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Global DevOps Experience. A Worldwide Success Powered by Xebia's Expertise and Passion

gdexlogoWhat is it

A one-day event hosted by 40 venues worldwide where attendees get hands-on experience with the very latest in AI powered developer tooling from GitHub and Microsoft. It is a fully immersive experience for participants, for the day you are part of a team in a fictitious company, Globoticket, and help to overcome some difficult and relevant challenges in the field of Platform Engineering, DevOps and Software Development. The event is centered around GitHub and Azure and AI and was the first global GitHub community run, enterprise focussed event!

In 2017 the makers of GDEX created the Global DevOps Bootcamp which was held in 2019 for the last time. In 2019 GDBC had 10,000 people joining the event in 92 venues in 32 countries all over the world. A truly global community event that got canceled due to the outbreak of COVID in 2020. After two tries to reboot the event, we gave up. People did not want or dared to attend a physical location and with that, the Global DevOps Bootcamp faded away.

In November 2023, Marcel de Vries, Rob Bos, Michiel van Oudheusden and Rene van Osnabrugge visited GitHub Universe. A physical conference around GitHub. There we met many people of our old DevOps community. We met, talked and brought back memories. Also, about the Global DevOps Bootcamp. People were still full of it and kept asking when we would do it again. We had a talk with Martin Woodward and Anisha Pindoria and Brian Randell from GitHub and with Andrew Flick from Microsoft and with their support and sponsorship we decided to do it again.

Similar But Brand New

The Global DevOps Experience follows a similar concept. The Global DevOps Experience is an "Event in the box" and follows the sun. An event where the worlds of DevOps, Platform Engineering, Developer Experience (DevEx) and AI come together!

The event was hosted in 40 venues around the world. Because GDEX is an event in the box, the participants get a fully fledged working environment on GitHub and Azure to directly get started with the real work. All event locations followed the same agenda and shared the same content and challenges, that where provisioned, and monitored during the 24hrs of the event by a Xebia team in Hilversum.

People were introduced to using GitHub Codespaces, Copilot and Advanced Security. They learnt to deploy their software in a controlled manner and use tools like Azure OpenAI and Semantic Kernel to come up with creative solutions to save Globoticket. The event is all about learning and experiencing the latest and greatest tools and lower the barriers to using these during their day-to-day jobs.

The Birth of Globoticket

All these technical topics are great, but for the team at Xebia, technology is always a means to an end. We always start with the WHY. WHY do you use this, WHY would you, and what problem do you want to solve? This should be the start of the experience. We should not only teach people about technology but also about the WHY, and we should have fun while doing that. To create this storyline, we created a fictive company called Globoticket.

gt-black

Globoticket is a fictive company that sells concert tickets online. Because this company, like any company, is also an IT company, we can think of all kinds of issues to be solved within it.

So, the stage was clear. Globoticket. But then we needed some actors. The problems we want to solve, and the WHY behind these problems. Who were coping with this in any company? Of course! A CEO with a vision, a COO who needs to make this work, a CISO who is concerned about security, a Product Owner who needs to make it happen, and a Lead Developer who needs to help build it. And, of course, the main actors, the people from our community, Platform Engineers, DevOps Engineers, Developers, etc, who want to learn can play the main part during the event day to actually build the stuff we envisioned.

The creative process

So, we had our challenges (vaguely), we had our main stage (Globoticket), we had our characters, but now we needed to bring it to live! We started by writing the characters. And came up with our cast. ChatGPT is brilliant in making great descriptions of stereotypes if you feed it with ideas. So that is how our main cast came to live.

  • Robert Green - CEO - Charismatic and visionary but tends to make promises without fully grasping the implications. He's enthusiastic and can sell any idea to anyone but relies heavily on his team to figure out the details.
  • Emily Chase - COO - Extremely organized and practical. She’s the one who has to implement Robert’s grand plans. Known for her patience, but also for her dry wit which comes out when things get too chaotic.
  • Jordan Sparks - PO - Business-savvy with a knack for market trends but sometimes lacks technical depth, which leads to unrealistic product features or timelines. Micro Manager and eager to ship things offshore to get it done. Often seen with a smartwatch and the latest smartphone
  • Alex Fletcher - Lead Dev - Brilliant and resourceful, Alex is the go-to problem solver. Despite being somewhat introverted, Alex's skills are unparalleled, making them indispensable.
  • Morgan Blair - CISO - Highly cautious and always alert, Morgan is constantly worried about compliance and security threats. He can be a bit paranoid but is incredibly dedicated to safeguarding the company.

To start rallying people we decided to create "confession" videos where they are already sharing their ideas online.

Global DevOps Experience globoticket

For this it already became a multi-person organization. Our colleagues Kees Verhaar and Tijmen van der Kamp have video creation as their hobby and passion. So, they jumped in and made this vision reality. They created these YouTube videos.

Persona in action

  • https://youtu.be/tai97aYnm1o - Marcel de Vries as Robert Green CEO
  • https://youtu.be/VVlyCo8403U - Sofie Wisse as Emily Chase COO
  • https://youtu.be/N3HgF7ZPYUQ - Roy Cornelissen as Jordan Sparks PO
  • https://youtu.be/4nx7d30V3tY - Geert van der Cruijssen as Alex Fletcher Lead Dev
  • https://youtu.be/OzAVeucT8uM - Hidde de Smet as Morgan Blair CISO

We also needed actors. Because we always try to have a lot of fun with video and such, we already knew a few people who we should ask, and some new people to raise their hands. This led to this amazing cast!

