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Building a DevOps culture for the hybrid cloud

hybrid
(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/Nattapol Sritongcom)

The tumult of 2020 has seen many companies accelerate their transition to the cloud. Along with the usual challenges that accompany a cloud migration, many organizations have found that the reality of their cloud journey has markedly differed from their original vision.

In particular, many organizations have found that a pure-play public cloud does not solve all their infrastructural challenges - instead, they have found that they’ve had to work across many public cloud providers alongside their own private cloud solutions to maintain business continuity. Rather than going with a simple pure-play public or private cloud, businesses instead need to embrace a hybrid cloud environment.

The reason the hybrid cloud is such a good fit for many organizations is because it’s well suited for the complicated world of day-to-day business operations, which often calls upon businesses to harness the benefits of both public and private cloud capabilities. However, a hybrid cloud infrastructure that addresses complex business and organizational needs will itself need to be more complex than a pure-play public or private cloud alternative.

To make sure that both the public and private parts of a hybrid cloud infrastructure talk to each other, technical teams will need rigorous training and know-how. However, to make a hybrid cloud viable in the long-run, teams also need to adopt a new way of working and thinking entirely that brings together the development and operations teams. In many cases, adopting a DevOps culture will prove key to ensuring the hybrid cloud delivers on its promises, and it will be essential to obtain buy-in from your team. Why does DevOps matter for the hybrid cloud, and what can you do to help your team transition to it in this context?

The DevOps way

The adoption of DevOps sees development and operations teams combined and the processes that usually occur between them automated. DevOps is well-suited to the hybrid cloud, as it allows teams to quickly alter the way they deliver applications, which allows them to adapt to changes in hardware, software, and architectural practices relevant to their private and public infrastructure.

In practice, the breaking down of traditional departmental silos that a DevOps culture brings leads to more developments, more rapid lead times, and less time lost on redoing work. Through these efficiency increases, DevOps also drives teams to adopt a continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) paradigm, where different teams of developers continuously build on software in parallel, which reduces errors and speeds up deployment times even more. This generates a virtuous cycle, with the greater efficiencies among teams encouraging a CI/CD paradigm, which in turn drives up a team’s efficiency.

Moving to DevOps - which includes educating your team and securing their support for the change - will be somewhat disruptive initially, as it necessarily means ending the traditional processes that siloed team members have become accustomed to. The result, however, is worth it. Ultimately, you’ll find you have a team that is much better prepared to deal with changes to technology and new developments in your public, private, and on-prem sites. This will make you more resilient to crises or disruptions, while it also helps to provide improvements and iterative developments to your services and infrastructure more efficiently. 

New technologies accompanying DevOps

Moving to DevOps also encourages organizations to pick up new architectures and technologies such as microservices, as these help in automating processes and cutting down the time it takes to iterate on services. Taking apart traditional, monolithic services and breaking them down into microservices creates common tools and a common language across operations and development teams, which is important when dealing with the complexity of the hybrid cloud.

This is all in addition to all the other new technical knowledge that needs to be developed for a hybrid cloud transition to work. You should develop a well-crafted training program, in collaboration with vendors who are familiar with hybrid cloud and have also proven themselves with many other teams that have made the hybrid cloud transition.

Culture and DevOps

DevOps, along with bringing with it new procedures, also represents a significant cultural change. As a starting point, your organization should work to get teams to communicate more with one another, and to make sure both development and operations teams understand each other’s processes. The key to making this work is encouraging teams to freely communicate with one another so they can break down traditional departmental silos and make intra-departmental collaboration feel natural.

To start to break down the departmental silos between dev and ops teams, you should encourage both teams to look at how their counterpart works. Encourage your dev team to spend several days working with the operations team, seeing their processes, and noting how a production rollout works. Then ask your operations team to look into how many service tickets or steps it takes for a developer to request a new virtual system, so they know in practice how easy or hard it is for devs to build or iterate on systems. This will help both development and operations understand what the other team’s workflows look like, and how their own workflows impact one another.

When you embark on your hybrid cloud journey, your adoption of DevOps will likely be an incremental process. During this process, you’ll need to take the time to make it clear that this transition will bring about faster deployments, fewer mistakes, and greater technical robustness. By making the benefits of this transition clear to your team, you’ll secure the vital buy-in and confidence in the transition that’s needed to make it work. When they look back on it, your team is almost certainly going to find that the DevOps culture that you’ve created has improved the quality of services for users. Your new combined DevOps team will also find that they’ve benefitted from a much more straightforward, flexible, and robust set of processes - in many regards, they’ll emerge the biggest winners of this transition.

Martin Percival, Solutions Architect Manager, Red Hat