Build resilient systems at scale
May 27–29, 2015 • Santa Clara, CA

What Ops can learn from design

Robert Treat (OmniTI)
5:05pm–5:45pm Thursday, 05/28/2015
Location: Mission City M1-2
Average rating: ***..
(3.00, 6 ratings)

Prerequisite Knowledge

If I have done the talk correctly, people only need bring their existing life experience with them, and I will use that to change the way they look at things.


Most Ops people don’t think of themselves as designers; take one look at Nagios and you’d be right to think that we prefer function over form to a fault. But the truth is, if you’re trying to do technical operations in today’s world, you spend a lot of your time integrating different technology solutions and deriving processes around them. In short, you are designing systems for people to run your operations, and as a designer, the methods of user-oriented design can go a long way toward improving your systems. In this talk, we’ll cover some fundamental design tenets and how they relate to your development and operational processes, including:

  • Natural Mappings
  • Perceived Affordances
  • Feedback Mechanisms
  • Forcing Functions

Skeptical? Consider this core idea behind user-centered design: “while people are often quick to blame themselves when objects malfunction, it isn’t the fault of the user but rather the lack of intuitive guidance that should be present within the design.” You would agree with that if I was talking about a new gadget, so why is it any less true for the software and processes we use in our daily lives?

Once you begin to think about software and systems in this way, the concept of “blameless post-mortems” isn’t just a nice idea, it becomes the natural order of things. And that’s the goal, to take what you may have overlooked before (i.e. everything designers care about), and think about it in a new light; not just as engineers, but as systems designers.

Photo of Robert Treat

Robert Treat


With more than 15 years of experience building database-backed, internet based systems at multiple fortune 500 companies, Robert is now CEO of OmniTI, a technical services firm focused on providing web application development and infrastrcuture management at scale. Author and speaker at conferences worldwide, Robert is a recognized expert within the industry on topics such as open source, databases, and managing operations at scale. He occasionally blogs at