredible message around how we might shift measuring meaning to the left: when you are doing site reliability engineering right, it gives engineers the “ability to be closer to the customer in what you build and support”

I find that a lot of people still like to wave SRE off as the latest evolution of DevOps. In part, I agree: there’s nothing revolutionary in the testing of the technical systems. But as your team shifts testing farther and farther to the left in the development pipeline, you will begin to test and observe failures before they impact the customer experience in the form of a lag or an outage of service.

The cultural switch from DevOps to SRE (if you want to call it that) really centers around two things:

  1. The aim to be realistic and transparent across an organization about what development is possible to create a robust, stable system
  2. Aim is to eliminate the low value items that cause toil to the developer team (only work on the things the user cares about, and make them outstanding)

“While there are a lot of ways to automate, we have to remember who our real customer is – and it’s not the technology” Jayne Groll, CEO, DevOps Institute

Monitoring and automation puts the health of your services at the center of your business strategy, but it also lets you observe the reality of user experience. A blameless culture can only happen if all stakeholders are appropriately informed, given context to the problems that a development team has faced. This shouldn’t have to come in the form of retrospectives or reports – this isn’t necessarily a people problem. It can come from improving the way that you surface the telemetry of your system.

Telemetry and Proactive Observability in DevOps

Telemetry is the process of recording the behavior of your systems. Think Grafana or Prometheus, as a non-extensive list of common tools developers use for observability.

Ernest Mueller’s definition of observability is as “a property of a system. You can monitor a system using various instrumentation, but if the system doesn’t externalize its state well enough that you can figure out what’s actually going on in there, then you’re stuck.” Today, I personally, am going to recommend a proactive observability as a definition worth aiming for:

Proactive Observability: Monitoring of the state of a system that will continuously change with use and decay over time.

Experienced engineers understand that even stable systems will fail, and that failures increase with the complexity of the system. This is about how we reconcile, and communicate that reality across an organization.

Shared Responsibility for Development Decisions

The aim is to surface the dependencies of software that enables collaboration in a way that wasn’t possible before. As a developer, I want to be able to monitor reliability concerns I should have about dependencies my service relies on, or dependencies that rely on my service. We will define that as the provenance of service for a software team. In modern micro-service structures teams are often responsible for systems that are highly engaged networks. A systems-level approach to that problem solving is the only way to move forward with effective engineering.

The goal is to monitor strictly the providence of services of a system that I as a developer, or developer team, need to know about to feel empowered to empowered through the awareness of reliability. I then want to be able to alert and expand my service “world view” from my providence to those other dependencies, whether they be up or downstream in the architecture, but only when this information is needed to inform a question about reliability within service providence. This is a hygienic way to allow a developer to hold only the cognitive load of the system they are engineering, while being able to intelligently, and specifically, control the blast radius of its endpoints. This is the major challenge in DevOps tooling. This responsibility is on everyone.

Once you’ve enabled that view of an engineer’s services, they empowered to write and run their own services, experiments and improvements. Better systems, better observability and better operations are all evolving in real-time as DevOps migrates more practices to a reliability approach.

As you take those steps with your own team, remember this: SRE is a collaborative sport. If you don’t have that collaboration, and a culture of collaboration, then all you’ve got is a great dashboard. The magic is in the way you can start to use a shared understanding of system-level dependencies, and build a system that lets you put down your pager for good.


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Apple’s App Store to face scrutiny in Germany as FCO opens ‘market power’ proceeding



Germany’s competition authority, the FCO, has completed its Big Tech GAFA ‘bingo’ card by opening a proceeding against Apple.

As with similar investigations already opened this year — into Amazon, Facebook and Google — the proceeding will determine whether or not the iPhone maker meets the threshold of Germany’s updated competition law.

The 10th amendment to the law, which came into force in January, enables the Bundeskartellamt to intervene proactively against the practices of large digital companies — if they are determined to have “paramount significance for competition across markets” and in order to prevent them from engaging in anti-competitive practices.

Discussing the key new provision to the Competition Act (aka, the GWB Digitalisation Act and specifically Section 19a) — in a panel discussion last week, the FCO’s president, Andreas Mundt, explained that the competition law update had been influenced by its experience with a long running (and pioneering) case against Facebook’s superprofiling of Internet users.

The upshot is that German competition law now has a theory of harm which entwines competition law and data protection — albeit, in the case of Apple, its tech empire is typically associated with defence (rather than abuse) of user privacy.

