The Viability of Collaborative DevOps
September 22, 2011
Companies that pay attention to emerging trends and adapt quickly are most likely to succeed, while laggards suffer the consequences of latecomers. The DevOps movement is one of these emerging trends that companies should be taking seriously despite numerous failures by vendors to jump start this area in the past. However, in our opinion, DevOps appears to already be taking root this time and for several very good reasons.
Why is it different this time?
The impermeable wall between IT development and operations is legendary. Despite numerous past efforts to encourage development and operations organizations to work together, “the wall” still exists in most IT organizations today. With this historical record of failure, is the current DevOps movement also doomed to inevitable failure? As an industry watcher who witnessed the past failed attempts to breach the wall, we believe there is something very different about today’s DevOps movement that sets it up for potential success.
Past efforts were driven primarily by vendors who were trying to create a market for selling more software. Development, operations teams and their leaders were less than enthusiastic when vendors presented them with weak value propositions, telling them that development and operations teams “should” collaborate, and it was a good thing to do. It’s no wonder that IT organizations chose to invest in other areas with more pressing needs, and left the wall between development and operations still standing.
So what’s different about today’s DevOps movement? One major difference is a combination of driving forces that reinforce the need for today’s DevOps movement, which present strong and compelling reasons for both development and operations to work together. The main driving force comes from business leaders faced with the need to innovate and respond quickly to increasing competitive pressures. This, in turn, puts increased pressure on IT development and operations teams to deliver new services more quickly.
As a result of the changing business needs, development teams are feeling increasing pressure to create new, innovative solutions rapidly and to respond quickly to changing requirements. This is one of the reasons why development organizations are beginning to adopt Agile development methods, which increase the speed and velocity of software development and changes. It also shortens the development cycle. The velocity of software changes that must be deployed into production pose serious challenges for development and operational hand-off processes that are manual and ill-equipped to handle the frequency of new software releases.
On the other side of “The Wall”, businesses are also exerting pressure on IT operations teams to deploy new, innovative solutions and respond quickly to business needs. This is in addition to meeting existing high expectations that applications run smoothly, and are always available. This further challenges the delicate balancing act for Business Service Management, speeding innovation delivery while maintaining stability and minimizing risk to business services.
So operations and development teams are looking to cloud computing as one alternative for fast delivery of infrastructure and application deployment. Many IT operations teams are already in the process of doing the necessary leg work for cloud computing, which requires standardization, processes, and automation. This preparation work will also help move DevOps initiatives forward because manual deployment methods that worked for waterfall development schedules, with wellspaced periodic deployments, will fail to keep up with the constant and rapid arrival of agile software updates.
Telltale Cracks in “The Wall”
Cracks already appear in “The Wall”, which may be a harbinger of success for the current DevOps’ movement. Several IT organizations have deployed their first cloud initiatives in development test environment deployment. They have chosen the development test environment because it is a low risk, quick return project. But what is most significant about this choice is that it opens the dialog and collaboration between IT operations and development test teams. In my opinion, this demonstrates that “The Wall” is no longer impermeable.
Another indicator of significant cracks appearing in “The Wall” comes from cloud computing early adopters. The development organizations from several early adopter cloud customers saw the pressing need to streamline their service delivery processes in order to speed their time to market and to increase their efficiency. As vendor integrations between the tools did not exist, they launched internal projects to re-engineer and integrate their service delivery processes. These efforts included integrating selected development and IT operational tools, as well as standardizing and employing automation. Through such initiatives, the companies managed to knock down substantial portions of “The Wall”. What is significant about these examples is that development teams were the driving force behind the initiatives. This contrasts markedly with the past, where development teams were typically the ones resisting the change. The resulting payoff for these early adopter companies was faster, more efficient delivery of new business services.
And finally, development tool vendors and operations tool vendors are increasingly delivering capabilities to enable improved collaboration between development and operations teams. In addition, IBM is proposing the adoption of Open Services for Lifecycle Collaboration (OSLC) integration and data exchange standards to enable easier integration across disparate tools. If integration standards are adopted, paving the way for easier integration of disparate development and operations tools, the result would be a significant step forward for the potential success of DevOps’ integration.
The Final Word
There are early indications that DevOps may be taking root this time. Several market forces are at work that place collaboration between development and operations at a critical juncture. Today’s DevOps value proposition is much stronger because of the importance to the business, which moves it from a “nice to do” to a “must do”.
DevOps is not a power struggle to see who wins between development and IT operations. It should be a collaborative effort between development and operations to deliver what the business needs, as quickly and efficiently as possible, as it enables the company to beat its competition.
The good news is, it’s starting to take hold and seems to be gaining traction. Smart development and operations teams should be paying attention and watching this area, if not already starting to knock holes or cracks into their own walls.
*Written by Audrey Rasmussen, Partner and Principal Analyst, Ptak Noel Associates LLC