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Infrastructure Escalation Process

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This page outlines the development team on-call process and guidelines for developing the rotation schedule for handling infrastructure incident escalations.

Escalation Process

Process Outline

  1. Escalation arises.
  2. Infrastructure team registers tracking issue and determines the severity.
  3. Infrastructure team pings on-duty engineers (@name) in Slack #infra-escalation.
    • Find out who's on duty in the on-call Google sheet of schedule.
    • Ping on-duty engineers by tagging @name.
    • On-call engineer responds by reacting to the ping with :eyes:
    • If no response from on-call engineer within 5 minutes then the infrastructure team will find their phone number from the on-call sheet and call that number.
  4. OPERATIONAL EMERGENCY ISSUES ONLY - development engineers provide initial response (not solution) in both #infra-escalation and the tracking issue within 15 minutes.
  5. When on-call engineers need assistance of domain expertise:
    • Ping domain expert engineer and their engineering manager IMMEDIATELY in #infra-escalation. Make the best guess and it's fine to ping multiple persons when you are not certain. Domain experts are expected to get engaged ASAP.
    • If needed, next level is to ping the development director(s) of the domain in #infra-escalation.
graph TD; A[Escalation Arises] --> B(Issue Registered); B --> C("On-call Engr Pinged
(#infra-escalation/phone)"); D[On-call Schedule Sheet] --> C; C --> E("Initial Response
(SLO: 15 mins)"); E --> F{Domain Expertise}; F --> |Yes|G[Solution]; F --> |No|H("Ping Expert(s)
(Engr & Mgr)"); H --> I{Further Escalation?}; I --> |No|G; I --> |Yes|J("Ping Director(s)"); J --> K(Expert Pinged); K --> G; G --> L{Validation}; L --> |No|G; L --> |Yes|M(Deploy & Release); M --> N(Documentation); N --> O[Done];

Logistics

  1. All on-call engineers, managers, distinguished engineers, fellows (who are not co-founders) and directors are required to join #infra-escalation.
  2. On-call engineers are required to add a phone number that they can be reached on during their on-call schedule to the on-call sheet.
  3. On-call engineers are recommended to turn on Slack notification while on duty, or there are better customized ways to be alerted realtime.
  4. Similarly, managers and directors of on duty engineers are also recommended to do the same above to be informed. When necessary, managers and directors will assist to find domain experts.
  5. Hint: turn on Slack email notification while on duty to double ensure things don't fall into cracks.

Scope of Process

Example of qualified issue:

Examples of non-qualified issues:

Rotation Scheduling

Guidelines

  1. Assignments

    On-call work comes in four-hour blocks, aligned to UTC:

    • 0000 - 0359
    • 0400 - 0759
    • 0800 - 1159
    • 1200 - 1559
    • 1600 - 1959
    • 2000 - 2359

    One engineer must be on-call at all times. This means that each year, we must allocate 1,560 4-hour weekday shifts.

    The total number of shifts is divided among the eligible engineers. This is the minimum number of shifts any one engineer is expected to do. As of August 2019 we have around 100 eligible engineers, this means each engineer is expected to do 16 shifts per year, or 4 shifts per quarter.

    In general, engineers are free to choose which shifts they take across the year. They are free to choose shifts that are convenient for them, and to arange shifts in blocks if they prefer. A few conditions apply:

    • No engineer should be on call for more than 3 shifts in a row (12 hours), with 1-2 being the norm
    • No engineer should take more than 12 shifts (48 hours) per week, with 10 shifts (40 hours) being the usual maximum.

    Most on-call shifts will take place within an engineer's normal working hours.

    Scheduling and claiming specific shifts is done on the Google sheet of schedule. More on that below.

  2. Eligibility

    All backend engineers who have been with the company for at least 3 months.

    Exceptions: (i.e. exempted from on-call duty)

    • Distinguished engineers and above.
    • Where the law or regulation of the country/region poses restrictions. According to legal department -
      • There are countries with laws governing hours that can be worked.
      • This would not be an issue in the U.S.
      • At this point we would only be looking into countries where 1) we have legal entities, as those team members are employees or 2) countries where team members are hired as employees through one of our PEO providers. For everyone else, team members are contracted as independent contractors so general employment law would not apply.
  3. Nomination

    Engineers normally claim shifts themselves on this Google sheet of schedule. To ensure we get 100% coverage, the schedule is fixed one month in advance. Engineers claim shifts betwen two and three months in advance. When signing up, fill the cell with your full name, Slack display name, and phone number with country code. This same instruction is posted on the header of schedule spreadsheet too.

    At the start of each month, engineering managers look at the schedule for the following month (e.g. on the 1st March, they would be considering the schedule for April, and engineers are claiming slots in May). If any gaps or uncovered shifts are identified, the EMs will assign those shifts to engineers. The assignment should take into account:

    • How many on-call hours an engineer has done (i.e., how many of their allocated hours are left)
    • Upcoming leave
    • Any other extenuating factors
    • Respecting an assumed 40-hour working week
    • Respecting an assumed 8-hour working day
    • Respecting the timezones engineers are based in

    In general, engineers who aren't signing up to cover on-call shifts will be the ones who end up being assigned shifts that nobody else wants to cover, so it's best to sign up for shifts early!

  4. Relay Handover

    • Since the engineers who are on call may change frequently, responsibility for being available rests with them. Missing an on-call shift is a serious matter.
    • In the instance of an ongoing escalation no engineer should finish their on-call duties until they have paged and confirmed the engineer taking over from them is present, or they have notified someone who is able to arrange a replacement. They do not have to find a replacement themselves, but they need confirmation from someone that a replacement will be found.
    • In the instance of an ongoing escalation being handed over to another incoming on-call engineer the current on-call engineers summarize status of on-going issues in #infra-escalation and in the issues by the end of their stretch of shifts, to hand over smoothly.
    • For current Infrastructure issues and status, refer to Infra/Dev Triage board.
    • If an incident is ongoing at the time of handover, outgoing engineers may prefer to remain on-call for another shift. This is acceptable as long as the incoming engineer agrees, and the outgoing engineer is on their first or second shift.

Coordinator

Given the complexity of administration overhead, one engineering director or manager will be responsible to coordinate the scheduling of one month. The nomination follows the same approach where self-nomination is the way to go. On each month tab in the schedule spreadsheet, directors and managers are encouraged to sign up in the Coordinator column. One director or manager per month.

The coordinator should:

  1. Remind engineers to sign up.
  2. Assign folks to unfilled slots when needed (do your own due diligence when this action is necessary).
  3. Coordinate temporary changes or special requests that cannot be resolved by engineers themselves.

Rotation Schedule

See the Google sheet of schedule. In the future, we could embed a summary of the upcoming week here.