DevOps suffers from something of an image problem right now. If you’re not familiar with the topic, you’re probably assuming it’s something IT managers and developers spend their time doing, and if you aren’t a coder it probably doesn’t apply to you.
You’d be mistaken: Gartner is predicting that 25 per cent of Global 2000 organisations will be leveraging DevOps in their organisations in 2016. Given this, it’s important we understand why DevOps is important, and what it can achieve for your organisation.
DevOps is a term that’s used very frequently for a variety of different purposes, which makes defining it with accuracy difficult. It’s essentially another name for lean software delivery. As you may have read elsewhere, lean software development practices take inspiration from lean manufacturing methodologies: the basic premise is that by only producing what is needed at the time it is needed, you minimise waste, reduce overheads by having less inventory to store, and therefore boost your profits.
These problems faced by manufacturing companies are easily translated to software companies as well, and with most organisations coming to mimic software companies nowadays, lean processes and DevOps are placed in a more important position than before. Businesses such as Target and Lego, companies that a layman would not describe as being software companies in any sense of the term, have made big impressions among their peers with their DevOps transformation stories.
What exactly is DevOps for?
In a word: silos. Typically in organisations large and small one of the most virulent bad habits is the siloing of functions into separate isolated teams which communicate poorly with each other. This creates a whole host of issues, none of which are surprising. Silos make work difficult due to lack of communication and lack of alignment across teams, both of which cause duplication of work and overall absence of coordination amongst the workforce.
Two of the most common work groups that have to work closely together is Development and Operations, and, as you’ve probably guessed, this is where the portmanteau DevOps comes from. But as DevOps specialists will tell you, the name DevOps is unnecessarily limiting: it’s not just Development and Operations who are involved in DevOps, rather anybody and everybody is involved in the process.
In today’s large organisations, the problems of the siloing effect extend far beyond these two functions. Having a streamlined delivery system with different groups properly communicating means that production bottlenecks can be avoided at all cost, and that is fundamentally what DevOps is all about.
Hopefully it’s becoming clear now how far-reaching DevOps can be: it’s essentially a “theory of everything” for technologists. It seeks to describe working procedures that ensure a rapid product delivery, flow, cultural harmony and the technology that underpins it all. This is an awfully big problem to solve, and given this it’s easy to see why DevOps is full of hype, misconceptions and poor understanding. Such broad issues confuse even the experts.
What does next year look like for DevOps?
At a recent event I attended there was one comment that stuck out for me more than others. An IT professional at a large company had said that their firm had actually rebranded DevOps to “rapid release” instead, because the baggage that comes with the name DevOps was too much to handle. Many firms are choosing to do this; the logic being that DevOps is not so much about having a dedicated DevOps team as it is about the journey of moving the company on to better, more efficient practices.
I disagree: DevOps is a job description, but its true value lies in its integration into a unified delivery team that spans the entire deployment spectrum. That’s a vision any quality CEO should have no difficulty getting behind. While the name of the job description may change over time, the essence will not: it is a logical continuation of the agile software revolution, and not a passing buzzword.
My prediction is that in coming years agile operations will come to be as ubiquitous as agile development is now, and DevOps is what will take us there. As 2016 approaches, more and more large businesses will take an interest in DevOps, as more prominent examples come to the fore and demonstrate the tangible benefits of the approach. Next year’s managers will overcome their fear of “jumping on the bandwagon” and begin to truly optimise their operations according to the examples set by lean IT management methodologies.
Jason DuMars, director of technical operations at SendGrid
Image Credit: Shutterstock/Sergey Nivens