Over the last couple of months I have started running in to more and more customers who are wondering what that DevOps thing is they keep hearing about. They want to know if they need to start hiring DevOps engineers and which software they need to procure for DevOps. I more or less already alluded to what I think it really is or means in my blog post about The Phoenix Project, let me re-use a quote from the review that I wrote for that book:
After reading the book I am actually left wondering if DevOps is the right term, as it is more BizDevOps then anything else. All of IT enabling the development of business through operational efficiency / simplicity.
DevOps is not something you buy, it is not about specific tools you use, it is a state-of-mind … an operational model, a certain level of maturity. I would argue that it is just a new fancy way of describing IT maturity. At VMware we have had this professional services engagement called Operational Readiness where IT (Ops and Dev) and business owners would be interviewed to identify the shortcomings in terms of the IT offerings and agility, the outcome would a set of recommendations that would allow an organization to align better with the business demands. (This engagement has been around for at least 6 years now to my knowledge.)
Typically these types of engagements would revolve around people and process and focus less on the actual tools used. The theme of the recommendations generally was around breaking down the silos in IT (between the various teams in an IT department: dev / ops / security / networking / storage), and of course reviewing processes / procedures. It is strange how even today we still encounter the same types of problems we encountered years ago. You can deploy a new virtual machine in literally minutes, you can configure physical servers in about 10 minutes (when the installation is fully automated)… yet it takes 3 weeks to get a networking port configured, 2 weeks to get additional LUNs, 4 days to prepare that test/dev environment or even worse the standard change process from start to finish takes 6 weeks.
What is probably most striking is that we live in an ever changing world, the pace at which this happens is unbelievably fast and we happen to work in the industry which enables this… Yet, when you look at IT (in most cases) we forget to review our processes (or design) and do not challenge the way we are doing things today. We (no not you I know, but that guy sitting next to you) take what was described 5 years ago and blindly automate that. We use the processes we developed for the physical world in a virtualized world, and we apply the same security policies and regulations to a virtual machine as to a physical machine. In many cases, unfortunately, from a people perspective things are even far worse… no communication whatsoever between the silos besides through an ancient helpdesk ticketing tool probably, sadly enough.
In todays world, if you want to stay relevant, it is important that you can anticipate as fast as possible to the (ever changing) demands of your business / customers. IT has the power to enable this. This is what this so-called “Operational Readiness” was there for, identify the operational and organizational pain-points, solve them and break down those silos to cater for the business needs. In todays world the expected level of operational maturity is a couple of levels higher even, and that level is what people (to a certain extent) refer to when they talk about DevOps in my opinion.
So the question then remains, what can you do to ensure you stay relevant? Lets make it clear that DevOps is not something you buy, it is not a role in your organization, and it is not a specific product, it is an IT mindset… hence the title: we are DevOps. Joe Baguley’s keynote at the UK VMUG was recorded, and although he did not drop the word DevOps he does talk about staying relevant, what it is IT does (provide applications), how you can help your company to beat the competition and what your focus should be. (On top of that, he does look DevOps with his beard and t-shirt!) I highly recommend watching this thought provoking keynote. Make sure to sit down afterwards, do nothing for 30 to 60 minutes besides reflecting back on what you have done the last 12 months and then think about what it is you can do to improve business development, whether new or existing markets, for your company.