Demystifying DevOps – Which DevOps do you mean?

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Demystifying DevOps – Which DevOps do you mean?
by Uday Kumar

DevOps has been the absolute buzzword of the IT world over the last couple of years and yet its precise meaning still remains unclear. Along with Agile, this word represents a promising new wave within software development. Currently, a team of industry experts is collaborating to develop a universal standard for this ambiguous and confusing term. Until this IEEE working group presents their final document, though, those in the trenches will continue to interpret the concept with flexibility, based on a balance of experience and convenience.

Personally, viewing DevOps primarily as a new organizational culture is definitely not my cup of tea. I see greater value in the DevOps focus on maximizing team members’ creative utilization of process and tools.

I have spent a lot of time and researched many sources to determine exactly what DevOps means. Basically, there are 4 categories that are broadly associated with this term. In this blog, we will cover each of these categories.

Apart from DevOps, there are several other related buzzwords like ChatOps, CloudOps, SecOps that are now trending, based on the increasingly popular idea that software development is, by necessity, an integrative process. Apart from DevOps, the rest of these terms are out of scope for this blog.

Category 1: DevOps – Software Developers (Dev) and IT Operations (Ops) – CI & CD

DevOps is primarily defined as Collaboration, Communication and Integration between Software Developers and IT Operations, groups whose fundamental interest areas are usually different and contrasting.

Software Developers (Dev) want to focus on creating new code and applications while IT Operations (Ops) wants to focus on sustainability or quality. When the application is not working as expected, Dev often thinks “it is not my code, it’s your machine”, whereas Ops thinks “it’s not my machine, it must be your code”. DevOps is a term coined to reflect the bridge which must be built between these two teams so that new code gets deployed on the production systems smoothly without blaming one another.

In order to achieve this seamless continuity, we need to have essential process and platform in place; two essential ingredients are CI (continuous integration) and CD (continuous deployment). Tools + Automation is key. Companies will often implement Agile principles to achieve the highest degree of success with CI and CD. IBM BlueMix and Cloudbees are SAAS- based products with ready made CI and CD platforms for many different applications (especially web and mobile). Take a look at this Sonatype slideshare presentation with Architecture types to get a good overview on this topic. It is a very good reference for a deep dive into this helpful technology.

Although the majority of the people with whom I have interacted adopt this view of DevOps, many companies have started realizing that CI and CD implementation is only able to provide a partial fix to a complex problem.

Category 2 and 3: DevOps – Infrastructure (Ops) as Code (Dev)

The IT Operations team is generally responsible for managing the infrastructure of updating the software (OS /Application ) manually. Updating this configuration as part of change management is one essential step of ITIL process. It is crucial that any and all changes be documented, as well as auditable.

Virtualization and Cloud technologies have enabled team members to write the code necessary to create and manage the infrastructure, as well as to control the changes using the updated code. Docker, Puppet and Chef are taking this to the next level. Effectively, all operations that are being performed by the IT team are now getting automated. Coding is abstracting the complexity of managing the infrastructure and developers don’t have to specify required infrastructure as a guideline. The marketing materials of Puppet and Chef reflect the awareness that effective automation of Configuration Management currently falls under the DevOps umbrella. Clearly, the DevOps term provides an apt metaphor for the way to achieve the most stable environments.

Category 2: Internal Infrastructure Management for conducting different levels of testing either on Internal servers or in the Cloud (external).

This setup is quite complex especially for Product companies (not SAAS) as they need to support various product versions/variants. Along with Virtualization/Cloud, technologies like Dockers, Puppet and/or Chef will fit well. Nowadays, professionals are seeing many profiles in this area with DevOps.

Category 3: Managing the production servers especially for SAAS product (application) like Amazon, Google Apps, SalesForce.

DevOps demands continuous automation which means that scripts, instead of people, are initiating automated jobs including continuously deploying software updates. They also use automation to check the health of the system and its environment by monitoring applications, securing the applications, load balancing and dynamically provisioning new servers as needed and even ensuring automatic recovery should a problem arise. Implementation of ITIL-based solutions is also considered to fall within DevOps.

Personally, I don’t like to label automation of IT operations as being “DevOps”. The first reason is because the automation of IT operations has been around long before anyone started using the term DevOps. Addteq, has been automating process since we first opened our company over 11 years ago, long before the DevOps term caught on. Secondly, DevOps is really about improving communication, collaboration and integration between groups including business end user, development, operations among other key stakeholders.  IT automation is essential, but DevOps has an even broader focus.

Category 4: BizDevOps – Product Management (Biz), Engineering (Dev) and IT Operations (Ops)

This new term, though not yet a very popular buzzword compared to the others discussed, may just be my favorite. Probably only heard in the past 2+ years, and quickly picking up speed, this three-pronged word covers the entire value stream, starting from initial customer request straight through to delivery. Unified cross-functional teams work together (collaboration, communication and integration) in order to generate value to the customer, while simultaneously and judiciously balancing the available resources. According to some, this can be considered as Agile (Scrum/Kanban/Enterprise Agile frameworks) along with CI and CD mentioned above. IBM, CA, and Xebialabs continue to promote this categorization under the DevOps label.

 

I use the analogy of physical manufacturing to understand the software lifecycle; the development process mirrors the steps implemented in a manufacturing factory while the cross-functional value chain ( from Product Management to IT Operations ) may be thought of as a manufacturing assembly line. To achieve Enterprise Agility, the assembly line must be continuous. This assembly line is the Continuous Delivery (Development + Integration + Deployment + Testing + Service) platform which is critical to enable continuity. Integrated Release Management or Application Lifecycle Management(ALM) along with Automation are really other terms which refer to the continuous delivery platform.

At Addteq, we provide services for all the above 4 categories. Plus, we are always adding and updating based on the latest industry developments. For more details, you can refer to our extensive slide deck.

We invite customer and community input regarding this timely debate: which category do you regard as “the real DevOps”, is your understanding of DevOps included in our category list?

As there is so much confusion around this word, the next time you say DevOps to someone, it might be helpful to specify to which aspect you are referring. And if someone is discussing DevOps, then don’t hesitate to request clarification, especially during consulting and recruitment. DevOps can’t work unless everyone is on the same page.

We encourage you to add your comments or perspectives.

About the author:

Uday Kumar is Product Manager and DevOps ALM Management Consultant for Addteq, an Atlassian Platinum Solution Partner providing business solutions to enterprise clients. Uday is an Intrapreneur, providing innovation within his organization including his software development centers working towards a vision which he refers to as “Scientific Management of Software Industry”. Uday focuses on reducing all types of operational waste while achieving Operational Excellence.