But the comprehensive amendments to German antitrust law are broadly targeted at Big Tech, with the goal of keeping markets open, fostering innovation and putting a stop to any abusive behavior, via provisions the FCO will be able to order — such an banning or restricting self-preferencing and bundling; or stopping giants tying products together to try to muscle into adjacent markets; or preventing them blocking interoperability and data access to try to lock out rivals, to name a few.

A mix of provisions are likely to be deployed, as tech giants are designated as addressable under the law, depending on the specifics of each case and the particular ecosystem business. So how it will operate in practice remains to be seen. So far the FCO is still in the process of determining (in each case) whether it can apply the law against GAFA.

For the Apple proceeding, Mundt said in a statement today that its operation of the App Store will be a “main focus” for the investigation because he said it “enables Apple in many ways to influence the business activities of third parties”.

“We will now examine whether with its proprietary operating system iOS, Apple has created a digital ecosystem around its iPhone that extends across several markets,” he added. “Apple produces tablets, computers and wearables and provides a host of device-related services. In addition to manufacturing various hardware products, the tech company also offers the App Store, iCloud, AppleCare, Apple Music, Apple Arcade, Apple TV+ as well as other services as part of its services business. Besides assessing the company’s position in these areas, we will, among other aspects, examine its extensive integration across several market levels, the magnitude of its technological and financial resources and its access to data.”

The FCO also noted that it has received a number of complaints against Apple “relating to potentially anti-competitive practices” — such as one from the advertising and media industry against Apple restricting user tracking with the introduction of its iOS 14.5 operating system; and a complaint against the exclusive pre-installation of the company’s own applications as a possible type of self-preferencing prohibited under Section 19a GWB.

“App developers also criticise the mandatory use of Apple’s own in-app purchase system (IAP) and the 30% commission rate associated with this,” it added in a press release. “In this context, the marketing restrictions for app developers in Apple’s App Store are also addressed. The latter complaint has much in common with the European Commission’s ongoing proceeding against Apple for imposing restrictions on the streaming service Spotify and accordingly preferencing its own services. Where necessary, the Bundeskartellamt will establish contact with the European Commission and other competition authorities in this regard. So far, no decision on initiating a further proceeding has been taken.”

Apple was contacted for comment on the FCO’s proceeding and it sent us this statement, attributed to a spokesperson:

Apple is proud to be an engine for innovation and job creation, with more than 250,000 jobs supported by the iOS app economy in Germany. The App Store’s economic growth and activity have given German developers of all sizes the same opportunity to share their passion and creativity with users around the world while creating a secure and trusted place for customers to download the apps they love with the privacy protections they expect. Germany is also home to Apple’s largest engineering hub in Europe, and a new €1BN investment in our European Silicon Design Center in Munich. We look forward to discussing our approach with the FCO and having an open dialogue about any of their concerns.”

Once issued by the FCO, a ‘paramount significance’ finding lasts for five years — while any legal challenges to orders made under Section 19a are intentionally expedited, with appeals going direct to Germany’s Federal Court of Justice (which is given exclusive competence). The goal being to avoid long drawn out litigations, as has occurred in the FCO’s case against Facebook’s superprofiling — which had legal questions referred to the CJEU back in March, some five years after the Bundeskartellamt began looking into Facebook’s data practices.

The coming months and years could be highly significant to how GAFA is able to operate in Europe’s largest economy — and, likely by extension, further afield in Europe and beyond as a number of jurisdictions are now paying active attention to how to regulate Big Tech.

Back in March, for example, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority opened its own probe into Apple’s App Store. Simultaneously it’s working on reforming national law to create a ‘pro-competition’ for regulating tech giants.

While, last December, European Union lawmakers proposed the Digital Markets Act — also aiming to tackle the power market of so-called ‘gatekeeper’ platforms.

The FTC appointing Lina Khan as chair also appears to signify a change of direction on tech antitrust over in the US.

