Bridging the gap between developers and operations, or not

Tech vendors such as VMware are rolling out tools to facilitate closer collaboration between the developer and operations teams with in an organisation, but not everyone believes this is necessarily a good thing.

SAN FRANCISCO, USA -- Technology vendors such as VMware are rolling out tools touted to facilitate closer collaboration between an organisation's IT operations and developer teams, but not everyone believes this is always a good thing. Developers should be singular about building applications and not feel they have to think about managing infrastructures within their organisation. 

During a panel discussion at VMworld 2019 on Thursday, VMware's vice president of product management Paul Dul pointed to the tech vendor's goal to offer tools that would bridge the traditional divide between the IT development and operations teams and asked panellists if the interaction between their teams had improved.  

"I hope not," quipped Stephan Massalt, vice president of cloud labs at Swisscom Cloud Labs. "I'm convinced we shouldn't let developers --specifically enterprises developers -- talk about infrastructure ... they should be focusing on their job. Sometimes, they act like rock stars and think they know everything, and they should not," he said.

Massalt acknowledged that the traditional gulf between ops and developers indeed was narrowing and this was a good step forward, but with recent developments such as the emergence of Kubernetes, developers are increasingly being asked to assume too many roles and think about infrastructure issues. 

He underscored the need to create a conducive environment on which to write good code, giving developers some constraints within which to deploy applications so that critical business policies would be complied with. "You need to put guardrails in place," he said. This, he added, would ensure applications are developed to be robust, consistent, reliable, and able to communicate with legacy software. 

The role of the ops team then is to put in place tools that allow developers achieve that, he said, adding that one of the main benefits of containers was that applications could be built without worrying about the underlying infrastructure. 

Fellow panellist John Paice, platform engineering anchor for Dick's Sporting Goods, though, welcomed closer collaboration between the various IT teams, including security, developers, and infrastructure. These had functioned in silos and the organisation was working to bring down the walls, Paice said.  

Sharat Nellutla, Verizon's associate director, Verizon, added that better communication between both operations and developers would allow for more efficient planning and use of resources. 

At VMworld this year, the virtualisation vendor outlined plans to tap Kubernetes and bridge the divide between the developer and IT operations teams. Project Pacific, for instance, was touted as an ongoing development effort to eventually bring the capabilities of Kubernetes natively into the vSphere platform. 

VMware said it would enable application-level control for applying policies and role-based access to developers and provide a consolidated view of VMware vCenter Server for Kubernetes clusters, containers, and virtual machines. 

In addition, IT administrators would be able to use vSphere tools to push Kubernetes clusters to developers, who then would be able to use Kubernetes APIs (application programming interfaces) to access software-defined data centre infrastructures. In a nutshell, Project Pacific would give the development and IT operations teams a consistent view via Kubenetes constructs in vSphere.

Tanzu can take on Red Hat OpenShift

And this would be core to all future developments at VMware, said its COO of customer operations Sanjay Poonen, who said containers and cloud native models would be native to its infrastructure moving forward, as opposed to being bolted on. 

Speaking to Asian media on the sidelines of the conference, Poonen added that all future releases would be "container-ready", enabling customers to run containerised applications on top, with Kubernetes as the orchestrator.

Asked about competition with the likes of Red Hat and HPE in the DevOps space, he told ZDNet that any company that contributed to the open source community and Kubernetes was "a good thing". That said, he touted VMware's packaged offering for container platforms as being the best strategy in the market. 

He further noted that seven years after it was launched, Red Hat's OpenShift had just 1,000 customers and a revenue of between $100 million and $150 million. In comparison, the collective revenue of Pivotal and VMware's Open Stack was $750 million.    

Poonen said: "So we think we'll be differentiated from OpenShift and have more potential to take Kubernetes into our core platform vSphere than OpenShift can take that into Linux, because there's more container desire in virtual machines than an Linux operations manager. So I feel good about our competitive differentiation to Red Hat.

"That said, yes, Tanzu will absolutely compete straight on with OpenShift, but we also will support customers who pick OpenSihft [and any other competing brand]." 

Based in Singapore, Eileen Yu reported for ZDNet from VMworld 2019 in San Francisco on the invitation of VMware. 

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