In-Depth

Why DevOps Requires a New Mindset for 'Ops' Teams

As businesses look to become more agile, many experts have long argued a key way to get there is to move to a DevOps model of IT delivery. The case for DevOps is that it promises to ensure more rapid and higher quality app and service delivery, and more rapid response to failure.

"DevOps actually is real," said Don Jones, curriculum director for IT pro content at Pluralsight a provider of training during a keynote address at this month's TechMentor conference in Las Vegas. "It's not something you can buy. It doesn't come with a contract. It is a real concrete thing. It is something you can do."

Jones, co-chair of TechMentor, which, like Redmond, is produced by 1105 Media, emphasized the "ops" side of DevOps in his March 9 presentation. "So far, most of the attention with DevOps has been focused on the 'Dev' side," Jones said. "The problem is everyone only wants to talk about the coding side."

That's because the notion of DevOps is that developers are better IT pros and administrators, Jones added. "Companies get into the mode of pushing out software faster and faster. The Ops side always has always said, 'We can't do it that fast, things will break. We're not going to do anything that might break anything.'"

And that, he said, is the whole point of DevOps. The DevOps process takes development practices like agile software development and finds ways to push those applications and patches out as safely as possible and practical. This shift clearly has ramifications for the IT operations side, according to Jones.

"That means lots of automation," he said. "It means shortening the cycles, shortening the time it takes to be comfortable with something so we can push it out quickly, and shortening the actual deployment process. The current waterfall approach to ops is a little crazy. We spend as much money to make things as reliable as possible, but there is diminishing point of return."

That engenders a fear of failure and a fear of the time it will take to recover from those failures. "The problem with current approach is when we break things, we can't fix them quickly. The whole point of DevOps is to do it faster," Jones explained. "If we fail, we fail with style, but we can fix things quickly. It's not about being agile. It's about being quick."

Jones acknowledged this approach is as much a mindset shift as a procedural shift. "Not every organization is going to be able to pull this off," he said. "Companies have to realize that they can fail, and they can recover from those failures and they can do so more quickly than they do now. It's also essential to realize what is truly mission-critical, and to realize what you can live without for short outages."

This is a significant difference from how IT currently operates in most organizations, which will require full management buy-in, he said. "This doesn't happen unless big management buys off. That's why DevOps is as much cultural shift. We can do this, but business has to want to whole thing. You can't do DevOps halfway." DevOps represents a commitment to how an organization learns, defines, automates and runs IT operations.

The key to successfully moving to DevOps is to fail fast and recover faster. "Take it from a week to I can't even measure it," said Jones, who warned against not changing for the mere sake of doing what has worked in the past. "Not changing is also failing, so failure is an option," he said. "All we have to do 'unfail' a lot faster than we can today."

And just as every organization is different, so too will the characteristics of DevOps be different at every organization. "We get better at changing and failing," he said. "This idea of change with agility and fail with style will always be inherent parts of this."

The next TechMentor conference will take place later this year in Orlando, FL.

About the Author

Lafe Low is the editorial liaison for ECG Events.

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