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Reconstructing DevOps Principles

With seemingly so many interpretations, DevOps can at times seem like an enigma. So, how do we pin down a core set of principles to guide our digital transformation projects?

Ron Gidron
Ron Gidron, May 16, 2017 11:00 am
Blog > DevOps | ARA | Automic Release Automation > Reconstructing DevOps Principles

What is DevOps? What are the universal principles of DevOps? How do you build a DevOps team? These are the kind of questions you often get asked when you’re a self-professed DevOps enthusiast/evangelist/champion. And I know growing up we are taught there aren’t any wrong questions, but as organizations undergo digital transformation, these questions require context and a reference point, else they cannot be answered with meaningful or precise statements. Why?

DevOps is a Constant State of Flux

Even if it was possible to answer these questions, what constituted a definition of DevOps at its inception does not necessarily mean DevOps now. DevOps for one company might occur in a totally different fashion to another – depending on size, tools, frequency of releases and so on. How therefore can DevOps be defined? If nothing is immutable, how do we establish underlying guidelines for our digital transformation projects? How do we erect a framework from which we can construct simple answers to the above questions?

With this in mind, when trying to compose DevOps principles its worth looking at what has or has not remained throughout its evolution. To elaborate, not many tools that were espoused by the initial adopters of the DevOps movement are still used in their original guise. Clearly DevOps cannot be simply defined by its tools.

Means and Ends

But it is not just tools that change. Expectations, methodologies and approaches have all varied. However, one thing that has stayed constant is the underlying intention of delivering faster and to a higher quality. But is this especially unique to DevOps? Or is it simply part of the overarching digital transformation aim?

Indeed, surely this is the end goal of any company, and DevOps is a way to go about achieving this. I would argue therefore it is the cultivation of an environment that enables shared goals and ambitions that is unique to DevOps. Development, Testing, Operations and Security teams should not be considered so much separate units, but rather a unified entity with the different components integrated with one another.

Prior to the advent of DevOps, the infrastructure and environments of the different departments were very distinct – now it is commonplace to see small development teams that include within them an Ops and Testing specialist. And these small teams can work both independently and as part of a larger whole.

Importantly, this means defined roles do not disappear, but that the different elements – Ops, Dev, Test – are working together, with the same end in mind; not engaging in a tug of war, each trying to assert its own authority. And this attitude should flow throughout a company, ideally from the bottom up. Whilst DevOps is in essence a concept that begins on the ground with developers and operations staff; it also needs support and collaboration right through the management hierarchy all the way up to c-level executives.

DevOps ultimately encapsulates a change in thinking, culture and mentality. One that must be in keeping with the mantra that has accompanied the age of digital transformation, ‘every business is a software business’.

Understanding DevOps’ Relationship to Agile Methodologies

DevOps is scarcely mentioned outside the same breath as agile. The two are interrelated and whilst it might seem like the agile methodologies were born out of a new DevOps way of thinking – the truth is more the opposite. DevOps arrived as way to facilitate the extant Agile Manifesto.

To truly reach the desired state of agility in software delivery, silos needed to be broken down. And significantly, agility needed to be brought to the Operations side of things. Indeed this serves as an excellent example of how DevOps thought has fluctuated and moderated over time. Just putting people under the same roof is no longer enough, as barriers would still exist – Operations would still serve as a bottleneck to the release lifecycle. Agility within Development teams alone would not bring the results required, as even if Developers and Operations teams had the same end destination in mind, they would be using different tools and processes to reach it.

Understanding the Future of DevOps

Importantly DevOps is not fad, or a something that will race through hype cycle and then fade away. Because ultimately it is a change in mentality that enables us to embrace agile ways of working and achieve continuous delivery and transform our businesses to digital.

Therefore, while pinning DevOps to a singular definition is almost impossible, there are recurring themes and motifs. Collaboration and communication are inherent.  But it is also an intangible culture; a change in thought processes leading to a change in physical processes. It is this which brings together disparate departments and functions to operate as a one, despite comprising distinct roles. From here we can begin to answer the more precise questions and set out a strategy for digital transformation.

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Ron Gidron

Ron Gidron

Ron Gidron is Product Marketing Director of Release Automation at Automic Software. He has spent the last 14 years in product marketing, product management and pre-sales positions in both startups and large enterprises. Ron's passion lies in the intersection of software, users and market trends.