In its simplest form, DevOps is, among other things, a business practise which ensures greater collaboration between the development and operations function within the organization, the Holy Grail for most businesses! Development often considers operations too regimented, and operations tends to consider developers too wishy-washy. Finding a middle ground can be a tricky task.
But this is where DevOps fits perfectly; a cultural shift which enables collaboration between development and operations. It’s an ideology which strengthens communication, collaboration, integration and automation.
There are various nuances of the definition, but is more or less the same irrelevant of who you are talking to, but the use-case can vary. Not dramatically, but the output of DevOps can depend on the organization which you belong to, and the business case for the cultural change within the organization itself.
What is refreshing is that DevOps seems to be one of few concepts/technologies/ideologies which doesn’t seem to focus on being more cost effective. Almost every use case for DevOps focuses on proactive business benefits, as opposed to simply reducing CAPEX/OPEX.
The business applications for DevOps are potentially limitless, though here, we’ll focus on three areas; speed of delivery, improved quality and greater control/security.
First and foremost, speed. Speed is defining almost every facet of the digital business landscape, as well as consumer expectations. If you’re not working fast enough, your boss will start looking over your shoulder, and if you’re not releasing products fast enough your customers will buy elsewhere. In short, if you’re not fast, you’re not in business.
“DevOps enables IT to move applications from development and into production as quickly as possible,” said Brett Hofer, Global DevOps Practise Lead at Dynatrace.
“DevOps can also ensure testing doesn’t occur too late in the development lifecycle, to maximise its potential value. If you don’t integrate automated testing throughout development, operations teams will have to repeat tests manually every time a configuration is made, and problems will be found too late to make vital changes,” said Hofer.
The concept of DevOps brings development and operations teams together, ensuring that the team are working in a complimentary manner. The essence of collaboration which is driven by DevOps allows teams to work towards the same objectives to ensure that product delivery is more efficient.
“If companies align toolsets so teams are able to share insights and cooperate effectively, they can ensure everyone is working toward the same goals and that everyone is measured against the same benchmarks. With a unified view of performance data across teams, DevOps gives employees a unified comprehensive outlook that translates into an overall competitive advantage,” said Hofer.
Speed to market is all well and good, but this does not necessarily guarantee you will have the most effective product. An alternative objective for DevOps is evolution and continuous evaluation.
“As a DevOps user, Salesforce has seen benefits in several areas,” said Pauline Dufour, EMEA Developer Relations team at Salesforce. “The continual iteration, testing and collaboration that DevOps involves means it is much easier to incorporate customer feedback into products and to do this more quickly.”
“This has a big impact on our customers as we really do include much of their feedback into our product design and upgrades,” said Dufour. “The DevOps approach also enables us to be more innovative and nimble – values that are core to our company. Continual collaboration and iteration means that we are able to deliver continual innovation.”
While there are other uses for the concept, Salesforce have seemingly prioritized product relevance, keeping themselves ahead of competitors. Here, DevOps enables the team to update the product offering, building in new features and answering the call of customer feedback, while minimizing downtown and disruption to customers.
“In fact we believe that unless businesses adopt an open, integrated approach they will find themselves displaced by digital disruptors, as we’ve seen with Uber and Hailo in the taxi industry,” said Dufour. “For organisations with a less collaborative and open culture, DevOps may be harder to implement, but I believe it is definitely worth the effort – it can turn your development into a competitive advantage.”
Alongside Salesforce, the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) have also utilised this methodology of continuous development to develop its new product offering Digital Content Store. The offering is being trialled currently by five universities, and will enable CLA’s customers to more effectively manage extracts which are under licence, as well as making the content more widely available for the students.
“I’d define DevOps as a culture which enables IT (as a whole, not just Development and Ops) to be more productive and efficient,” said Adam Sewell, IT Director at the CLA. “Which in turn means they can be more reactive to changes in the market, more responsive in terms of delivering solutions to customer (e.g. by taking feedback from customers actually using new products early on in the product lifecycle and being able to develop and release new features faster and with confidence) and ultimately, be more innovative as a business.”
As with every other aspect of the community, security is another consideration here. While most people would now consider themselves cloud experts, let’s not forget that it is just entering the mass market. Most buyers are continually concerned with security, robustness and reliability. DevOps presents a very simple solution.
“In product development data has to be both accessible and secure,” said Ash Ashutosh, CEO at Actifio. “It’s a tricky balancing act, made all the more difficult by excess physical copy growth. More data copies will just increase the ‘attack surface’. So the idea is to create fewer physical copies, decrease the number of security targets, mask sensitive data, create an audit trail and reduce overall risk.
“The control of sensitive data starts with the reducing excess physical copies. What’s essential is that the system incorporates all key technical standards and multiple levels of data security that will address physical, virtual and hybrid environments. It’s fast, simple to understand and operate. It supports and helps to reinforce broader enterprise security strategies.”
Although the question of cost will always arise, as we can see from the examples above, early adopters of cloud technologies and derived methodologies (including DevOps), can create new business opportunities, launching brands into new markets and attracting new customers. Cloud, DevOps and all the other buzzwords in this space are more than just a means of reducing cost.