All posts by patrickhubbard

10 years of DevOps: With the hype cycle moving on – what’s next?

This year marks 10 years since the term DevOps was first coined, during a now legendary presentation at a Toronto tech conference.

Anyone who’s seen the 90s brawler film Fight Club will know—the first rule of Fight Club is: you don’t talk about Fight Club. All those years ago, IT professionals weren’t part of Fight Club—but a small number formed their own underground DevOps club. But even though the first rule of DevOps Club is, “always talk about DevOps,” it’s taken a decade to catch on in a significant way.

Finally, DevOps doesn’t seem so underground. And like many actually-good-for-you approaches, the small movement of IT professionals pursuing a better vision for operations management, is being consumed by the vendor hype cycle. Capitalising on this, many vendors have plastered their websites with DevOps SEO terms to market a multitude of dubious DevOps-in-a-box solutions.

Those truly familiar with the process will already know—DevOps needs to be initiated internally. Its success doesn’t lie in third-party solutions; it lies in people and culture shifts. Despite lots of companies today claiming they’re “doing DevOps,” many still experience the problems solved by agile ways of working. In SolarWinds' 2018 IT Trends Report, IT pros named inadequate infrastructure and organisational strategy as the top two barriers to achieving optimal IT performance.

The good news is, hype cycles around trendy IT terms and solutions inevitably come to an end. In the next few years, when vendors and commentators have shifted their attention to the next buzzword, DevOps will be given room to grow organically and reach its true potential.

The waiting game

Once industry commentators have had their field day and moved on from DevOps, the developers who created the concept for themselves in the first place can own it once again. It’s these developers who, from firsthand experience, know about the IT challenges and goals today’s enterprises face. Once DevOps is aligned to address these common problems, it’ll become a concept you can better apply in IT environments.

All enterprises must understand, however, DevOps—real DevOps—will take time. Developers and Ops work in fundamentally different ways, which could spark arguments and disagreements in the first days, even months, of DevOps working. Management should hold their nerve and let these initial difficulties run their course—because once they have, these teams will be well on the way to DevOps nirvana.

DevOps is a process made by technologists, for technologists—external pressures will only hinder the process. Let’s take virtualisation as a case in point. Virtualisation was once the “cool” new concept every enterprise wanted to adopt. Like the situation today, vendors were putting pressure on data centre professionals to prematurely introduce virtualisation with subpar software and servers. Technologists resisted and waited until they were ready—these wholesale technological shifts aren’t simply “bolt-on” solutions. Now we can’t think of IT operations without virtualisation.

Despite its uniquely transformative potential, the adoption of DevOps is ultimately following the same blueprint as many new approaches before it. There’s been the successful early adopters, and increasingly (some) enterprises have taken up the charge. The suggests we’re moving closer to the hype decline phase, where even late adopters may finally get to enjoy the same longer weekends and faster change rates of the early adherents a decade ago.

The new standard

But where should DevOps be for you? And what would that look like?

In the next five years, traditional operations teams will discover at least a few DevOps practices help solve complex problems thrown up by new technologies. Better, it’s not necessary to accept the full dogma of DevOps or Agile to see systems benefits and new ways of working like DevOps.

The benefits of these remodeled IT environments are only growing in popularity. A 2018 survey of 2,400 developers and general IT professionals, conducted by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, found the use of serverless technology had grown 22% in one year. As enterprises look to reap the benefits of digital transformation and cloud native technologies, the adoption rate of DevOps will only grow.

It’s not surprising cloud native and serverless environments are where DevOps have shown significant early results. Automation of standard tasks and the breaking down of data silos is precisely what’s needed to speed up delivery time and render critical problems easier to solve. Once enterprises begin to witness the impact of DevOps in these high-visibility scenarios—they’re likely to see value and want to extend DevOps ways into other areas of IT.

As adoption picks up, IT professionals and developers will increasingly expect all of their tools and technologies to be totally compatible with DevOps. The runaway success of tools like Gradle, Git, and Jenkins reflects the growing numbers of IT professionals who are prioritising tools speeding up deployment times and facilitate the collaborative ways of working that are fundamental to DevOps.      

