Hackweek at Independer.nl

What happens when you put a few teams of terrific developers, a definite objective with some vague goalposts and a deadline? Why, an Independer Hackweek, of course! Independer has witnessed terrific growth and our engineering team is constantly on the lookout for better and faster ways to ship our features. While we have come a long way in our CI/CD journey, we still have a ways to go. Our hackweeks are an annual affair where we halt our scrum work for a week and ask our developers, designers and product owners to come together to give shape to some of their terrific flights of fancy or solve some of their worst nightmares in a creative fashion.

We have been toying with the idea of solving some of our pipeline issues with Azure for a while now. This hackweek, it was decided to let the whole department play with Azure and the different features it offers. The objective was

  1. To take a week to create a widget of your choice
  2. Host it on azure by building a build and deploy pipeline on Azure
  3. Play with and touch upon as many different features as possible.

We had 5 teams participating, with each team concentrating on their own area of business.

It was pretty amazing how much the teams managed to learn and have fun while doing it and still come up with almost production ready widgets at the end of one short workweek.

The teams had also run a pretty wide gamut of azure features that they had explored in the meantime including but not restricted to

Azure build and deploy pipelines

Storage

Serverless functions

Storage

Keyvault

Azure SignalR

The key takeaways:

It was fun!

Of course, that was the most important part of this endeavour. To leave behind all the pressures of enterprise programming and get back to the pure child like joy of hacking something together.

It was big and confusing!

The world of Azure is HUGE!! It took most of us a couple days to get the hang of finding our way across this massive portal. Different portals for Azure devops and resources did not help.

It was fast!

Most of the teams managed to create a widget (or an equivalent thereof) and create a build and deploy pipeline with added business functionality, such as calling our own APIs and had a functioning, hosted widget in a week’s time. Considering that most of us were new to Azure and DevOps, this was no mean feat.

It was cheap!

One of the questions we have been grappling with on our journey to the cloud is, how expensive is it? It turns out that even the basic plan offers several million requests per day free execution for Azure functions. Most other features were also not as expensive as we’d feared.

The ‘Azure widget’ hackweek provided us with a cool opportunity to create some fun stuff while playing with some new(!?) tools in our current techstack. It also demonstrated to the business how quickly some of their business ideas can be pushed to the end users. We will now need to create a production pipeline in order to push some of our coolest ideas to our users.

Looking forward to the next year!!

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Engineering lead. Book Nerd. Crazy mom and wife. Learner for always.

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