The Confusing Relationship between Cloud and DevOps

ecs-admin 23rd August 2017

I’ve been hearing a lot lately about how DevOps only really makes sense if your systems are completely Cloud-based. At the heart of this claim is the march of tech progress. The likes of AWS, IBM, Google and Microsoft repeatedly promote integrating DevOps with their PaaS offerings and recent opinion pieces from three of our peers (Article 1, Article 2, Article 3) attempt to show that Cloud is essential for DevOps.

You know what? In a way, they’re absolutely right.

But they’re also absolutely wrong.

We’re all suckers for the benefits of Cloud, but the idea that you can’t benefit from DevOps if you have legacy systems is ridiculous. DevOps, defined in 2009 by Patrick Debois and Andrew “Clay” Shafer is an evolution of Continuous Delivery with an additional focus on people and their role in achieving high performance. It may feel like Cloud has been around forever but it wasn’t in widespread use eight years ago. Some of the core principles of DevOps such as Agile and Lean Software Development have been around since the turn of the century. The lesson? You don’t need to be Cloud-only or Cloud-native to be leveraging DevOps.  

At ECS Digital, we believe that any organisation – wherever they may be on their journey to embrace Cloud – can utilise the DevOps toolbox to help achieve their business objectives, improve business agility, productivity and quality.

Adopting DevOps principles and practices can help companies unlock hidden value in the systems they already have.

Four reasons DevOps is the right choice, right now:

1. Cloud is not always the best option for systems.

DevOps and Cloud offer significant potential benefits for businesses but many of them have significant investments in infrastructure, such as a mainframe. The “Death of the Mainframe” has been touted since the 1990s but the simple fact is there’s no business case to replace many of the systems they host with Cloud-based alternatives. The value of these systems can be further enhanced by leveraging DevOps techniques and future-proofed to ensure that they don’t become a bottleneck in complex end-to-end customer journeys.

2. Cloud First/Cloud Native is not many organisations’ immediate-term goal.

Most of our 200+ clients are considering moving to Cloud, and plan to do so over a 2-4 year period, but few have yet made the move. Cloud migration can be a lengthy process and the decision to do so must be based on business requirements. This includes whether the organisation moves completely to Cloud or takes a hybrid Whichever route they choose, they still need to deliver maximum business value from their existing systems up to the point they are migrated or replaced.

3. DevOps tools are interchangeable. DevOps helps organisations to focus on working practices and culture to achieve transformational speed and quality of delivery. The tools that underpin this are interchangeable across system types, giving long-lasting benefits no matter how an organisation’s systems are organised. Whilst simply moving to Cloud can help businesses to scale, it doesn’t help improve delivery speed or quality by itself.

4. To maximise the benefits of Cloud in the future, you need to begin with DevOps now. To get the best from Cloud, organisations need to adopt new ways of working. Many of the services available from leading Cloud providers are “DevOps” tools in their own right, for example AWS CodePipeline. However as mentioned in the previous point “tools underpin working practices and culture”. Use of these tools is only effective with the right working practices and culture in place.

So what does this all mean?

The tech world – and companies like AWS, IBM, Google and Microsoft, who are constantly innovating – are promoting Cloud as hard as they can. We love Cloud too, but it’s not the answer on its own. Although Cloud offers a number of DevOps-type services and capabilities, it’s not a pre-requisite for DevOps

In fact, we would argue that DevOps working practices and culture are a pre-requisite to maximising the benefits it offers. The Cloud is where you host your applications and services for your customers, it is not how you develop and manage them. That is done by people and the way they collaborate is key.

Sure, if you’re a start-up with a blank slate you can adopt Cloud and DevOps from the very beginning – for most, it’s the ideal solution. But for companies with complicated legacy systems that need planning, time and money before even thinking about moving to Cloud, DevOps can make a very real and very significant difference right now.

Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

If you would like a friendly chat with the ECS Digital team about implementing DevOps into your business, whether you have adopted or are looking to adopt, then feel free to contact us.

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