Show some love - Summer retreat 2021
One event, over 500 people, countless good ideas and probably the biggest video call in TNG history: Our motto for this year's summer retreat last Friday was "Show some love". As always, there was a lot of discussion and the sense of community at TNG was further strengthened by the exchanges in virtual coffee breaks and during joint leisure activities. We are proud of our biggest virtual retreat so far and thank the organization and tech team for a seamless event.
Der erste TNGler in der Schweiz
We're off into the big, wide world: we are becoming even more international!
With colleagues living in Bulgaria, Hungary, Austria and Australia, on the 1st of July, we will welcome our first TNG employee based in Switzerland.
We are looking forward to many lines of code (in "Schwyzerdütsch") and hopefully delicious fondue in the coming weeks and months.
Are you interested in joining us as a software consultant? Then apply here: https://tngtech.jobs.personio.de/
Animated Buttons in the t3n magazine
TNG lectures in retrospect
Digital formats have never been more important than during the pandemic. Our employees were able to continue to network, educate themselves and share their knowledge via virtual lectures and workshops. At the beginning of the year, two of our colleagues gave two guest lectures, including a workshop, as part of a computer science class at the Technical University of Munich to show the students the practical application of Haskell in everyday work. On this occasion, TNG also awarded a prize to the best students of the semester for a special project. In the spring, our staff gave no less than three talks or presented showcases at the OOP 2021 conference, including one on "Brain Computer Interfaces Demystified - Can Thoughts Take Control?". The TNG talk "Deepfakes 2.0 - How neural networks are changing our world" is much loved and has been given at several conferences, such as CodeDays and JavaLand 2021, since the beginning of the year alone. The topic of deepfakes has also been featured several times on television, including Galileo and Leschs Kosmos.
Winter Retreat at TNG
Learning by doing - that's the motto of our annual winter retreat. In small groups, we code, tinker, ponder and discuss - the topics are as diverse as our colleagues.
At this year's retreat last Friday, March 19, exciting topics such as "Smart Home with Home Assistant", "Self-built video chat - how hard can it be?" or "Quantum Computing with Qiskit" were on the agenda. Sounds exciting? In the next weeks you will find project reports on our Linkedin page.
Even though we were not able to celebrate and feast together in a hotel in the mountains this year, our colleagues were of course still taken care of. Each of them received a surprise snack box, delivered to their door, which they could open and enjoy throughout the day at their leisure.
We also didn't forget to have fun! In the evening there was a wide selection of activities including painting, model building, a cooking class, and much more.
From the ocean to the model - the Glomar Explorer in Lego
At the Big Techday 2019, the journalist Josh Dean spoke about the secret "Azorian" mission from 1974. The CIA wanted to salvage the sunken Russian submarine "K-129" with the "Glomar Explorer", a ship specially designed for this purpose. All was planned and executed in secret, without the knowledge of the Soviet Union. Even though the mission was only partially successful, as the submarine broke during the recovery, the Explorer was a technical marvel. However, a functioning model has never been built, as far as we know.
Challenge accepted: TNG contacted Pawel Kmieć a.k.a. "Sariel", a highly creative Lego model builder, who'd already presented his inventions and design work at the BTD 2017. We brought the idea, budget and enthusiasm, and Sariel took on the task. His work in progress was shown at the BTD 2020 and since then, completed - Thanks, Pawel!
The model, which is three meters long and not only looks extreme, also swims in real life and is able to grab a model submarine with its gripping device. So while we hope for the Corona virus to be pushed back by vaccines, our big model is also patiently waiting in our office for the summer we are all longing for - and a swimming pool...
Atlassian apps ready for Data Center
Using Confluence Data Center or Jira Data Center? Great! The most popular apps developed by TNG are now available for you.
Atlassian discontinued all server products last year. Because of this, the data center products will become even more important in the future. We are following this trend and have revised some of our apps for use on data center products. Maybe you can find something of interest for you?
- Multivote & Enterprise Survey: Conduct surveys inside Confluence
- Page Gardener: Keep your Confluence pages up-to-date
- Table Enhancer: Enhance your Confluence table by adding row numbers, sorting and showing a complete line
Big Techday 2021 – now in autumn
Since 2007 TNG has organised the Big Techday: an annual science and technology conference with a focus on IT. There will definitely be a Big Techday in 2021 as well. But it will be postponed from May to September 2021, so that there is a better chance of it - at least partly - taking place in person. In any case, TNG is determined to make it a fantastic event with many diverse and fascinating talks.
Modern identity and access management: Configuration as code for Keycloak with Terraform @TNG
Consider a company that grows steadily in employee numbers and the amount of web services it uses. Additionally, consider the time spent (wasted) logging in to many of those web services separately each and every day – for each employee. The advantages of a company-wide identity and access management (IAM) including a single sign-on solution (SSO) become quite apparent. Keycloak uses open standards to authenticate users of a company's internal applications, and also supports external services, such as Slack or Zoom. Unfortunately, it lags behind on what has become the standard for maintaining IT systems: Configuration as Code (CaC). That's where the Terraform Keycloak Provider comes into play. Here at TNG, we have adopted and contributed to this quite mature open source project.
tl;dr: We contribute to and use a Keycloak provider for Terraform to manage our authentication server. Quick and reliable iterations on this very critical infrastructure component are now possible using our usual software development methods and high standards.
We compared several candidates with respect to the required additional development effort and our stability goals. The Kubernetes Keycloak Operator is a relatively young project and thus not battle-proven enough for our purposes. Another way to abstract the Keycloak API is the Keycloak Ansible provider. However, here we had non-optimal experiences from previous projects, including a challenging state of the tool's documentation. The third candidate we looked at and finally chose to use, was the Terraform Keycloak Provider. Importantly, it supports LDAP user federations as well as an adequate number of Keycloak's role mappers and it enables automated provisioning alongside manual configuration.
At some stages we had to patch the provider. The maintainer, Michael Parker, reacted quickly and we collaborated on our pull requests. By now we gathered quite some experience extending and maintaining Keycloak via Terraform. To us, it seems as straightforward as manual configuration in the UI. Terraform modules hold our client configuration and allow us to tune and test different parameters quickly. Any misconfiguration can be quickly fixed by rolling forward or rolling back to a working version. Furthermore, we mitigate missing features in the provider by completing the configuration manually. This hybrid approach also allows lightweight experiments by falling back to the UI.
After transforming our Keycloak configuration into code, the migration of our Keycloak instances to Kubernetes was a non-event. As it should be.
What do think? Feel free to reach out in case you have questions or need some support!
TNG sponsors Advent of Code
Puzzle Advent calendars are all the rage - and so is the Advent of Code, an Advent calendar with small algorithmic puzzles. A number of colleagues use the daily challenges as finger exercises or to learn a new programming language. We even have an internal leaderboard that shows who was the first to find the correct solutions. So it is only natural that TNG help support the Advent of Code as a sponsor. Eric Wastl, the brains behind the Advent calendar, was a speaker at our Big Techday 2019. Have you cracked all the puzzles yet?