If you saw this tech job advert, how confident would you feel that you could fit the bill?
Digital transformation and innovation is a competitive differentiator for almost all types and sizes of organisation. Agility in delivering innovative IT systems and the ability to run them reliably and cost effectively is critical. This importance gives rise to the DevOps concept and, in turn, the demand for awesome talent who possess; development, process engineering, cloud automation/scaling, business & communication smarts. All in one human being!
DevOps aims to break down the barriers and conflicting priorities that often exist between development and operations teams. This allows them to work together, delivering systems into production reliably, safely and rapidly, and to operate and support them more effectively. Talking to folk from Netflix, Sky, Camelot, Betfair and many, many Banks they are all doing it…and doing it very well indeed.
What does ‘good DevOps’ look like?
DevOps is a culture rather than a specific technique or technology and NO you can’t buy a tool to fix it, here’s why. It aims to develop a collaborative working relationship and foster adoption of a common set of objectives to deliver IT services that provide strategic value to the business. DevOps is heavily associated with a set of techniques collectively know as Continuous Delivery, which is a synthesis of concepts from lean production, continuous integration and continuous deployment. Walk into a ‘new’ IT team REALLY wired and connected to the business and it’s more like a trading room for a Bank than a library. I have seen in the past screens full of network diagrams and traffic lights, now two digits are on the 2 x 3m plasma screens – how many times have we deployed today! After spending time with Josh Corman this week CTO of Sonatype I now hear of Rugged DevOps adoption which is the next logical step on from folk who want to take Continuous Delivery and add security into DevOps patterns.
DevOps or OpDevs?
The distinction between the roles of development and operations means most developers do not have the depth of and few infrastructure and operations experts have the requisite software engineering skills. It takes deep operational knowledge to build software that performs reliably in production. It also requires deep infrastructure knowledge to undertake complex infrastructure automation tasks and scale cloud systems effectively.
Although functional testing automation skills are now relatively widespread, DevOps can only work if testers are able to automate testing for the factors that matter most to operations, such as performance, resilience and security.
Is DevOps worth it?
Talking to customers of our Enterprise team I have heard challenges that have pushed traditional delivery approaches to new levels. Therefore, the benefits of a DevOps approach far outweigh any potential difficulties in aligning the two transparency-limited silos. It delivers systems to their business faster and reduces risk of production changes through automated non-functional testing and shorter development iterations. In addition, it automates service management to support operational objectives and improves understanding of all layers of the production environment stack, helping to prevent and resolve production issues. So it’s worth it, even 10 years ago I have been banging this drum when I worked for Marc Andreessen at Opsware. Opsware was arguably the first real cloud automation platform acquired by HP for $1.6B in 2007.
Our clients have also found the differences are easier to overcome than originally thought; typically, a change in culture is the issue rather than a change in technology. Successful DevOps requires careful management of organisational and cultural change in addition to acquiring the right skills. Delivery of IT services is similar to a car production line: speed of delivery and quality of the finished article are determined predominantly by the weakest link in the chain. Who knows it might even be a chance to re think Dr Demings’ 14 stone tablets.
WARNING: Keep hold of your tech talent and skills – Shortage Ahead!
There is no doubt that the adoption of a DevOps culture is having a significant impact on businesses. New IT skills are critical, the job ad at the top of this post is now not an uncommon requirement. In your own IT org find your tech ‘horses’ in the domain, train them in new cloud technologies and set them free on new apps and cloud infrastructures. ‘Treat them right’ or risk loosing them to more enabled businesses with a clear digital strategy and culture. Finally a service is needed to induce new young tech ‘foals’ into a defined DevOps career path with guidance on how to become a DevOps ‘unicorn’. This service should help train them in soft skills as well as tech skills and then offer a placement service into an Enterprise whilst undergoing the transformation.
Watch this space!