DevOps Hipster

IT loves a trend and right now there is nothing more hipster than DevOps, it’s a constant topic of conversation, there’s even a DevOps novel (check out the excellent Phoenix Project), but why, what is it all about, can I buy myself a DevOp?

It’s a topic that I’ve just started to learn about and thought that I’d share what I’ve found so far by way of a DevOps intro BLOG.

Let’s start with what DevOps isn’t;

You can’t buy a DevOps

It certainly is not a product, you won’t find a DevOps as a SKU from your favourite IT supplier, nope you certainly can’t go buy a DevOps.

It’s not a framework

I don’t think DevOps is a framework or a methodology either, it’s not an ITIL or Agile, it’s not a set of processes laid down that you qualify in and follow. This isn’t a criticism of those approaches, but if that’s what you want, then you won’t get that with DevOps. It can certainly be a part of a methodology, a DevOps culture in a more formal framework I would suggest is fine, but it isn’t a framework in itself.

What is it then?

If you can’t buy it and it isn’t a framework, then what it?

I referenced earlier The Phoenix Project, which is, genuinely, an IT novel that looks at the trials and tribulations of our hero Bill Palmer at Parts Unlimited, a fictional account of project delivery in business (it is much more engaging than it sounds!), A friend of mine said;

“if you’ve not read The Phoenix Project you probably don’t understand the challenges of your customers”

Now while that may be a little strong, certainly reading it has given me a whole different view of how modern businesses technology departments are challenged. In a world that changes increasingly quickly, we cannot allow our competition to be more agile than we are, delivering services faster and better and taking our customers with them.

In my opinion, it’s an attitude, a cultural shift, a different way of working, of attacking the problems we are presented with. It’s the idea of bringing together disparate groups inside an organisation to ensure the delivery of better and more timely solutions to solve the challenges that modern organisations face.

Why is DevOps even a thing?

For many of us working in IT it’s fair to say we’ve seen real changes over the last few years in how we deliver technology, be it virtualisation as a more flexible way of deploying servers and desktops. Smartphones, which have changed the way we interact with technology and consume applications or, of course, the cloud.

The way we consume cloud applications and infrastructure is possibly the final nail in the coffin of “traditional” IT deployment, we need a new server, bit of software or service, what do we do? wait 6 months for traditional IT to deliver? or do we jump over to AWS or Azure, credit card In hand and order it, having it delivered in minutes and ready to go.

These changes have moved us from a world where we were OK with an IT project taking months to deliver, to one where, if we do that today, we’d probably be looking for a new job.

It is this that has driven the need for, not only an organisations IT team, but for the entire organisation to look at new ways to react more quickly to changing business needs and challenges.

How do we make sure Internal IT doesn’t become redundant?

How do we then make sure that as an IT team, or even as an organisation, we don’t become redundant?

Let’s face it, we love the convenience of the app store or a cloud deployment, so why wouldn’t we want that in our business? Why not be able to deliver a new service with a couple of clicks, a system that is automated, built on templates, accessed by a catalogue and deployed the same way every time, it has lots of benefits, from efficiency to security, so we are all doing it aren’t we?

Well maybe not, because, it can be hard, our developers aren’t talking to test, who aren’t talking to infrastructure teams and often IT isn’t talking to the business and the business isn’t talking to IT. The more responsive our organisations need to be to challenges, the less acceptable this becomes and the more pressure IT comes under to deliver, often leading to short cuts which can lead to problems and failures.

It is this that has made IT and business sit up and look at new ways of delivering solutions and of course DevOps is one such way. An approach that allows us to speed up and de-risk project delivery, encourage better communication between what the business needs and how those deploying technology can help them to achieve it, as we all know modern IT cannot be the department that says “no” to everything.

To do that we need to embrace new practices, technologies and ways of working, but importantly, not just IT, the entire business needs to embrace this way of thinking or else it will fail.

But we don’t do development, is there a point to DevOps?

Maybe the most fascinating part of DevOps for me, Is I think it goes beyond just ways to get software delivered faster, it can definitely stretch more into the daily lives of IT departments in more “traditional businesses”.

If we look at DevOps practices, like deployment templates and desired state configurations, we can adopt them right into daily operations, the idea that my deployments are delivered against my company standard, every single time is very attractive. Think about securing data, having the ability to have a desired and secure state quickly re-applied to a machine is very powerful, both from a management and audit perspective.

Is DevOps for me?

Of course, I couldn’t say and I’m certainly no DevOps expert, but from what I’ve seen so far, the DevOps mentality certainly has significant benefit as we look to modernise how we manage and deliver technology to our businesses and in my opinion moves beyond the scope of just software development, I can see possibilities in how we run our IT in organisations of all types.

And whether it’s DevOps or something else, there is no doubt, to ensure we remain relevant to our organisations, we need to modernise our approach to IT, how we talk to our businesses, how we understand their needs and how we ensure we get solutions into our organisations quickly.

I hope these initial DevOps thoughts have answered some of your basic questions and if you want to find out more, I can certainly recommend The Phoenix Project and below I’ve pointed out a couple of other useful resources giving a range of insights into starting a DevOps practice.

Thanks for reading.. now go buy yourself a DevOp!

Microsoft Channel 9 DevOps Channel

Tech Interviews Intro to DevOps with Richard Fennel of Blackmarble

A great 20 minute video discussing DevOps from NetApp Insight (Where you may hear the quote I mentioned earlier!)

Gene Kim’s The Phoenix Project

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