Finding a Place for DevOps Innovation

Finding a true practical definition for DevOps is a big part of using this emerging methodology.

If there was any doubt that DevOps innovation was first and foremost a cultural movement (rather than one predicated primarily upon specific technologies), then the growing influence of DevOps in areas such as UX design should dispel it. The key tenets of DevOps - collaboration, breaking down organizational silos and enabling agile delivery of resources and software - can be just as useful in user experience discussions as in test lab consolidation processes.

As DevOps is embraced by a wider audience, what challenges should technology organizations look out for during the transition to new practices? For starters, there's the issue of actually defining DevOps and figuring out what is unique about it, noted Baron Schwartz. He raised these points in a recent article for O'Reilly Media, in which he outlined how DevOps lacked a manifesto and drew heavily from other movements like Six Sigma and management consulting.

Beyond that, there are the natural difficulties of implementing DevOps at large firms that aren't as nimble and lean as startups. To get the most out of DevOps automation, methodology will have to be matched with sensible decisions about technology that result in quicker provisioning times, easier access for remote contributors and sustainable automation that serves all types of users.

The DevOps dilemma in 2015: Finding a niche for a broad movement

DevOps is both general and specific. It is predicated upon broad principles like collaboration that are applicable across the entire organization. But, at the same time, it also intended to foster a better relationship between developers and operations teams in particular.

These sorts of dualities can make DevOps seem hard to pin down. Schwartz argued as much, saying that DevOps is "fragmented and weakly defined" and in need of a manifesto that would put forth the clear, unique pillars of the movement.

For their parts, though, large enterprise organizations do seem to understand, by their own admissions, what DevOps can deliver, even if they haven't been entirely successful in implementing it. A recent Rackspace survey that polled 700 IT decision makers in the U.S., U.K. and Australia revealed that:

  • More than 60 percent of large organizations (more than 1,000 employees) in the U.K. were familiar with DevOps, compared to 73 percent of mid-sized firms (250 to 1,000 employees).
  • Nearly 40 percent of large firms claimed to have implemented DevOps, while 42 percent of small and mid-sized firms said the same.
  • However, only about 30 percent of big organizations had undertaken the organizational change, such as integrating teams, that often accompanies a shift to DevOps.

The results suggest that established organizations can see benefits in DevOps - e.g., shortening development cycles, moving real-world testing to the left, achieving higher quality software and service deployments - but have trouble executing on their new vision. This isn't entirely surprising, since many firms still have to deal with legacy infrastructure and highly manual processes that have been in place for years.

The cultural changes needed to make DevOps successful can take time, but that doesn't mean that companies have to wait to transform infrastructure to cloud models using DevOps orchestration. Even with a mix of physical, virtual and cloud assets on the ground, admins can choose a cloud orchestration platform that has resource abstraction layers equally adept at automating many different types of infrastructure. Teams can then focus on making the more profound transition to a DevOps culture.

The takeaway: DevOps has been a hot topic for years, yet it is still a vague concept for some. Organizations are looking for sensible ways to implement it and accelerate their IT processes, but doing so will require addressing specific issues such as the persistence of legacy infrastructure and manual processes. DevOps orchestration platforms can help by using object libraries to turn any type of infrastructure into a cloud, smoothing the way for DevOps culture change.

About the Author:

Alex Henthorne-Iwane is QualiSystems’ Vice President, Marketing

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Tags: IT management, DevOps

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