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Porsche to develop battery cells for EV motorsports



Porsche’s shift to electrification could boost its motorsports output. The German automaker has announced a joint venture to develop and produce battery cells for race cars and a small batch of high-end production vehicles. Porsche will make a high double-digit million euro investment in the “Cellforce” project, Chief Executive Officer Oliver Blume said at a press conference, reports Autoblog

The new cells will be able to charge in less than 15 minutes, which is significantly faster than the 22.5 minutes it takes to charge the Porsche Taycan battery to 80 percent from 5 percent, according to Bloomberg. Porsche previously revealed that it would use a silicon-based anode instead of the customary graphite in a bid to boost power density and reduce the battery’s overall size. The changes should be a good fit for motorsports, where the size and weight of a vehicle and quick refueling is critical to winning races. Porsche made the jump to the electric Formula E championship for the 2019/20 season. 

Like the rest of the automotive industry, the company is going all-in on electrification. Porsche previously said that it expects at least 80 percent of its vehicles sold globally to be partially or fully electric by 2030. To get there, Porsche is spending $15 billion on electric mobility along with digital services. 

Its partner on the battery project is lithium-ion specialist Customcells, whose facilities in Tübingen, South-West Germany are close to Porsche’s headquarters in Stuttgart. Reports, which have been swirling in the German media since last fall, previously indicated that the Tübingen site would serve as the location for the battery production plant. The German government has now virtually made that a certainty by contributing around $71 million to the project in exchange for the factory being located in the south of the country. Porsche said it will own 83.75 percent of Cellforce, compared to Customcells’ 16.25 percent minority stake.

Blume made it clear, however, that the project would not match the scale of Tesla’s Gigafactories. The small-scale plant would produce around 100 megawatt-hours of annual capacity, the CEO said, enough for around 1,000 sports cars per year. The tech developed by the venture will trickle down to Porsche’s high-performance derivatives of existing cars. Though the company played down any large-scale transference at the outset.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Samsung’s best SSD, the 980 Pro, is $100 for Prime Day



All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

If you want to add more storage to your console or PC, take a gander at the Samsung 980 Pro. It’s a high-end solid-state drive that’s on sale for Prime Day, with the 500GB variant dropping from $150 to $100. Meanwhile, the 2TB model is down from $430 to $330.

Buy Samsung 980 Pro (500GB) at Amazon – $100

Buy Samsung 980 Pro (2TB) at Amazon – $330

The SSD has PCIe 4 connectivity and an M.2 2280 form factor, so it should fit into laptops as well as desktops. It can reach speeds of up to 6,900 MB/s. The 980 Pro’s nickel coating and heat spreader label should help manage high temperatures.

Once DirectX PC games start supporting the Xbox Series X/S Direct Storage feature, the 980 Pro could be ideal for PC gamers — as long as the rest of your hardware is up to scratch. In the meantime, you could use the SSD as a system drive to get optimal performance for your day-to-day PC use.

Sony has yet to reveal which SSDs will be compatible with the PlayStation 5’s storage upgrade slot (or when it will even activate the slot), but there’s a chance that the 980 Pro will meet the bar. Until then, you’ll be able to pick up an enclosure and use the SSD as external storage for PS5 ox Xbox Series X/S.

Get the latest Amazon Prime Day offers by visiting our deals homepage and following @EngadgetDeals on Twitter.

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Fitbit’s Sense health tracker is just $200 for Prime Day



All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

If you’ve had your eye on Fitbit’s Sense smartwatch with advanced health tracking, today is the day to get one. Both the Carbon and White models are now available at $200 for Amazon Prime Day, a full $40 less than the best price we’ve seen so far. For perspective, Fitbit launched the Sense back in September 2020 with a price tag of $330, so that’s a discount of nearly 40 percent. 

Buy Fitbit Sense at Amazon – $200

The Sense offers features designed to track your physical health as well as your activities. We gave it a solid score of 82 in our review for tools like an electrodermal activity (EDA) sensor that looks for changes in skin that may be caused by stress. It can also track your body temperature and blood oxygen levels and even detect the start of a menstrual cycle. 

Naturally, it’ll measure your heart rate and warn you if it’s too high or low based on your age and resting heart rate. You can track runs, walks, hikes and bike rides thanks to the built-in GPS, and also see the quality of your sleep. It measures more specialized activities like yoga, golf, martial arts and tennis too, letting you see how much time you spent in the fat-burning zone. 

The only drawbacks are a slightly unintuitive buttonless design and navigation that can be a bit sluggish. Still, it offers just about every health and fitness tracking feature you could want, and the $200 price is lower than competing models from Apple and Samsung. 

Get the latest Amazon Prime Day offers by visiting our deals homepage and following @EngadgetDeals on Twitter.

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