To help with this, Buffer developers wrote a deploy bot that wraps the Kubernetes deploy process and can be used by every team. "Before, our data analysts would update, say, a Python
analysis script and have to wait for the lead on that team to click the button and deploy it," Farrelly explains. "Now our data analysts can make a change, enter a Slack
command, ‘/deploy,’ and it goes out instantly. They don’t need to wait on these slow turnaround times. They don’t even know where it’s running; it doesn’t matter."
One of the first applications the team built from scratch using Kubernetes was a new image resizing service. As a social media management tool that allows marketing teams to collaborate on posts and send updates across multiple social media profiles and networks, Buffer has to be able to resize photographs as needed to meet the varying limitations of size and format posed by different social networks. "We always had these hacked together solutions," says Farrelly.
To create this new service, one of the senior product engineers was assigned to learn Docker and Kubernetes, then build the service, test it, deploy it and monitor it—which he was able to do relatively quickly. "In our old way of working, the feedback loop was a lot longer, and it was delicate because if you deployed something, the risk was high to potentially break something else," Farrelly says. "With the kind of deploys that we built around Kubernetes, we were able to detect bugs and fix them, and get them deployed super fast. The second someone is fixing [a bug], it’s out the door."
Plus, unlike with their old system, they could scale things horizontally with one command. "As we rolled it out," Farrelly says, "we could anticipate and just click a button. This allowed us to deal with the demand that our users were placing on the system and easily scale it to handle it."
Another thing they weren’t able to do before was a canary deploy. This new capability "made us so much more confident in deploying big changes," says Farrelly. "Before, it took a lot of testing, which is still good, but it was also a lot of ‘fingers crossed.’ And this is something that gets run 800,000 times a day, the core of our business. If it doesn’t work, our business doesn’t work. In a Kubernetes world, I can do a canary deploy to test it for 1 percent and I can shut it down very quickly if it isn’t working. This has leveled up our ability to deploy and roll out new changes quickly while reducing risk."