Release Engineering at Facebook
Chuck tries to avoid the “D” “O” word… DevOps. But he was impressed by the Allspaw talk from Velocity 09 “10+ Deploys Per Day: Dev and Ops Cooperation at Flickr“. This led him to set up a bootcamp session at Facebook and this talk is based on what he tells new developers.
Developers want to get code out as fast as possible. Release Engineers don’t want anything to break. So there’s a need for a process. “Can I get my rev out?” “No. Go away”. That doesn’t work. They’re all working to make change. Facebook operates at ludicrous speed. They’re at massive scale. No other company on earth moves as fast with at their scale.
Chuck has two things at his disposal: tools and culture. He latched on to the culture thing after Allspaw’s talk. The first thing that he tells developers is that they will shephard their changes out to the world. If they write code and throw it over the wall, it will affect Chuck’s Mom directly. You have to deal with dirty work and it is your operational duty from check-in to trunk to in-front-of-my-Mom. There is no QA group at Facebook to find your bugs before they’re released.
How do you do this? You have to know when and how a push is done. All systems at Facebook follow the same path, and they push every day.
How does Facebook push?
Chuck doesn’t care what your source control system is. He hates them all. They push from trunk. On Sunday at 6p they take trunk and cut a branch called latest. Then they test for two days before shipping. This is the old school part. Tuesday they ship, then Wed-Fri they cherry pick more changes. 50-300 cherry picks per day are shipped.
But Chuck wanted more. “Ship early and ship twice as often” was a blog post he wrote on the Facebook engineering blog. (check out the funny comments). They started releasing 2x/day in August. This wasn’t as crazy as some people thought, because the changes were smaller with the same number of cherry picks per day.
About 800 developers check in per week. It keeps growing as they hire more. There’s about 10k commits per month to a 10M LOC codebase. But the rate of cherry picks per day has remained pretty stable. There is a cadence for how things go out. So you should put most of your effort into the big weekly release. Then lots of stuff crowds in on Wed as fixes come in. Be careful on Friday. At Google they had “no push Fridays”. Don’t check in your code and leave. Sunday and Monday are their biggest days, as every uploads and views all the photos from everyone’s drunken weekend.
Give people an out. If you can’t remember how to do a release, don’t do anything. Just check into trunk and you can avoid the operational burden of showing up for a daily release.
Remember that you’re not the only team shipping on a given today. Coordinate changes for large things so you can see what’s planned company wide. Facebook uses Facebook groups for this.
You should always be testing. People say it but don’t mean it, but Facebook takes it very seriously. Employees never go to the real facebook.com because they are redirected to www.latest.facebook.com. This is their production Facebook plus all pending changes, so the whole company is seeing what will go out. Dogfooding is important. If there’s a fatal error, you get directed to the bug report page.
File bugs when you can reproduce them. Make it easy and low friction for internal users to report an issue. The internal Facebook includes some extra chrome with a button that captures session state, then routes a bug to the right people.
When Chuck does a push, there’s another step in that developers’ changes are not merged unless you’ve shown up. So the actual build is www.inyour.facebook.com which has fewer changes than latest.
Facebook.com is not to be used as a sandbox. Developers have to resist the urge to test in prod. If you have a billion users, don’t figure things out in prod. Facebook has a separate complete and robust sandbox system.
On-call duties are serious. They make sure that they have engineers assigned as point of contact across the whole system. Facebook has a tool that allows quick lookup of on-call people. No engineer escapes this.
Facebook does everything in IRC. It scales well with up to 1000 people in a channel. Easy questions are answered by a bot. There is a command to lookup the status of any rev. They also have a browser shortcut as well. Bots are your friends and they track you like a dog. A bot will ask a developer to confirm that they want a change to go out.
Where are we?
Facebook has a dashboard with nice graphs showing the status of each daily push. There is also a test console. When Chuck does the final merge, he kicks off a system test immediately. They have about 3500 unit test suites and he can run one each machine. He reruns the tests after every cherrypick.
There are thousands and thousands of web servers. There’s good data in the error logs but they had to write a log aggregator to deal with the volume. At Facebook you can click on a logged error and see the call stack. Click on a function and it expands to show the git blame and tell you who to assign the error to. Chuck can also use Scuba, their analysis system, which can show trends and correlate to other events. Hover over any error, and you get a sparkline that shows a quick view of the trend.
This is one of Facebook’s main strategic advantages that is key to their environment. It is like a feature flag manager that is controlled by a console. You can turn new features on selectively and restrain the set of users who see the change. Once they turned on “fax your photo” for only Techcrunch as a joke.
Chuck’s job is to manage risk. When he looks at the cherry pick dashboard it shows the size of the change, and the amount of discussion in the diff tool (how controversional is the change). If both are high he looks more closely. He can also see push karma rated up to five stars for each requestor. He has an unlike button to downrate your karma. If you get down to two stars, Chuck will just stop taking your changes. You have to come and have a talk with him to get back on track.
This is a great tool that does a full performance regression on every change. It will compare perf of trunk against the latest branch.
HipHop for PHP
This generates about 600 highly optimized C++ files that are then linked into a single binary. But sometimes they use interpreted PHP in dev. This is a problem that they plan to solve with the PHP virtual machine that they plan to open source.
This is how they distribute the massive binary to many thousands of machines. Clients contact Open Tracker server for list of peers. There is rack affinity and Chuck can push in about 15 minutes.
Tools alone won’t save you
The main point is that you cannot tool your way out of this. The people coming on board have to be brainwashed so they buy into the cultural part. You need the right company with support fromm the top all the way down.
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