How to Create a DevOps Culture
Collaboration has extended to the IT department through growing adoption of DevOps, an approach whereby developers and operations people work together efficiently and effectively. But without careful planning and investment, enterprises will not successfully create the DevOps culture necessary to succeed.
Just as IT departments have seen the best-laid collaboration software implementations sometimes fall short of business departments' ambitious intentions, implementing DevOps is not always a simple transition. Roles and goals change. Reporting structures can shift. Long-held beliefs and procedures may disappear. Automation replaces many manual processes, introducing new tools and applications.
"Changing the behaviors and culture are fundamental to the success of a bimodal IT approach. We estimate that, by 2018, 90 percent of [infrastructure and operations] organizations attempting to use DevOps without specifically addressing their cultural foundations will fail," said Ian Head, research director at Gartner, in a statement. Under Bimodal IT Mode 1 is traditional and underscores scalability, efficiency, safety and accuracy, while Mode 2 is non-sequential, and emphasizes agility and speed, according to Gartner.
There are three components to DevOps, said Ronni Colville, vice president and analyst for IT operations management research at Gartner, during a webinar. The first is collaboration, she said.
"It really is about empowering people, bridging development and ops together, bringing teams together that look at the life cycle of an application. The second pillar is really about thinking about ops becoming more like Dev in a way that they have to be more about codifying the infrastructure, looking at the application from left to right, from development to test to QA to prod in a way to make operations as responsive and resilient as developers do in codifying an application," said Colville. "And the third pillar is really about looking at the way some of the more advanced cloud computing companies out there have built their infrastructures. And we're not saying that you need to put commodity hardware and software in place, but they look at things in a much more expedient fashion. And they're not, to be honest, encumbered by what we all face with years and years of IT debt. But it's a way of looking at newer technologies that really become a way for IT to move faster in those systems of innovation."
This year, 71 percent of enterprises will adopt DevOps, according to Rightscale's 2015 State of the Cloud Report. Overall, 66 percent of businesses will use DevOps in 2015, compared with only 6 percent in 2014, the study found. Larger companies are more likely to turn to DevOps because they want greater agility to cope with their complexity, Rightscale said. That is not to say, however, that DevOps prevail throughout enterprise IT departments.
Although the percentage is high, some larger companies are unveiling pilot programs, not full-scale rollouts, said Alex Henthorn-Iwane, vice president of marketing at QualiSystems, in an interview. QualiSystems develops cloud automation software for building and operating clouds and accompanying continuous automation processes that help organizations deliver DevOps.
"I’d say that enterprise adoption of DevOps is at the stage where a majority of large corporation IT organizations have now gained familiarity with the concept of DevOps. The broad practice of DevOps within major corporations – which essentially requires top-down, C-level sponsorship – is still in quite an early stage," he said. "In a sense, I’d say we’re in the proof-of-concept phase of DevOps still. There are encouraging signs from those PoCs and I don’t doubt that it will take off, but it’s just early days yet for most organizations."
DevOps allows IT to spend more time innovating and less time on maintenance, patching, and other tasks, Sacha Labourey, CloudBees CEO, told Enterprise Technology. Three years after implementing DevOps, the HP printer team went from applying 5 percent of its time to innovation to dedicating 40 percent of its work day to this more productive, enjoyable, and meaningful work, he said.
"To be efficient at pushing value, we need to be better. We can't expect to bring something out 18 months from now. The longer you wait, the more money you have vested into a project, the less easy it is to say you've failed," he said. "DevOps is really about automating the full lifecycle, getting less inertia, more integration, and so on. The way you achieve that is not defined. You can do it the way you want."
There are, however, specific steps enterprises considering DevOps should take, industry executives said. They include:
Mind the Gap
Enterprises should conduct a behavioral gap analysis to determine where they stand and where they want to be, identifying which behaviors to focus on and recognize those they can immediately address, Gartner recommended. In addition, companies should educate employees on the value of DevOps and these behaviors, such as collaboration, to the organization's ongoing and future success, the research and consulting firm said.
