Not very often I am on call for devops issues at work. I am a Data Engineer at Formstack.com but all developers help out with being on call to spread the load. When I am on call I either have to stay home or take my laptop with me wherever I go while ensuring I am close to an Internet connection.

Carying my laptop around when I am on call can be a pain as it is a 15" MacBook Pro. While not over heavy it requires a bulky bag with the power adapter in tow. Recently I was on call and had to run a quick errand down the street. Of course that is when a backend worker became overloaded and I was paged. To my surprise I was able to use my phone to ack the page, login to our metrics app, and see that the problem was already righting itself (it was just a short-lived traffic spike).

That experience got me thinking. I had been lucky because the issue wasn't major and the apps I had on my phone did what I needed. What if, though, I could use a mobile device while out-and-about on call?

Most issues that can be solved by a single engineer while they are on call tend to be limited in scope and just a matter of SSH'ing to a server or two or something like that. Our company policies disallow deploying right before weekends, holidays, and evenings to ensure plenty of resources are around after deploys. We also require at least three engineers be present to make and deply code changes. All of that ensures code is stable while we have staff on call and thusly most issues during those times revolve around rebooting frozen servers, managing workers, or similar.

The result of that is that a full workstation with an IDE is not needed in order to take care of most any on call situation. It seemed obvious to me though that a phone would not cut the mustard. An iPad just might though.

Typically my current generation base model iPad is used for light reading or watching Netflix. Now it has a terminal emulator with an SSH client, access to my work files, Slack, work email, and an SFTP app for easy file transfers.

Unfortunately, the iPad isn't the only computing power needed. I also have a Ubuntu droplet on Digital Ocean setup with my familiar vim and zsh environments.