As it goes in technology, DevOps is one of the latest trends in the worlds of IT and software development. But it can be a bit wily – sometimes hard to define and measure, companies and managers may balk at adapting DevOps, unsure if it’s the right solution for their business needs.
We understand this confusion because DevOps is more of a culture and way of communicating than an easy-to-understand software solution. You can’t simply install some pieces and say that DevOps is working or has changed your environment.
But DevOps may be just what your company needs when it comes to a shift of something. Follow along to see how DevOps can be a helpful lens for shaking things up – plus some examples of well-known companies that have already put it to good use.
What is DevOps?
The proliferation of technology in the workplace has organically divided into two areas of technology operations (hence the name Ops in both terms):
- ITOps, which houses a lot of the back-end technology that supports the workplace. Can include network infrastructure, help desk, computer operations, and server and device management.
- DevOps, short for development operations. This area includes technology that ITOps likely supports with infrastructure, but DevOps instead drives software developers (and other business units) who focus on designing, coding, and testing solutions for business products and business analysis.
While ITOps may be most successful with a series of processes and standard implementations and budgets, DevOps is less controllable because the outcome is often unknowable: how long, how much money, how much manpower will it take to build the right software solutions for the company?
Usually when companies talk about DevOps, they are making a change in how a team, or many teams, communicate about software development. Though DevOps is often mentioned in the same breath as agile development methodologies (as opposed to the older, slower waterfall method), DevOps and agile are not the same things.
Instead, agile and DevOps are often used in tandem. DevOps is a wider cultural shift than the specific processes of Agile methodologies. Think of DevOps as a workflow – it takes the tenets of agile (people, frequent deployment, and automation), but adds in a very social element: communication.
Indeed, communication is the heart of DevOps, which encourages communication across teams and silos, and bringing in the customer when appropriate. DevOps encourages documentation (sometimes a dreaded word) but in the spirit of making things easier: how can we automate processes, how can we share what has been tried and worked (or didn’t), all in support of a larger goal: company growth and success.
This large goal doesn’t immediately offer up clear solutions, but instituting a DevOps approach, whether to a single team or the entire company, often means adding or improving on the following elements:
- Rapid testing
- Continuous deployment and delivery
- Organizational culture with a focus on the community, particularly between developers and IT, though the entire company can get on board, too
What Can DevOps Do For Me?
Because it’s not a single software solution, DevOps goals are not single-minded. A successfully integrated DevOps culture can result in improved software and IT processes, sure, but it can be a lot bigger than that. Needed a tech-friendly attitude change? Want to show your customers that you’re pivoting to become a product that truly embraces technology, making their lives better? DevOps may be the answer.
A lot of articles touting DevOps are theoretical in nature. But we want to show you how DevOps can make changes – large or small. In fact, the success of DevOps can be measured in both technical and business metrics. Common markers of successful DevOps implementation include speedier time to market, thanks to shorter development cycles which allow for increased development frequency. (Changes that both your employees and your customers appreciate.)
Here are three companies who are crushing it at DevOps:
Back in the day, Netflix shipped DVDs of shows and movies. But when they wanted to wade into the streaming world (a very small world at that time), there was no path, infrastructure, or commercial tools to ease this transition. Netflix struggled initially with solutions, which is why consumers were slow to adapt this streaming platform thing. A DevOps culture allowed them to wade into open source solutions and then get really creative: they actually relied on hundreds of volunteer developers to test out what they were building. This approach helped them both identify and resolve problems proactively, most before they reach the consumers.
Today, Netflix continues its commitment to open source and automation, with devs deploying code countless times per day over a hundreds of microservices.
Major software developer Adobe was used to doing things a certain way: building heavy-hitting, pricey programs and releasing updates a couple times a year. But a few years ago, Adobe began embracing the cloud as a way to gain more customers: subscription plans made Adobe products like Reader, InDesign, and Photoshop more affordable, but it also meant that had to learn to continuously deploy software updates. Using a DevOps platform, the company began to better manage and automate deployments. Today, they have rapid development alongside better product management and it has resulted in 60 percent more app development than its pre-DevOps approach allowed.
The vintage and handicraft marketplace is a good example of DevOps as an overarching culture, not limited to a specific team or department. A decade ago, Etsy had a loyal fan base but their slow website and frequent downtime keep them from gaining real momentum and revenue. In a significant shakeup, the company hired a completely new technology management team that quickly replaced its waterfall approach to software development with a more agile approach that has spread across the entire company. This resulted in speedy, frequent software development and today they continuously deliver more than 50 deploys a day.
Getting Started With DevOps
So, shifting to a DevOps way of life can in fact be measured, and its success may easily spill over into areas you weren’t expecting. But how do you get started with DevOps?
Most companies start by bringing in leaders who are familiar with DevOps. Personal training is also essential, however, because no single software solution can usher in a culture shift. Instead, training helps employees understand DevOps ideas and build workflows that are specific to your business or product needs. Because the goal is to increase and improve collaboration and innovation, DevOps training by necessity must be specific to your organization and long-term goals.