Creating the content

But then. we had videos, we had some promotions, and we had quite some people worldwide who put their trust in us to organize an event called the "Global DevOps Experience" but actually had no single clue what they were saying yes to :-). It's up to us to create content.

At Xebia we organized an evening where we asked our colleagues for help. Warning up front. We a re a consultancy firm, and we get paid by the hour. This is a project that is fully in extra, unpaid time. This asks for dedication, but people raised their hands. And committed to make this a success.

We started dividing the work. Building challenges, building a scoreboard, building the Globoticket Intranet, building the content, building the onboarding on the public website, building the provisioning of the event for 600-800 teams worldwide and of course building our event back-end

Our challenge builders Sofie Wisse, Hidde de Smet, Jasper Gilhuis, Jesse Houwing, Duncan Roosma, Geert van der Cruijssen, Marcel de Vries and Rene van Osnabrugge created code, fix branches, step by steps and instructions for all this cool stuff.

The Event Flow

How can we guide participant to a storyline that makes sense and keeps them in an immersive experience? We came up with the Globoticket Intranet where people can read news messages to see some context. The moment they press "mark as read," one of our personas will call them to explain the challenge ahead. Then, they will be redirected to GitHub, where the PO created an issue for them.

But how can we keep people engaged? If they get stuck. Well, what would you do normally? Ask questions in the GitHub issue, and ask for help. To enable this, we created a backend that caters to this. GitOps to the MAX! When you put in a comment like `help` or `/fix,` our automation creates a Wiki page with steps or a Pull Request and a branch with the full code. This way, people really stayed within Globoticket. To make this work, we used GitHub automation in the sense of GitHub Apps. And Erick Segaar really owned this. He worked to enable all our challenge builders and other systems to integrate smoothly with this backend, which scaled like crazy because of the great architecture.

Provisioning

Then, also as part of our vision, we do not like it if participants need to Yak Shave. We want people to come in and get to work. This sounds simple, but it is not. People come in with different devices, rights, locked-down machines, and accounts, so we created everything for them.

  • A GitHub repo with all the WORKING code
  • Working pipelines for 3 microservices that did a build and deploy to Azure.
  • Kicking off the pipelines so we ensured the code running came from their repo.
  • Creating an AAD account for Azure
  • Connecting DNS names to their instances of website
  • Deploying their stuff to Azure
  • Setting up secrets in their GitHub so they can directly build and run.

And that for 600-800 teams in different regions, keeping costs under control. This amazing work was done by Rob Bos and Sander Trijssenaar.

Organization Automation

And then the public website. Where first venues could register, then people at a venue. Where people need to register, get invited for our GitHub org, get emails. Communication with venues etc. And on Event Day onboard to the experience. Select a team and get started with this team that was provisioned by Rob and Sander.

All this work was done by Michiel van Oudheusden. He used GitHub as our backend. Venues could work with GitHub Issues and Pull Requests to see the status and update their own registration details. Basically, their own event page, but then administered in GitHub.

Intranet and Scoreboard

To create a sense of competition, we created a scoreboard where teams could see their performance. This all integrated nicely with the backend and the Message Queue. Also, the event was shown on the Intranet, where people started challenges. This work by Rutger Buiteman and Jesse Wellenberg was fundamental for the event-day experience!

scoreborad

Bringing it all together

And then, you have all these people working on something. There needs to be a storyline, a consistent storyline. All the separate bits need to come together; documentation needs to be written, people need to be informed, social media needs to be arranged, things need to be tested, people need to be motivated, etc. And sponsorships, support, engineering team support, and buy-in need to be arranged. This is where Marcel de Vries and Rene van Osnabrugge played their roles. To enable everyone to be successful, inside and outside of Xebia.

Event Day

And then, after months of work, hundreds of hours of free time, long nights it is Event Day. We had over 1200 people registered and around 40 venues in around 25 countries. Amazing!! We rebooted the community! We started in Japan and moved around the sun. Slowly, we moved to India, where we saw the ramping up of our backend. But everything went steady. People followed the storyline, and we saw photos coming in from all over the world.

Scherm­afbeelding 2024-06-19 om 11.23.58

Where did the event run?

Here you can see a map of all venues world-wide that registered.

 

Scherm­afbeelding 2024-06-24 om 11.54.37

Summary

The event was sponsored by Xebia, Microsoft Azure and GitHub. Microsoft Azure Marketing (Team of Andrew Flick) provided us with Azure Subscriptions, GitHub (Martin Woodward's DevRel team) provided us with a GitHub Enterprise Cloud account and enabled GitHub Advanced Security, Codespaces, and Action minutes. The participants could also redeem Copilot vouchers if they didn’t already have a Copilot license.

What is Next

Since the event is fully build and ready to run, and only a fraction of developers around the world where part of the experience we are looking at options to run the event again. One idea is to run this event fully remote, no local venues. We are still not sure if we can provide the same collaborative experience as with the local venues, but it is something we actively are looking in to.

Running the event at other conferences and events as part of their workshops. This option would make it possible to make it part of a conference experience and this would give attendees real hands-on experience. Running it as events at customers. Where customers are looking into how to implement platform engineering and experiment with AI, we can provision the event infrastructure for a specific customer and we will actively look into customers that might want to get this experience catered to their specific teams.

Thanks to GitHub, Microsoft and the team at Xebia to make this awesome experience and we love to hear from anyone who reads this document if they are interested in hosting it again. Please reach out to Rene.vanosnabrugge@xebia.com or marcel.devries@xebia.com if you want to learn more or have ideas how we can use what we build for other events or extend the experience in any way you see fit. We are always looking for new ideas!

Thank you from the Globoticket Executive team

 

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