It’s not too soon for vendors to start catering to DevOps—in fact, it’s high time they did. The annual Google Cloud Accelerate State of DevOps report analyses data from thousands of IT pros to provide a health check of the DevOps industry. This year’s report found the self-reported number of what Google classes as “elite DevOps performers” has almost tripled, now at 20% of all organisations.

All of these organisations in part identify by tools that compliment how their teams work. The rise of DevOps isn’t just inevitable—it’s evident. Vendors need to stop using “DevOps” as SEO juice and manfully incorporate DevOps-friendly features, especially for established enterprise technologies.

Give and take

Bringing about the future of DevOps will require IT professionals to make some unnatural adjustments. They need to learn and embrace automated deployment pipelines and learn at least the basics of code. But fundamentally, IT professionals need to come to terms with their own reservations about automation and experiment. That’s the path to understanding the value that DevOps brings.

Many hype-weary IT professionals might feel threatened by the automated solutions accompanying DevOps, and understandably so. But checking with peers, most discover even just the automation techniques of DevOps presents greater career opportunities. Increasingly, IT professionals are becoming accustomed to automating their “work” and realise the skills benefits of doing so. Some even report they’d never go back to waterfall operations again. Perhaps it’s just the reduction of overnight and weekend maintenance windows.

The hype cycle engulfing DevOps is finally subsiding, and this is a Great Thing. One by one, developers and operations engineers are discovering DevOps isn’t yet another overlay requirement like ISO, but a set of culture and process changes that realigns IT to meet the goals of today’s businesses. When we see a vendor slide mention CDV (Continuously Delivered Value™) we’ll know we’re on the way. IT teams have always understood this, and who doesn’t like tools increasing speed to market, greater innovation, and being associated with services users appreciate.

Read more: DevOps learnings: Why every successful marriage requires a solid foundation in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their experiences and use-cases? Attend the Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam to learn more.

DevOps learnings: Why every successful marriage requires a solid foundation

The relationship—for lack of a better word—between developers and operations engineers, is more important than many businesses are aware. High-performing teams seem to operate in an easy, DevOps bliss, but for many enterprises, forging new connections to deliver the promise of DevOps ends in frustration and squabbling.

Even the basics, like creating and maintaining useful feedback loops between teams, requires changing attitudes of staff across the organisation. And the requirement for human enlightenment, not simply a yet another technology refresh, is the most critical and overlooked barrier to DevOps success. It’s anathema. We’ve built a world conditioned to seek technical “fixes” first.

The rise in the popularity of DevOps creates excitement—then concern—in boardrooms across enterprises, who hear the hype and fret they’ll fall behind the competition if they don’t embrace this new way of working. Leadership teams the world over have called shotgun weddings between developer and operational teams, many of whom had not only never worked together, but had even been rivals. In the weeks that follow, the scale of the cultural problem becomes apparent.

Developers and ops teams are fundamentally different: they work in different ways, they have different priorities, and they approach problems from different angles. Of course, this means there’s potential for brilliant collaboration, but without the foundations in place to achieve harmony between these disparate teams, “doing DevOps” is doomed to fail.

However, like any great relationship, many organisations discover DevOps teams grow over time, becoming stronger, and encourage a mindset where communication, integration, and real collaboration between dev and ops is welcome. But most significantly, it encourages IT pros and the business to accept a few necessary failures and continually improve—together.

While brilliant for spurring innovation and accelerating transformation, DevOps adoption usually includes some rough patches of disagreement, finger-pointing, and tension. But ask IT team members who’ve made the transition, and most will tell you they’re far more flexible, less stressed, and have higher customer satisfaction than before. Many go further to say they won’t ever go back to a job in a waterfall operation.

The tools for collaboration

While changing team culture is a prerequisite, close on its heels is a reassessment of the DevOps tools your team uses to drive technology change. A well-designed DevOps toolchain frees up software and infrastructure engineers to spend more time working on moving the business forward, like new projects, features, or improvements to architecture, systems, and quality end users notice.

As is always the case with automation, the more time you spend improving your systems, the more they improve. And with DevOps principles, those improvements become data-driven and repeatable, not based on hunches and opinion. Right-tasking your tools will help you break the cycle of primarily fixing things and not preventing incidents in the first place.

