New Tricks November

During the past couple of weeks, a delegation of Kunlaborants swarmed out to learn some new tricks. In this post, we’ll have a bird’s eye view on what we’ve picked up and how this might be of benefit to our customers.

AWS Dev Day, Mechelen

On November 13th, Tom and Tim, two of our AWS Certified Solutions Architects, set off to attend the Belgian AWS Dev Day. This is a free technical event where developers can learn about the newest trends and topics on the AWS cloud computing platform. It’s a full day, divided into 3 parallel tracks, packed with deep dives, demo’s and workshops.

We were mainly interested in the tracks about Modern Application Development. After attending the sessions in this track, AWS again confirmed that they are betting heavily on serverless. In the serverless model, the cloud provider takes care of the heavy lifting, which enables us to focus on solving business problems for our customers.

As AWS explains, serverless has 4 main benefits:

  • No infrastructure provisioning or management
  • Flexible and automatic scaling
  • Pay per use
  • Automated high availability

Amazon is pushing this model across their entire platform, with serverless solutions for Compute, Storage, Data stores, etc. AWS Fargate, a service allowing you to run containers without having to manage servers or clusters, became available in all EU regions this year.

--AWS Dev Day--

Don't do infrastructure-as-click

Another thing that sticked, is how much AWS stresses the importance of infrastructure-as-code. They’ve got a graphical console, which is a great tool for experimenting and learning, but the AWS evangelists explicitly discourage doing infrastructure-as-click, once you know where you want to go.

For a long time already, AWS has had CloudFormation to let you model and provision your cloud resources in scripts, and they have services to integrate with Puppet and Chef. But now they’ve taken things a step further by building frameworks on top of CloudFormation:

Devopsdays, Ghent

On 28/10/2019, we attended Devopsdays Ghent. The main focus of this conference was about the DevOps culture and less about specific technologies that can be used to implement DevOps.
These are the main takeaways:

  • We think that implementing DevOps can be seen as a bottom-up process. In reality, this proves to be very hard when the management is not willing to change. As a developer, start with small changes that have a clear benefit for the company. If the management sees the improvements, the trust will eventually follow and you will get them on board to do more changes. DevOps should become ingrained in the whole company
  • In DevOps, communication is key! Especially listening and sharing info
  • It is impossible to change culture with a credit card
  • We need to put the people above the processes
  • We need Psychological Safety and the following mindset: You are here to IMPROVE yourself and not to PROVE yourself
  • Before criticising, find out why other people think that something will/should work.
  • We need to do blameless post mortems
  • DevOps should become an automatism: Train as you play and play as you train
  • Do not be dogmatic about the fundamentals of DevOps.
    • They are just tools to get something done. For example, going to production every three minutes is nonsense, unless it is an important business requirement
    • We need to focus on things that can help us improve our services, such as automating the environment in which the code is running
  • Cloud can become a dangerous place for a company if everyone can spin up instances by a click of a button. These instances can have hidden costs or side effects. Safety nets should be in place to monitor spikes in expenses
  • Creating cheap and optimised services to save money is not the way to go. New cost equals new possible ways to earn money

It is impossible to change culture with a credit card

Devoxx, Antwerp

At the start of November, a couple of our devs visited Devoxx in Antwerp. The biggest Java conference in Belgium has grown out to be not just a Java news bulletin, but has become a fullstack developer learning experience they can be proud of.

Sharing all learnings gathered over the course of five days in a small blog post would be pretty much impossible, but here are some key takeaways:

  • Reactive is the new normal. And microservice oriented architectures can be made more resilient with reactive patterns for the cloud.
  • GraalVM and its native images tooling are game changers for Java’s memory footprint. But it comes with some serious tradeoffs like added complexity, and not being able to use some java features.
  • Shout out to Victor Rentea for his passion and amazing sessions on Clean Code and Architecture. Seeing him in action is very inspiring.
  • The developer community should, in general, spread more knowledge around application security.
  • Testing application security has more facets and algorithms behind it than I ever knew. (e.g. Attack surface detection)
  • Machine learning security risks are completely different from traditional software security risks. Anyone involved in data science should be aware of the risks.

The amount of high quality talks is staggering

There is so much more to talk about, so many things I didn’t even mention. Suffice to say I was inspired by the many high quality talks I attended at Devoxx!

SoCraTes BE, La Roche-en-Ardenne

SoCraTes BE or Software Crafting & Testing is a bit different from other conferences. At SoCraTes the focus does not lie on the newest and most sparkly technology, here the focus is on and around the learner themselves.

  • Is there something you are in the process of learning and you want to figure out how to actually make it work for you?
  • Have you just learned something and you want to share it and see if your understanding is as deep as you feel?
  • Do you want to know what the community around you is trying to learn at the moment?

Did you answer yes to any of these questions? Then SoCraTes is the perfect place for you. The next one is planned for May 2020.


This is not yet another death by power point conference!

This is not yet another death by power point conference. No, this is an open space in which the agenda is built every morning based on who is present and what they care about most. In each session, everyone that’s present has a chance to participate and bring their ideas, perspectives and knowledge to the table. While many traditional speakers ask their audience to interrupt them and ask questions about the topic, this is often not feasible given the format they are using. But at an open space the format is built to maximize learning for those who already know more and those who know less.

SoCraTes also typically hosts many programming katas and deliberate coding practices, where you write code in pair or in group and try to follow some code guideline to see what you can learn from focusing on this practice.

This is also a great way for developers who normally never code together (because working at different companies) to share and confront their coding styles with each other. In that way, the coding practices can be spread across the boundaries of companies, improving the field as a whole.

One of the big revelations I personally experienced at SoCraTes this year is how naming functions with nouns instead of verbs can be a key factor to writing more readable, functional code. If you want to know what I mean exactly, I invite you to read my short gist. The function of interest is the new_universe function defined on line 14 and mostly its use on line 5. To get the point you don’t need to read the second part, those are just the tests to prove that the implementation works.

Øredev, Malmö (Sweden)

This year the Øredev conference in Malmö, Sweden, celebrated it’s 15th anniversary. Our delegation was pleasantly surprised by the high quality of the speakers, the flawless organization and the healthy food. It’s difficult to summarize three days full of presentations, but here are our top 3 take aways:

  1. Fiona Coath’s presentation on bias in machine learning reminded us that bias isn’t generated by the algorithms but by those who generated the data that feeds the algorithms. Neatly summarised in the quote “Data doesn’t speak for itself, it echoes its collectors”.
  2. From Alberto Brandolini we learned that the event storming technique can be used to achieve different goals: to create a big picture, to model a process or to design software.
  3. Bjarne Bogsnes confirmed that management based on values works better than management based on rules. I am glad to recognize this in the way Kunlabora is managed.
Diestsevest 32/0c
3000, Leuven
Connect with us