The CIO or other c-level executive must proactively support DevOps, experts agree. Since DevOps – and IT – cross over all business divisions, it's vital that other business leaders, as well as the IT department, are involved and enthusiastic about the transition. Although DevOps won't work for all projects, it's important to add this approach to the department's arsenal because of its emphasis on collaboration and high-quality.
"It's one of those changes where typically there is a desire from the bottom to get more efficient. It is IT operations and developers who 'suffer.' They want to be more efficient because they feel they are doing a lot of junk work," said CloudBees' Labourey. "It requires some pretty significant changes in the way a company operates. It's more about focusing on the notion of projects, where everyone will win or lose together. That cannot happen solely on the bottom. There has to be buy-in from the management. It's important to understand if anything is going to change from the top it's going to have to somehow be related. Top management doesn't just do things because it's cool. Justify it."
Choosing the right participants from throughout the IT organization, then selecting an appropriate project helps ensure an enterprise's debut DevOps steps are successful, some experts said.
"Our first advice to companies who want to try something is to pick a team that is motivated and pick a simple project. Find something that's going to work. Take the most basic project and a team that's willing to make it happen and try to isolate it from the rest of the environment so they can really deliver and see the results -- and from there increase the complexity," Labourey said.
Rather than tracking individual results, DevOps requires news metrics that measure and monitor an application's levels of completeness, said Gartner's Colville. This encourages and reinforces the collaborative nature of this philosophy and further removes the "hero" mentality, she said.
"Developers are about code complete. Today the testers are about test complete," Colville said in the webinar. "At the end of the day when we entertain the DevOps philosophy, the end goal is code to production – production-ready code, production release code."
Automation and ongoing, automatic testing throughout development assure enterprises that code has fewer errors even as it's created faster, advocates said. By automating service management, companies support operational goals and developers have more insight into the production environment stack, allowing them to prevent and resolve problems, wrote Nigel Wilson, head of delivery at consulting firm BJSS, in a blog on TechRadar.
Added Labourey: "DevOps is really about automating the full lifecycle, getting less inertia, more integration, and so on. The way you achieve that is not defined. You can do it the way you want. Agile is a great way to do it. It's not the only way."
A growing number of vendors offer DevOps-ready tools designed to quickly build infrastructure as code; others sell DevOps-enabled tools created for "pipeline environments," said Colville. DevOps-capable tools are programs often already in use that fit into the new culture because they address specific areas such as moving artifacts or understand the linkage between configuration tools and environment tools, she said.
DevOps benefits from cloud adoption, in that it can use tools from an array of vendors.
"We're moving into an era where it's more best-of-breed focusing rather than wanting the full suite from one vendor. You can glue together a lot of services from a lot of different vendors, rather than have a massive lock-in. You can integrate those and if today's leader is not the leader anymore you can go and pick the next one," said Labourey.
Avoid a Bottleneck
When DevOps works well, an organization will enjoy faster releases. All these new apps could bottleneck at the infrastructure or cloud if an enterprise hasn't fully developed its plan. It's vital, then, that DevOps also includes cloud and infrastructure teams and domain experts, as well as those who oversee critical enterprise-wide solutions such as databases, experts said.
Finding a pilot project that practically guarantees success reinforces the DevOps decision and provides invaluable lessons to participants. This approach may also work at enterprises where c-level executives offer only lukewarm feedback.
"If buy-in isn’t initially present from the top, then finding like-minded collaborators across organizational boundaries and creating a showcase project where you can demonstrate the practice and results of DevOps is the best move," said QualiSystems' Henthorn-Iwane. "Find a project around a technology that has a clear and preferably external end-user group, because it’s easier for various internal groups to adopt an IT-as-a-Service mentality towards external users rather than internal ones. Also, more consumer-oriented technologies like mobile or e-commerce type projects are also easier to start with for the same reason."
DevOps doesn't necessarily exist solely within an enterprise's walls. Some large corporations have extended external technology providers into their DevOps practices, said Henthorn-Iwane. This creates a higher degree of collaboration, he added.