The tools employed will vary according to the nature of each organisation. However, some basic principles apply to ensure effective measurement, evaluation, and insight. Because DevOps is relatively new to many technology teams, it’s an opportunity to reintroduce disconnected teams using the tools they already count on, by using them more methodically. Consider tools which emphasise communication, collaboration, and integration first. When software developers, QA engineers, and IT operations all point to the same data in a common dashboard, you’ll likely already see a reduction in friction and faster MTTR.

But what does this look like at scale? With the right tools, developers have easy access to the same performance data operations relies on to monitor effects of their changes on performance.

Almost organically, dev and ops begin incorporating application performance monitoring (APM) tools to move past the limits of estimating user performance from infrastructure metrics. Further, they’ll incorporate APM tools into the development cycles, allowing them to confirm performance and scalability well before code makes its way down the delivery pipeline. Better still, scarce resources like DBAs aren’t pulled in for every CPU or memory alert and instead focus on service indicators like wait time and are free to collaborate on overlooked query or table optimization developers need.

At the production end of the spectrum, IT operations need tools to make collaborating with the extended IT organisation easier. It’s much easier to maintain control over production infrastructure, workloads, and storage with a unified view into application performance. DevOps-focused teams watch application behaviour for changes, anticipated or otherwise, from dev, through QA and perf test, to production. If there’s one driver for unplanned work in ops, it’s being handed an alien application or system with no idea how it’s expected to perform. And Ops hates unplanned work.

It’s important for leaders to ensure the tools supporting the engineers feel natural and valuable to them or they won’t be adopted. While we all have a preferred instrument, the underlying teamwork will discourage bespoke processes, hacks, or brittle workflows. There’s a cultural shift from “what works best for me?” to “what works best for our team?” As an added benefit, teams often incorporate security policy as another monitoring dimension, ensuring governance as business-critical data is dispersed across different dev and ops teams.

As in any relationship, successful DevOps teams have shared more than a few moments of one step forward, and two steps back. You’ll hear some war stories about passionate disagreement, and even occasional disruption between teams. And that’s okay; culture change and individual progress is usually messy, even when you know the endeavour is important.

But when leaders and IT pros alike take steps to minimise the risk of failure by addressing people first, and then the technology, you’re far more likely to use DevOps to full benefit. When colleagues can see the bigger picture and the motivation for change, changing working patterns and habits becomes natural because they all share in the result.

DevOps takes time

A DevOps culture enables most organisations to modernize, and some to even reinvent their use of technology and processes. High-performing, low-friction teams are much more likely to earn freedom to chart their own destinies, shifting from cost centre-like facilities to an agile partner for business growth. When DevOps adoption fails, it’s generally because a few initial failures scare us into retreat, and back to traditional approaches. It’s important to remember that a few rollercoaster moments are important and part of the growth process. Only by personal trial and error in your unique environment can you teams determine how to adapt DevOps principles to your organisation.

A Gartner report entitled New Insights into Success with Agile in Digital Transformation shed light on this. It found that teams with under 12 months experience with a new development process are successful only 34% of the time. By contrast, teams with between one and three years’ experience are successful 64% of the time, while those with more than three years saw that figure jump to 81%. In sum, DevOps requires patience, commitment, and the passage of time.

When we look to the second decade of DevOps, it’s possible we’ll see a rebirth of IT operations as a competitive advantage, not unlike the initial adoption of business computing. Those machines, coupled with a more academic approach to their use, allowed businesses to express their unique value with more speed and less resources. They were successful not simply because of all the tech in their room-sized cabinets, but because they were high-profile, with corresponding investment.

DevOps is a tool like any other, but one which may connect and transform understandably risk-averse, change-resistant teams into a versatile, responsive business partners. And nobody likes living on a cost centre budget. in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their experiences and use-cases? Attend the Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam to learn more.

Riding the cloud-native wave: How to get your strategy in order

“Cloud-native” is an approach for building applications which often incorporates microservices, containers, and cloud services on dynamically orchestrated platforms. There can be a steep learning curve, but these techniques and technologies fully exploit the advantages of the cloud computing model.

