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NRT DevOps meets SKA DevOps

Following some excellent discussions during the SPIE Astronomical Instrumentation conference in Montréal earlier in July, the NRT DevOps engineers were invited by members of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Software DevOps team to join an international workshop taking place on the 8th September 2022 at Jodrell Bank Observatory, which is the global SKA headquarters location.


The term DevOps relates to a collection of software development tools and practices that enables teams to develop software efficiently and enforces quality control. During SPIE it became clear that both teams independently have decided to implement almost identical industry standard practices and technologies and a collaboration was mutually beneficial.


The SKA Observatory Headquarters building with the Lovell in the background

As a result, Josue Barrera and Joao Bento visited the site on that day and met the majority of the DevOps and Computing Infrastructure team as they discussed some of the MeerKAT (https://www.sarao.ac.za/gallery/meerkat/) antennae integration into the SKA array and how that will affect the software development. Additionally, a great overview of the current DevOps process and what the SKA team is working on were part of the content of the sessions. With a team of 20 DevOps engineers and over 250 developers, the SKA software project is a massive undertaking and requires extremely careful and robust DevOps process to ensure that all of the developers follow the same practices and are able to integrate their code in a successful way.


Josue posing with the Lovell Telescope

While the NRT team is much smaller and more agile, the problem of reliability and recovery of software is common for both projects, as both will operate automated and, for the most part, remote instruments, and therefore require an infrastructure that will ensure that software runs robustly. Both teams have elected to run their code in a bare-metal Kubernetes container orchestration platform (https://kubernetes.io/) which provides this very requirement and integrates very well with all DevOps standard practices. Kubernetes is the world's most widely used platform for running software containers in a scalable and redundant way. We were able to share some of our experience with the SKA team and benefitted greatly from their insight as well. We believe that there is ample scope for collaborations and mutually beneficial discussions.