The case for DevOps

DevOps is a portmanteau changing the way a lot of organisations do business.

It may sound like a Doctor Who character but like 'Brangelina' or 'dramedy' – Hollywood speak for a famous couple and a genre-crossing movie, it’s a combination of two elements.

"It’s more than cultural change. It has to be total change."
Scott Coulton, Senior Software Engineer, Puppet

"DevOps is the practice of operations and development engineers participating together in the entire service lifecycle, from design through the development process to production support," Ernest Mueller says in The Agile Admin blog.

"DevOps is a new term emerging from the collision of two major related trends. The first was also called 'agile system administration' or 'agile operations'; it sprang from applying newer Agile and Lean approaches to operations work."

"The second is a much expanded understanding of the value of collaboration between development and operations staff throughout all stages of the development lifecycle when creating and operating a service, and how important operations has become in our increasingly service-oriented world."

In this case, the new term derives from the merging of (systems) development and operations.

DevOps is the engine found under the hood within vibrant and born-on-the-web online companies such as NetflixSpotify and Amazon.

The reason they – and businesses all across the globe – have picked up this latest business trend is one which will never go out of fashion: who doesn’t want to deliver more – better, faster and cheaper?

Its proponents claim DevOps offers significant advantages – shorter lead times to system deployments (which include all manner of good things like: new or expanded functionality to the systems customers or colleagues use, enhanced security, improved navigation and interface design), a lower incident rate for problems and much faster recovery times on the occasions there are problems – all of which add up to greater speed to market and a greatly increased capability to respond to changes in the market.

By dramatically reducing the size and complexity of deployments – and automating the deployment processes – organisations are moving to ‘continuous deployment’.

As each change gets introduced it is possible to see effects on performance and, most importantly, how users and customers respond - which in turn informs the preparation of subsequent changes according to current business requirements and production demand.

TEN DEPLOYS

The term DevOps was first raised by Patrick Debois in 2009 as part of his presentation Ten deploys per Day.

Apart from the a total alignment between developers and operations teams the automation of the software delivery processes is a common feature DevOps teams use to improve the quality and speed with which platforms may be updated.

Alex Balk, Igor Goulko and Scott Coulton are among the leaders, engineers and architects who will be presenting at the DevOps Talks Conference in Melbourne on May 11 and 12.

They will share their experience and insights from running complex technical and cultural changes required to implement DevOps effectively.

CONTINUOUS DEPLOYMENT, CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT

“We know we’ll never achieve perfect. Products or services can always be improved,” Igor Goulko, Head of DevOps Practice at CharterMason says. “DevOps speeds everything up. There is a growing list of organisations who are literally deploying a hundred or more changes every day.”

“It creates a real buzz when people can see ideas coming online so much faster. It creates options: the time saved can reduce waste and cut costs to increase profitability, or it can allow more time for innovation.“

WHAT’S THE SECRET RECIPE?

Alex Balk, soon to arrive in Melbourne for the inaugural DevOps Talks Conference, says DevOps can be implemented by any organisation – there’s no secret recipe – but warns a disciplined approach is needed across a number of fields and capabilities.

Balk has been instrumental in creating a leading DevOps capability at Outbrain, a platform which helps drive content from publishers and marketers of all sizes (including some of the world’s leading brands) into world’s largest and most vibrant marketplace.

Outbrain is part of the Plus100 Club and make more than 120 deployments per day.

“It might sound like an impressive number, but guess what? We have literally stopped looking at it. We take it for granted,” Balk says. “We’ve since focussed on accelerating other aspects of development and release like code quality, load testing, and the introduction of new technologies.” 

Outbrain now operates across a network with 8,000 physical nodes in numerous geographical locations. 

“DevOps has allowed our business to scale and flourish; we’re providing 250 billion monthly recommendations to the more than 500 million monthly users of our services,” Balk says.

Scott Coulton, Senior Software Engineer at Puppet, says some aspect of DevOps is on the roadmap of every enterprise looking to seriously engineer a digital transformation.

“It’s important to understand digital transformation, the adoption of agile working techniques and DevOps practices represent more than just technology and process change,” he says.

“It’s more than cultural change. It has to be total change.”

While he admits such profound change is challenging – and can be expensive – he says the investment pays off by adding new capabilities and opening new markets.

“The establishment of the automation department of General Motors in 1947 forever transformed the industrial manufacturing industry,” he says.  

“The implementation of DevOps offers a similar transformation for the future of an IT department.”

Matt Nicol is a contributing editor at BlueNotes

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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