Managing application operations through agile DevOps processes and continuous delivery pipelines empowers organisations to more easily build and run new applications in modern environments such as public, private, and hybrid clouds. 

This dramatic shift in how applications are architected and deployed has huge potential for IT, leading to lower operational costs, boosted performance, greater efficiency, and increased business agility. At a broad level, this translates into acclerated speed to market, the ability to support rapid expansion, and more margin as departments pay for additional resources only as needed.

“Disruption-forward” companies like Airbnb, Netflix, and Uber are grabbing the lion’s share of their respective markets due to their newer, faster, more efficient, user-centric interfaces and services. Built in the cloud and without a physical footprint, these tech-driven businesses routinely and safely pivot and scale to meet customer demands at a pace that most enterprises—struggling to migrate from legacy technology—can only envy from afar.

If it ain’t broke…

The problem is, shifting to cloud-native not only requires fundamental changes to IT architectures, but to the entire IT economy that supports it. That’s a transformation IT department heads, met with shrinking budgets, often aren’t willing to—or simply can’t—entertain.

Pundits have talked digital transformation to death for at least five years—a conversation where cloud-native technologies feature heavily. A few businesses have embraced this opportunity with gusto, pulling ahead of competitors or disrupting markets outright. But most enterprises, especially those most risk-averse, haven’t made many changes. Sadly, the IT mantra, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” still dominates.

The IT professional is ultimately responsible for keeping senior leadership teams on track when it comes to the technological investments planned to move the needle for their organisations. But making the case for cloud-native isn’t always easy. It requires not only a financial investment, but a significant IT commitment for the build, from HR on a cultural front, and most importantly, recognition from the COO and board that IT truly is a strategic driver for the organisation.

Managing new complexity

With the promise of greater efficiency, flexibility, and scalability, it’s easy to see why ambitious IT pros and strategy leaders among us are pushing our organisations to move towards cloud-native approaches. But these benefits bring new complexity that needs to be managed correctly.

IT pros tasked with managing the shift to a cloud-native architecture need to devise new and creative methods if they are to successfully manage and navigate this shift. It’s not only about putting the right tools in place, but also the need to create a receptive and adaptable system for continued advancements.

Effective monitoring is essential. The traditional success reporting model favoured by IT teams is the SLA (service level agreement). But SLAs only represent the minimal acceptable performance IT is willing to accept, while management is looking for a report of business success and ROI on transformation investments.

For IT pros looking to make a business case for cloud-native, the right monitoring and reporting systems are critical. Reporting only minimal acceptable performance prevents IT from being part of the discussion. IT must run in close alignment with the business to mitigate risk, allow transformation, and prove success to build budgets—and truly change culture.

Skills worth investing

Even once the business case has been made and management has bought in, the skills gap remains one of the biggest but often overlooked considerations when undergoing huge transitions such as this. The 2019 SolarWinds IT Trends Report found 70% of all tech pros surveyed are not confident in having all the necessary skills to successfully manage their IT environments over the next three to five years. In fact, almost one in five (19%) U.K. IT pros felt unequipped to implement or manage automation and orchestration with their current skillset.

Without improvement in time and budget constraints, the majority of tech pros (70%) say they will be unable to confidently manage future innovations. This reality ultimately puts businesses at risk of performance and competitive advantage losses, making the prioritisation of skills and career development for tech pros paramount.

A turning tide

The cloud-native shift is a rare opportunity for companies both new and established. While most IT departments are just becoming comfortable wrangling their hybrid IT environments, the promise of the next step—cloud-native—can’t happen if we’re too narrowly focused on decades-old metrics and reporting. Keeping the lights on and meeting basic SLAs is no longer enough.  

Fortunately, the tide is turning. Despite challenges, companies are making towards cloud adoption investments that have them more than “running to stand still.” The next few years will see those that adopt a cloud native approach truly soar, while those unable to mitigate transformation risk will fall behind. While it represents new skills investment upfront, this approach pays career and corporate dividends in a fast-changing world. in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their experiences and use-cases? Attend the Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam to learn more.