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How to get DevOps right

Andrew Phillips, VP of DevOps Strategy, XebiaLabs | Feb. 4, 2016
The Dos and Don’ts of enterprise DevOps.

This vendor-written tech primer has been edited to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter’s approach.

There’s little doubt the DevOps movement is picking up. Gartner says DevOps will be employed by 25% of Global 2000 organizations this year.  And while more companies are seeking the competitive edge DevOps can deliver, the transition is not easy or painless. Theenterprise is packed with existing processes, organizations, systems and silos. It can be resistant to change.

Automation can bring speed and consistency, but maintaining visibility and control is a challenge. As we increase velocity, we have to ensure that quality standards are maintained. The ecosystem may be maturing, and there’s a huge diversity of tools, but there’s no clear blueprint for successful DevOps implementation. The Agile manifesto is a set of high-level statements, not a prescriptive set of actionable guidelines.

What can we learn from the successes and failures of others? What are the main prerequisites for DevOps implementation in the enterprise?  Let’s take a look.

* A balancing act.  Top-down engagement is important. We need the highest levels of the organization to sign off and understand the changes that need to be made. They can remove roadblocks, invest resources in the right places, provide support, and imbue authority. They can make DevOps a business priority, but they need to stop short of arbitrary enforcement.

The actual implementation must be bottom-up. Each team must be allowed to figure out which technologies are required, how the delivery process for their system will work, and what makes the most sense for them. There’s no one-size-fits-all blueprint -- you need to leverage each team’s expertise to build the best foundation. A balance of top-down and bottom-up will garner the best results.

* The right skills. Familiarity with automation in one or more of the following -- continuous integration, deployment, testing and quality, virtualization and cloud, provisioning, orchestration, or monitoring, coupled with coding fundamentals -- are key for this new way of handling operations. We need to maintain virtual data centers, virtual networking, and virtual servers. We need to look at efficient resource scheduling and cost models. This means dramatically changing or up-skilling parts of your organization, bringing coding skills into Operations, test automation skills to QA, and adopting a new, experimental mode of thinking for product management.

Everyone needs to build a better understanding of the business and customer. Switch to the idea of small releases for release management, safety through automation, and the ability to quickly cycle or revert for change management. Identify candidates with an appetite for it and make sure they get the training and support they need.

There is an enormous amount of domain knowledge about what it means to run infrastructure at scale that your operations team has and it’s essential to retain that, but they must also be armed with the most appropriate modern tools and the skills to use them.


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