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When it comes to designing, building and deploying software, organisations need to grow up, according to Chris Swan, chief technology officer of cloud networking specialist, CohesiveFT.
Swan doesn’t put it quite as sternly as that, though: he prefers to talk about achieving a higher level of ‘design maturity’, based on a three-stage process that applies to almost all industrial design.
At the earliest stage of design, he says, you design for purpose. Next, you design for manufacture, and then, at the highest stage of maturity, you design for operations. It is at this final stage, he adds, that a DevOps style of working within their IT teams becomes a prerequisite.
If this seems like a vague or oblique way of looking at things, Swan has a helpful analogy to offer. “The example I typically use is the car,” he says. “We start off with a horseless carriage, onto which someone has strapped a combustion engine - that’s design for purpose. Then along comes Henry Ford and designs a factory-built car that is created out of a whole set of practices that allow for mass production - that’s design for manufacture.”
“Then you reach the most interesting stage: design for operations. If we look at a modern-day car, BMW and Toyota, for example, will see cars not as a one-off, standalone purchase, but something that comes with a range of service offered over the product’s lifespan,” he continues. “As soon as a company starts selling these services, that changes the design ethos - you’re designing for operations and thinking about all the implications, costs and needs associated with the product’s lifespan.”
So how does all this apply to software? “Well, if we transpose that three-stage process onto the history of corporate IT, we’ve seen exactly the same thing going on,” he says. “We saw design for purpose in the earliest computers and the software that organisations ran on them. We saw design for manufacture in the emergence of packaged software. And today, we’re seeing design for operations in software, predominantly in the software-as-a-service space.”
In other words, companies now need to be designing and deploying software in a way that is optimised for the end-to-end cost of ownership of that software - apps shouldn’t be too high maintenance. SaaS vendors understand this, says Swan: it’s how they achieve the economies of scale and competitive advantage in their market. And, within their IT teams, they can only achieve it by minimising inefficiencies between development and operations, hence the need for DevOps.
But as every company increasingly becomes a software company, says Swan, DevOps can no longer be just for lean start-ups. A lot of IT professionals understand that - but actually achieving a DevOps style is about far more than tools and skills. It involves a fundamental cultural shift, he says - and he’s made it a goal to play an active role in helping organisations achieve that transformation.
“What I’m trying to do is move the conversation about DevOps away from automation tools and go a lot deeper: what’s actually going on in an organisation that succeeds at DevOps? What we learn is that it can’t be achieved by buying tools and hiring people with DevOps in their title. It’s pretty fundamental and demands a deeper approach to cultural change.”
But there’s much to gained, he adds. “The prize on offer here is startlingly better efficiency in how you deal with software - and much, much better results. Most companies are still in a ‘design for purpose’ phase - and, as a consequence, they’re figuratively still chasing around after a horseless carriage, rather than a Toyota Prius. Change can’t happen until a business realises it’s in the business of software - that’s a prerequisite to the practice of DevOps.”
Chris Swanwill present
, as part of the Data Centre Expo event at