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Streamlining DevOps with Superblocks

The Superblocks Team
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January 10, 2023

5 min Read

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The tech industry faced huge challenges in 2022 which already show no sign of slowing in 2023. This year is barely a few days old and already behemoths Amazon and Salesforce have announced more huge rounds of layoffs. It’s clear that companies are looking to ask more of their smaller teams to support the existing application and customer landscape.

The DevOps teams within all companies are under increasing pressure as the number of applications and services to support grows but hiring freezes or declines. Applications and services are growing, scaling, and becoming more complex to run, this forces the teams to do more with less.

A DevOps engineer typically spans multiple areas of skill set as they look to introduce process and tooling around infrastructure management, software development lifecycle, deployment, application maintenance, and beyond. Due to their wide knowledge set they will have an arsenal of tools available to them such as Github, JIRA, Datadog, Cloudflare, AWS, PagerDuty, and more, making workflows across these tools cumbersome and error-prone.

In order to become efficient, DevOps teams need internal applications but are limited because they have no frontend expertise. Often the teams resort to building ad hoc scripts to solve problems, however these lack features such as RBAC and audit logging.

How Superblocks empowers DevOps teams

DevOps teams can inadvertently cause bottlenecks as they tread the fine line between stability and velocity. This is typically seen in tasks such as having to SSH into servers to run database queries for other teams, or the increased toil of running repetitive tasks. Perhaps there’s an over reliance on ad hoc scripts and lambda functions that are built over and over again.

With Superblocks, DevOps teams can quickly build the apps, workflows, and jobs they need connected to all the applications and APIs in their toolbox, saving 100s of hours of time both in building and in using. The best part is they don't need to worry about HTML, CSS, React, and security concerns like RBAC, audit logging, and more are taken care of.

Four key use cases that we’ve seen being solved by our customers are:

  1. Tracking cloud service spend across IaaS and SaaS providers
  2. Allowing safe self-service access to production database servers
  3. Automating autoscaling of infrastructure and container environments 
  4. Daily reporting of system health

Tracking cloud service spend

Expenditure is top of mind for every company and is currently under greater scrutiny in the current climate. Understanding costs across multiple cloud platforms broken down by the various teams and services within an organization is a complex task. Sharing the live data with business stakeholders in an easily digestible format is even harder.

Superblocks applications make it simple to build out powerful interfaces, starting with a wealth of integrations to collect the data required from all used services. The disparate datasets can then be combined and processed using either JavaScript or Python, each bundled with a large number of libraries. Finally, a large library of widgets provides a rich drag and drop interface to visualize the data. The completed applications can be shared to individual users or groups via strict RBAC policies.

Provide database access with guard rails

When operations teams receive customer requests and issues they often require access to production databases to diagnose and resolve. Typically only a small number of individuals will have SSH access to production servers to perform requested queries and so a bottleneck can be quickly created when demand on the team increases. 

Database admin panels are a highly effective way to allow access to production data safely to a large number of internal users. Database queries can be predefined and sanitized on the fly providing guard rails around the users providing the stability and confidence that the operations team needs. End users are able to self-serve on demand, getting results for their customers instantly.

Automate processes with Workflows

DevOps engineers love to automate, their laptops will be full of useful and half finished scripts. The problem is that over time, servers and cloud environments are too. Without careful attention, understanding and context are quickly lost - which scripts are still used, which are in production, which are obsolete and even now dangerous to run? Ad hoc undocumented scripts are every DevOps engineer’s worst nightmare but an all too common find. Superblocks Workflows provide a centralized location for every script, with full access and audit controls, integration with git.

The example below shows how Workflows can be used to receive POST data, combine a lookup from a service catalog, and trigger a scaling change via boto3. The result is then posted to Slack to keep the team aware of automated changes.

Scheduled Jobs in place of cron jobs

Reducing toil within any team is invaluable in both time and operating costs, but removing toil often requires engineering work to eliminate it. Simple repetitive tasks are often refactored into cron jobs, these end up hidden on servers and lambda functions deep within AWS accounts and become toil in themselves. As with ad hoc scripts above, these can be easily lost and forgotten about, however beyond that; monitoring, and crucially spotting and responding to errors is very hard.

Superblocks Scheduled Jobs provide an intuitive interface within a centralized location to run reports, trigger backups, and run nightly tasks. Daily, weekly, or fortnightly reports are easily built and shared amongst the wider organization.

Mandating RBAC and audit logging for security and debugging

Implementing a custom RBAC framework is a complex project and ensuring that the framework is used across every service provided by the DevOps team is even harder. The effort required to implement even simple authentication often means that deeper projects such as audit logging are never attempted. Superblocks provides an all-in-one platform allowing you to build, secure, deploy, and monitor services whilst configuring all aspects with code.

Secure your Applications, Workflows, and Scheduled Jobs with features like SSO and RBAC.

Quickly troubleshoot application errors or review user activity with Audit Logs.

Confidently deploy and iterate with built-in Version Control.

Finally, proactively monitor everything with User Analytics and 3rd party observability platforms.

Accelerate DevOps with Superblocks

Superblocks has helped hundreds of DevOps engineers remove toil and innovate faster. By creating internal tools in a fraction of the time and deploying fast, organizations save 100s of developer hours of time both in building and in using.

To learn more about how to create internal applications, jobs, and workflows with Superblocks view our documentation. Try creating your first application today with a free 14-day trial​​.

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