DevOps advocates bust myths around use of agile software development in enterprise

Continuous software delivery experts set out why enterprises could be missing out by shunning DevOps

This article can also be found in the Premium Editorial Download: Computer Weekly: How high-speed rail is accelerating innovation

Enterprises risk missing out on the business agility benefits that adopting DevOps can bring because of misplaced concerns about the level of risk to operations.

Despite the likes of Gartner hailing 2016 as the year the use of DevOps hits mainstream levels of adoption, anecdotal evidence shared by day-to-day practitioners of the software delivery method suggests not all enterprises are as keen as others about adopting it.

Over the course of the two-day DevOpsDays conference in London, advocates for the software delivery method spoke at length about some of the misconceptions that persist in enterprise circles around its use.

A commonly held concern, cited by several speakers, was the idea among enterprises that pursing a continuous delivery approach to IT code deployments increases the risk of something going wrong.

Speaking at the event, Kris Saxton, principal consultant of Automation Logic, said the reverse tends to be true.

During his time as a systems engineer, he said his anxiety levels tended to rise the longer a piece of IT kit he was responsible for remained up and running, before going on to experience “post-intervention relief” after the inevitable outage occurred.

“Moving to smaller, more frequent releases gives you that feeling of post-intervention relief more frequently because you’re not playing with massive bombs anymore,” he said.

This sentiment was shared by several other speakers at the event, including DevOps enthusiast and Tripwire founder Gene Kim, who shared data showing firms that use DevOps tend to deploy code changes 200x faster than those who do not.

“When something goes wrong, the mean time to restore services is usually 168 times faster,” he added.

Culture shock

Getting to a point where an organisation is able to securely and efficiently roll-out multiple code changes a day often requires firms to undergo massive amounts of re-organisation to create multi-disciplined and collaborative teams, populated by developers and IT operations staff.

This can prove off-putting for senior management-types who often get final say on these types of projects, unless the department pushing DevOps can demonstrate value from adopting it.

However, without buy-in from senior management, IT departments may struggle to get their DevOps ambitions off the ground on a company-wide level.

“Interest in DevOps is widespread at a grass roots level, but there is arrested development for that to spread in a meaningful way without senior management sponsorship,” Saxton told Computer Weekly.

“Otherwise, you can innovate in a local sense in your silo or team, but you’ll not be able to connect it up to other services to make it meaningful. Your development efforts around innovation will wither and die in the long run because of that lack of innovation and sponsorship.”

To get the ball rolling, Saxton said IT departments should embark on a small-scale DevOps trial to begin with, before sharing the results of this endeavour with senior management.

Metrics to back the point that DevOps can make a difference to the way the organisation is run are important to share here, but they must be presented in a business-savvy way.

“You’re persuading senior management this is something worth doing, so you have to do so in a way and a language that makes sense to them,” he said.

“For example, the main benefit from DevOps to a development team might be the ability to move quickly, but it might work out better [to pitch] it as reducing Opex [operational expenditure]. Both statements are true, but you need to tailor the message to your audience.”

No shortcuts to DevOps 

Another stumbling block for enterprises is the fact that there is not a box of products they can buy to fast-track their way into the world of DevOps, remarked Bridget Kromhout, principal technologist at platform-as-a-service provider Pivotal.

“DevOps is not that shiny thing you get in a box or that you see on your balance sheet and say you will definitely finish with in Q2. That’s not something you can do with DevOps,” she said.

“It’s something you have to choose and do in your organisation. It’s a cultural practice of cooperation and sharing, and it’s not something you achieve through tools alone.

“People think if they get the right tools, if they go to cloud and break down those silos and possibly add some containers, they will have achieved DevOps. Tools are necessary, but they’re not sufficient,” she added.

For organisations that manage to negotiate these obstacles, the rewards can be varied and surprising, with Kim claiming that improving the IT department’s performance can result in financial benefits for the wider business too.

It has been discovered that how a server admin or a developer works can affect profitability and share price, he added.

“When you look at how every organisation acquires customers and delivers service to customers, being 200x faster than our competitors makes a significant difference in the marketplace.”  

Read more about DevOps

Read more on Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS)

Data Center
Data Management