DevOps. Ten years on.

2019 has been the year of events for ECS Digital. We have travelled as far as San Francisco for DevOps World | Jenkins World, and blissfully ate our way through the dutch cuisine at HashiConf in Amsterdam. Whilst these events are far from a holiday, those lunch time conversations and shared first pint smiles are a particularly useful way to keep a finger – or two – on the pulse of the technology industry. 

One thing that has stood out most for me at these events is the topics that arise during the keynotes. 

Whilst I appreciate this is the very point of the event – to make the agendas as intriguing and beneficial to their attendees as possible – it strikes me as odd that within the realm of DevOps, keynotes about what DevOps is and how you begin are still making the rounds, ten years after DevOpsDays launched their first conference. 

I feel like I’m right back in the middle of the ‘Have you seen Game of Thrones?’, loop – which goes a little like this: 

A – a respectable member of society with excellent cultural credentials: “Have you seen Game of Thrones?”

B – a caveman who is yet to truly understand the life-altering wit of Tyrion: ’No, I’ve never seen Game of Thrones’,

A: ’How have you never seen Game of Thrones. Where have you been living? Do you watch TV?

B: “Yes I watch TV, it’s just never really taken my fancy” 

A: “Taken your fancy?! What are you on about. It’s pretty much a rite of passage and I’m dumbfounded you can’t see so”

B: ‘Well, you know, it’s a lot of investment, and I’m so far behind. Is it worth me biting the bullet now?”

A: “Yes, a thousand bullets if you must” 

B: “I’ll add it to the list” 

6 months later…

A – “Have you seen Game of Thrones yet?”

B – “No…not yet”

And so the loop continues. 

We’re seeing a similar loop in DevOps. 

While some of us are so invested in DevOps we unconsciously doodle the DevOps infinity sign in our notebooks during meetings, there are others who are none the wiser, blissfully getting on with business as they always have. 

I think the most startling thing is that not too long again, we published a blog looking at the evolution of DevOps and how the term itself is beginning to die out. Not because it is no longer relevant, but because as DevOps becomes more commonplace, the term itself will naturally dissolve into the fabrics of everyday business – much like ITSM and Cloud.

And yet, here we are, standing in the beautiful Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh about to step foot into a talk about what DevOps is and how you get started. 

DevOps isn’t the all and end all of a business. Many can achieve business-as-usual (BAU) activity without modernising their current operations. But BAU will only get your business so far. And often, this is where the legacy technology, over-engineered processes and technology debt lurk, hidden behind the safety of ‘it works, why fix it?’.  

It works, why fix it… This is an interesting one. 

It might ‘do’ something, but when was the last time you asked yourself if it actually worked for you? Can it live up to the demands of society today? What is the benchmark you are holding your process against? When was the last time you revised that benchmark?

Those prepared to look beyond good and strive for greatness are slowly unravelling the safety net around ‘it works, why fix it’. You’re not fixing something, you’re improving. And through these improvements you can become more ambitious. 

It’s not about throwing as much new technology as you can at a problem. It’s about looking at your current solutions and objectively measuring the effectiveness of what’s in place. From here, you can more accurately judge areas of the business which are creating technical debt; legacy systems which are no longer fit for purpose; and technology that is still relevant but would be more effective with the support of a new tool or additional training. Duplicated efforts can be stubbed out, successful projects can be scaled and resource can be assigned for a greater degree of R&D.

And this is something a DevOps methodology can help with.

For those still wondering ‘What is DevOps?’, the methodology itself is pretty straightforward. DevOps is when you adopt a set of principles that automate the processes between your Development and Operations (IT) teams. In doing so, you introduce a culture of collaboration, consistency and feedback that enables these once-siloed teams to build, test and release software at pace, and with confidence.

Since DevOps is a methodology rather than a tool, benefits can only be driven by the adoption of its principles, far and wide. The most essential principle being to remove silos where possible and bring teams closer together and earlier on in the process. By doing so, you open communication streams which in turn gives you a more holistic view of your business. From these conversations, you’ll reveal your money pits, your bottlenecks and your diamonds in the rough. 

Whilst simple on paper, asking your business to adopt change of this magnitude is rarely a walk in the park. There is also the small matter of resource. Having the right people to innovate and create at the pace demanded by today’s consumers – and with technologies capable of doing so. 

It’s no secret. The IT industry is suffering from a skills shortage. And whilst deep pockets can attract a notable IT team, this is something that is effecting business of all sizes and calibre. 

The rate of DevOps adoption. The race to release the next industry-changing piece of software. The cry for innovation. All of these are contributing factors to this shortage and it’s not hard to see why. IDC predict that by 2022, 500million new logical apps will have been created worldwide – and at present, there are only 26.4million developers in the world. 19 apps per developer is quite the ask… 

So with so much pressure sat on the shoulders of our IT workforce, what can businesses be doing to prepare? 

Whether we like it or not, change is on the cards and DevOps, in some form or another, will make its way to those mission-critical boardroom meetings. Why? Because stories such as The Unicorn Project demonstrate just how bad things can go if they don’t. 

There’s also the undeniable fact that as our dependency on technology increases, making the way we use technology more efficient and user-friendly will mean looking beyond technology for answers. This is where methodologies such as DevOps really shine. Not only can it bring together the holy trinity of change – people, process and technology – and serve them on a silver platter for you, it keeps them in that order. This means that when you’re six months into your transformation, the people – you’re stakeholders, the investment into your change program – stick around too. 

But we’re back to change. And change is anything but easy. If it was, everybody would be doing it!

The point is, building water-tight infrastructure that can fight off sophisticated cyber attacks; developing environments that are consistent and work for a 1000+ dev workforce; implementing DevOps across a heavily regulated and siloed organisation. None of these are easy. That’s why the IT skills shortage is so hard to plug. That’s why businesses such as BT and Amazon are ploughing millions into training the next wave of tech engineers. That’s why engineers get paid what they do. 

Security DevOps
@StuHirstInfoSec on Twitter, 4th December

 

Whilst my exposure to the DevOps community means introductory talks on the subject will continue to make me smile, I predict a surge of these types of talks at future events. 

With so many new engineers expected to enter the market, events and industry talks are the one chance we have to pass on best practice at a scale that will positively impact the industry as a whole. We can use these conversations to set a united precedent to those following in our footsteps and give the next generation the opportunity to learn from the mistakes we’ve made over the past decade.

Once these introductory talks have created an open dialogue around organisational change, it’s time to get some meat around the bones. This starts with businesses becoming more open about the good, the bad AND the ugly when it comes to their transformation journeys – yep, that includes the failures too.

@SEACONUK tweet, 12th Nov 2019

 

It starts with individuals being encouraged to come forward with new ideas and having space – free of shame – to see if these ideas have legs. It starts with those already in the industry giving back and showing those who have just left their first “what is DevOps talk” the next steps they need to take to see DevOps in action.

While it’s rewarding to see just how far DevOps has come over this past decade, the next ten years are going to see sparks fly at a rate that could compete with London’s New Years Eve firework display, and I can’t wait to see what that means for the industry as a whole. 

 

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Article written by Eloisa Tovee. Follow her on LinkedIn for more insights, or sign up for our monthly newsletter for the latest DevOps news, upcoming events and nuggets of information from those who’ve been in the DevOps space longer than they’d like to admit.

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