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DevOps Interview: Jimmy Cuadra

Jason Hand April 01, 2015


JimmyCuadraChatOps has been one of the more intriguing subtopics of the DevOps movement for me. Since first learning of the term, I’ve had subsequent conversations with teams heavily invested in ways to automate and share as much as possible. ChatOps continues to fascinate me as I watch it catch on with teams large, small, distributed, and not.

Recently, I wrote a small book “ChatOps For Dummies” on the subject to help our DevOps community further by sharing what I’ve been able to learn, but more importantly, encourage further conversations and considerations for ChatOps.

While writing the book, I collaborated with many who have been implementing ChatOps within their own teams, as well as the authors and maintainers of the most widely-used chatbots currently available.

One of those that I’ve been collaborating with is Jimmy Cuadra, the man behind Lita.


Cuadra works at InQuicker, and releases enhancements and improvements to Lita on his free time (quite regularly). For the Ruby fans out there looking for a great chatbot written in their preferred language, Lita has gained lots of attention.

Jimmy will be joining Josh Nichols (Hubot), Guillaume Binet (Err), and Dave Josephsen (Lazlo) for a ChatOps Panel discussion at this year’s DevOpsDaysRox event in Denver.

With the release of “ChatOps For Dummies” and the upcoming ChatOps Panel @ DevOpsDays - Rockies, it only made sense to include Jimmy in my DevOps Interview blog series.

Q: For those out there who are unfamiliar with who you are, can you give a quick intro?

 A: I’m a programmer living in San Francisco. I started with front end web development, moved on to full stack web development, and these days I’m most interested in system administration, automated operations, and developer tooling. My primary language is Ruby, but I also know JavaScript, Python, Bash, Perl, and a few others. I’m an open source software enthusiast and the author of a chat bot framework for Ruby called Lita.

 Q: Are there any projects or events that you’re really excited about and want to share with us?

A: Lita is an ongoing labor of love, but it’s pretty stable these days so I have time to work on some new things. I’ve been learning Rust and am using it to build a tool for managing application deployments on CoreOS. It’s still in the planning/brainstorming stages at this point, but it’s been a good learning experience already. Since I live in San Francisco there are a lot of tech meetups to go to. I’ve been to one CoreOS meetup so far and plan to be at all of them. If anyone lives in a city that has a CoreOS meetup, I’d recommend checking it out. They’re doing some really interesting things with next-generation infrastructure.

Q: Where do you feel DevOps (the big picture) is now, compared to this time last year?

A: DevOps is a pretty huge topic and I wouldn’t claim to have the pulse on all of it. The parts of it that I follow have been shaken up pretty hard in the last year by Docker. I think we’re in a transitional period right now, moving from traditional infrastructure to a container-based world. Although it’s exciting, it’s also quite painful because it’s easy to see the idealized world that containers promise for infrastructure and application deployment, but the truth is that the tools for doing it all are just not there yet.

Q: What are your thoughts on the biggest impacts or benefits teams can gain from adopting DevOps practices?

A: There are a lot of benefits, but I think automation is the most important DevOps practice. Automation through code takes business and technical processes that may have previously just lived in someone’s head and gives them a permanent record in the team’s knowledge base. Anything a human does manually is susceptible to mistakes, but code can be tested and proven. Automation increases the reliability of systems and reduces the risk of someone leaving the team and taking all the details of how the business runs with them.

Q: Any tools/services that you’ve heard a little about and want to learn more?

A: I wouldn’t describe it as a tool or service, but the main thing I’m interested in learning right now is Rust. Go has seen a lot of usage for tools in the DevOps space, and while I don’t hate Go, I think it’s a little unfortunate that Go had such a head start on Rust and gobbled up so much mind share. I think Rust is a much stronger language in terms of fundamental design, safety, and concurrency. Once it stabilizes I hope to see it being used for DevOps tools just like Go has been in the past couple years.

Q: Any tools/services that you think are totally awesome and feel more people need to know about?

A: Besides Rust, the whole CoreOS ecosystem is a great idea and really worth looking into. This includes the CoreOS system itself, as well as etcd, their distributed key/value store, and fleet, a system for running systemd units across a cluster of machines. Another related project on the horizon is Kubernetes from Google, a container orchestration system that includes much higher-level abstractions than fleet, and once it’s in a stable state, will probably be the de facto solution for deploying applications on CoreOS.

Q: What conferences or events (if any) are you looking forward to attending this year?

A: I’ll be attending my first DevOpsDays this April in Colorado, where I’ll be discussing ChatOps and Lita, which is very exciting. I’ll be returning to DockerCon in June, which I’m very excited about as well. I’m not sure if there will be any big announcements this time. My guess is that they will just be working on getting their new set of tools (Machine, Compose, and Swarm) into a production-ready state and I think at the rate their tools have been developing, they should be there by June.

Q: Is there anyone in the DevOps (or IT space) you would love to connect with, but haven’t so far?

A:_ I’ve been a big fan of the HashiCorp team since its inception and would love to get a chance to see any of them speak in person. They are trailblazers with consistently top quality tools._

Q: How or where do you consume the latest ideas and topics regarding DevOps and/or Agile?

A: Pretty much everything comes through social media of some form these days. I follow several DevOps and programming related subreddits, check Hacker News daily, follow many people in the tech community on Twitter, and subscribe to a few email newsletters (DevOps Weekly, Ruby Weekly, Docker Weekly). I also read a few message boards (Ruby Rogues Parley, Rust Users) and can be found in various IRC channels on occasion.

Q: What’s the biggest pain point you plan to put off as long as possible?

A: Probably starting my own business. I’d like to do it eventually, but I wrestle with whether or not I could stand to do the non-technical aspects of it. I also tend to work fairly slowly and carefully, and that can be a problem in a fast moving industry.

Q: From all of the main DevOps topics, which one(s) take up most of your cycles?

A:_ These days, it’s infrastructure automation and application deployment. I’m closely following the CoreOS ecosystem and trying to make it work for my needs_.

Q: Do you have any good books or resources that folks just starting to explore DevOps should check out?

A: I seem to accumulate books faster than I can read them, so I have a lot of unfinished books piling up. The latest one I picked up is “TCP/IP Illustrated, Volume 1, Second Edition” by Kevin R. Fall and W. Richard Stevens. It’s a vast overview of computer networking and has been really helping me fill in the gaps of my knowledge about the subject. It’s an important topic to be knowledgeable about when working with containers, service-oriented architectures, and distributed systems.

It’s been a real pleasure getting to know Jimmy over the last several months and I look forward to spending time with him at DevOpsDays - Rockies. Bringing the primary maintainers of Lita, Hubot, Err, and Lazlo together in one space is going to be one of the highlights of the events for me! To learn more about Lita and the other chatbots, check out Part 2 of my Step by Step Guide to ChatOps.

I look forward to seeing how Lita evolves and what else Jimmy has up his sleeve for 2015.

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