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What Is DevOps?

A straightforward examination of why DevOps is more than a very popular (tech) buzzword

Courtney Glymph
Courtney Glymph, February 12, 2016 2:15 pm
Blog > Continuous Delivery > What Is DevOps?

DevOps.is.everywhere. Wait. Let me rephrase that. The phrase “DevOps” is ubiquitous in the global technology scene. It is nigh on impossible to have a chat with any technologist, or journalist for that matter, and not touch on the subject. “DevOps” is one of those buzzwords that nearly everyone wants to talk about and understand, but I have a sneaking suspicion that few people really do. And that’s OK.

According to a recent survey completed by the website TechRadar Pro, “much remains to be done though when it comes to educating the wider business community when it comes to the benefits of DevOps”. More specifically, the survey found that seven out of ten respondents claimed “that they are not familiar with DevOps and DevOps practices with a quarter of those who answered saying that they expect to see small level of benefits from DevOps.”1 I don’t know about you, but these are pretty eye-opening stats. It seems that everyone may be talking DevOps, but not everyone is doing DevOps and far fewer doing it right.

Wait. Shall we backtrack a bit? Before we assume DevOps is the greatest thing to happen to the technology industry for decades, let’s start from the beginning and give some of our novices a lesson in DevOps. I mean, everyone could use a refresher course, right?

First things first. “What exactly is DevOps?”

Here, Wikipedia is our friend. Speaking literally, DevOps, a portmanteau of Developers and Operations, and is defined as a “[cultural], movement or practice that emphasizes the collaboration and communication of both software developers and other information-technology (IT) professionals while automating the process of software delivery and infrastructure changes. It aims at establishing a culture and environment where building, testing, and releasing software, can happen rapidly, frequently, and more reliably”.2

From my understanding (after reading hundreds of articles and a number of books on the subject), DevOps defines a set of practices that, when applied correctly, “emphasizes the collaboration and communication of both software developers and other IT professionals while automating the process of software delivery and infrastructure changes. It creates a culture and environment where building, testing and releasing software can happen rapidly, frequently and more reliably”.3

The thought process is that doing DevOps helps your Dev and Ops guys or gals work closely together, streamline their processes and address any issues that are found easier and faster, or, in an alternate, but equally important instance, control smaller changes and roll back errors quickly. The goal of DevOps is to “merge dev and ops roles together—and the processes they manage—to achieve the overall business goals. It’s all about a common, shared culture and enhanced collaboration. About clearly defined business processes.”4

By embracing DevOps, making it a part of your larger IT and business objectives–will enable your businesses to better compete in today’s always on, 24-7 world.

But DevOps is about culture too.

The concept behind DevOps is ultimately about getting developers and operations to work closely together, which we all know will benefit the business. Put simply “the goal is to reduce friction and increase velocity.”5

In my opinion, the culture aspect of the DevOps movement is what is most striking. In the past few decades there has not been a methodology or framework that shows such promise both for the business and its’ people as DevOps. DevOps is about breaking down the barriers between development and operations, and presents a pathway for these two functions to work together seamlessly.

Historically, Dev teams focused on pushing application updates into development quickly, ensuring faster innovation. Ops on the other hand was focused on stability, control, and reliability. Oil and vinegar, anyone?

The result of this culture clash was that employees did not work well together, creating siloes and operating as two separate teams. As a result, updates, deployments and delivery procedures were not streamlined or executed reliably or smoothly.

These are key issues that DevOps implementation solves.

How does an organization do DevOps...and do it well?

Doing DevOps well has much to do with cultural change and flexibility as it does with adopting various new tools and products. Your organization has to be willing to change, and perhaps change dramatically. The DevOps mindset is one that favors collaboration, speed, agility and a healthy dose of fearlessness. These aren’t always the characteristics of your traditional IT department. But, it’s 2016, and things are bound to change. And fast.

As with any other ideology, framework or methodology, DevOps has to be adopted, wholly, and from the top down. It takes commitment, lots of time and energy, and often a healthy budget, to "do" DevOps. But from the various case studies I have seen, doing DevOps well pays off. For example, Benefits Company Puts DevOps to the 'TASC' and TASC used pipeline orchestration to onboard DevOps.

DevOps is not only a process that engenders cultural change, which in its own right is critically important, but is also enables your hard working Dev and Ops team members to do away with focusing on painstaking manual work. What this means is huge cost-savings to your business. Now we’re talking numbers and the C-Suite will listen. The tangible, bottom line result of adopting DevOps is the ability to measure this change in dollars and cents. We all know this is of utmost importance to your CEO and Board of Directors. When companies like Amazon, Etsy, Facebook and Google have fully embraced DevOps and can tangibly discuss the way it has driven their business, you know you are in good company. Simply put, “it just makes business sense; the risks of not trying it far outweigh the benefits.”6

The promise of DevOps is about increasing your responsiveness to customers, and in doing so, providing solid, substantial benefits to your entire business.

Key Requirements for Practical DevOps Using Application Release Automation

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Courtney Glymph

Courtney Glymph

Courtney Glymph is Automic’s resident Corporate Communications and PR spokeswoman, with a fascination for all things related to Women in Tech, B2B Marketing and Social Media. Originally from New York, but based in London, Courtney is constantly looking for new ways to engage with the global tech community, especially those interested learning more about Automic’s story.