DevOps: Is it about efficiency or just saving money?

Is DevOps a more effective method for software development, or is it just about cutting costs - or can it do both?
Written by Colin Barker, Contributor
Is DevOps good for developers or operations, or both?
Image: Shutterstok

A little while back I posed the question "what is DevOps and why does it matter?" which prompted one reader to post the response: "The organisation you work for is too cheap to hire the proper level of staff, and dumps both development and admin responsibilities on the same person [so] now you have two jobs to do, but don't worry because your employer won't."

DevOps has been growing steadily: a year and a half ago a survey showed that 66 percent of organisations were either planning to have a DevOps strategy or were already implementing one - no doubt if you ran a similar survey today that figure would be much higher, even if DevOps itself may mean different things to different people.

So how fair is the suggestion that DevOps is really just a way of getting two jobs done by one pair of hands?

Certainly, if you have management "who don't care and just want to get more work for less money - and we know that does occur - that is not an easy situation", said Ovum's principal analyst for IT infrastructure, Michael Azoff.

However, developers faced with the responsibility of taking the applications that they have developed into production should still welcome that opportunity "even if they find that management is cynical and prone to abuse", he added.

Azoff said developers and operations people "need to be pragmatic and embrace the freedom to deploy into production that they will have now in the DevOps world", adding: "I would be amazed if organisations start sacking Ops people because they think the Dev people are going to start doing the Ops job as well. It just doesn't work like that."

Ovum's analyst for cloud and the development side of DevOps Laurent Lachal notes that what is often forgotten about DevOps is that, five years ago when DevOps was first developing as an idea it was a grass-roots movement, it came from the operations people, not the developers.

The operations people were saying they needed to apply "as much structure and determination as the developers applied when they created code". In other words, "operations needed to be treated like software code in terms of versioning, change management and automation", said Lachal.

In addition, the operations people were also saying that in order to learn from developers they needed to work closer together, he said, which meant that instead of "a wall between development and operations, there needed to be full co-operation."

The great example of this is Amazon Web Services, according to Lachal. "If you look at how its management structure is set up, it consists of teams of people and each of those teams is made up of operations people and development people. It is also a customer-centric approach where you start with a very basic product and you improve it based on customer feedback."

But many are still figuring out how to put this into practice.

As Forrester principal analyst Amy DeMartine notes, DevOps is still a work in progress for many companies. "We are still getting there," she said, "but I think in ten years' time we are going to look back and think, 'Why did we do this any differently?'"

In fact, DeMartine believes in the future we will look back at the way we worked pre-DevOps as "a very stupid way of doing things".

But she acknowledged that a lot of the customers of IT are still at the very early stages of DevOps: "There is still a lot of discussion about, what is DevOps?" she said.

"Many staff in Ops think, 'Oh, good we can finally get rid of that Dev', while a lot of the Dev people are thinking, 'Oh good, I can finally get rid of the department of Ops'," she added, leading to a situation where language is a factor hampering progress.

"We favour the phrase 'continuous delivery' over DevOps, which is just one of the techniques that goes along with the tools and technology to create continuous delivery," she said.

And Georg von Sperling, the technology and DevOps evangelist at CA Technologies, believes that the fact that business leaders choose to "lay the entire development and operational responsibilities of the information technology roles upon a single person" is a symptom of their complete misunderstanding of DevOps and the role of IT within business altogether.

According to von Sperling, this is a bigger problem than most managers appear to realise since they are "likely going to be the ones that will be replaced by the digital disruptors within their space - and let's be clear on this: every industry has a digital disruptor either existing in their market or in development in their market".

DevOps doesn't work within the "traditional silos of 'run the business' and 'build the business', said von Spering, but instead shows that "highly specialised machinery, reduced work-in-progress, continuous feedback loops, communication and sharing are the paths to efficiency and effectiveness".

So, let Dev develop and Ops operate said von Sperling, and simultaneously tear down the walls.

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