Magic Pixie Dust for Runbooks

An analysis of runbooks and how they are used in software development.

What is a runbook and what is it used for?

A runbook is a documented set of instructions and guidelines that outline step-by-step procedures for performing operational tasks in a consistent and efficient manner. It serves as a comprehensive guide for handling various scenarios, such as software deployments, system configurations, incident response, and routine maintenance. Runbooks provide software developers and operational teams with a standardized approach to execute tasks, ensuring consistency, reducing errors, and enabling automation. They serve as a valuable resource for knowledge transfer, onboarding new team members, promoting collaboration, and improving overall operational efficiency in software development processes.

The many different types of runbooks

Runbooks can vary in complexity depending on the nature of the operational tasks they cover. Here are different types of runbooks available, ranging from simple to complex:

  1. Basic runbooks: Step-by-step instructions for routine tasks.
  2. Troubleshooting runbooks: Guides for diagnosing and resolving issues.
  3. Deployment runbooks: Instructions for software installation and configuration.
  4. Complex integration runbooks: Orchestrating multiple systems or components.
  5. Incident response runbooks: Procedures for handling and mitigating incidents.
  6. Automation runbooks: Automating repetitive tasks using scripts or tools.
  7. Orchestration runbooks: Coordinating tasks across teams or systems.
  8. Compliance/security runbooks: Ensuring adherence to standards and security practices.

Overall, the complexity of runbooks depends on the specific operational requirements and the level of automation involved. From basic maintenance tasks to intricate integration processes or incident response workflows, runbooks play a vital role in standardizing and streamlining operations across the software development lifecycle.
Get started, run a
$ brew install runme
$ npx runme
Runme for VS Code

What does a good runbook look like?

A good runbook typically consists of the following components:

  1. Title and Description: Clear and descriptive title summarizing the runbook's purpose.
  2. Introduction: Provides context and background information.
  3. Pre-requisites: Lists any dependencies or requirements for executing the runbook.
  4. Step-by-Step Instructions: Detailed, sequential instructions for completing the task.
  5. Parameters and Variables: Defines customizable elements based on specific requirements.
  6. Troubleshooting and Error Handling: Guidance for identifying and resolving issues.
  7. Validation and Testing: Suggestions for verifying successful completion.
  8. References and Resources: Links to additional documentation or related resources.
  9. Versioning and Change History: Tracks updates and revisions made to the runbook.
  10. Contact Information: Details for seeking assistance or providing feedback.

By incorporating these components into a runbook, it becomes a comprehensive and valuable resource that provides clear instructions, promotes standardization, and helps streamline operational processes.

Managing and storing runbooks

Software developers store their runbook documents in various locations depending on the specific needs and preferences of their organization. Some common storage options for runbook documents include:

  1. Document Management Systems: Centralized storage for runbook documents with version control and collaboration features.
  2. Source Control Repositories: Runbook documents stored alongside source code in version control repositories like Git.
  3. Knowledge Bases and Wikis: Platforms for creating, updating, and categorizing runbook articles with easy search functionality.
  4. Intranet or Internal Portals: Dedicated sites or portals for secure storage and access to runbook documents within an organization.
  5. Runbook Management Tools: Tools like Azure Automation or Ansible Tower with built-in storage and management capabilities for runbook documents.

It's important for software developers to choose a storage solution that aligns with their organization's infrastructure, security requirements, collaboration needs, and accessibility preferences. The chosen storage location should ensure that runbook documents are easily accessible, well-organized, and securely maintained.

Runme: Markdown Made Runnable for Effortless Runbooks

What is Runme?

Runme is a tool that streamlines the execution of commands in markdown files, such as It offers a command line binary for running markdown workflows, a Github Action for continuous integration and testing, and a VS Code extension that enhances authoring by enabling one-click command execution and seamless integration with services. With Runme, executing runbooks written in markdown becomes effortless and efficient.

Why should I use it?

With Runme, markdown files become powerful runbooks, offering enhanced convenience. While preserving their original rendering for non-Runme users, markdown files can now provide interactive notebooks in VS Code or feature-rich terminal experiences for projects. Runme supports a range of tools to organize and define workflow tasks, allowing the use of different technologies within the workflow. Crucially, your markdown remains within your codebase and can be tested alongside the associated code, ensuring seamless integration and reliability.

Key features

  • Runme is an open source project with community support. It offers the easiest way to operate runbooks using enhanced markdown.
  • Your markdown files / runbooks remain within the repository. Ensuring easy access and version control.
  • Runme runbooks can be executed dynamically using command identifiers and categories. Accommodating any tech or tools.
  • Any tech/tools can be used in these runbooks. Task behavior can be customized for intuitive execution.
  • Tasks interacting with common services or tools provide a better user experience. Custom cell rendering improves output understanding.
  • Runme for VS Code enhances the markdown authoring experience. Deep linking and cloning into a Runme runbook from the web is possible using VS Code.