What is DevOps?

In our previous article, we examined the crisis that is now emerging within traditional IT and began to examine how DevOps could provide some of the solutions needed to address the crisis. But what exactly is DevOps and how can adopting some or all of these philosophies help IT departments avoid becoming irrelevant in the digital World?

It often surprises people that DevOps was initiated within the Operations side of the equation. Although it has now become a movement that is fond of drawing parallels between the agile, fast paced, creative and iterative approach of Development harnessed to the slow, waterfall, risk averse, process-governed World of operations, the original inspiration came from the latter group who saw that understanding the needs of developers and embedding operations within the development cycle would lead to significant benefits.

One of the inherent problems with DevOps is that there is no single definition, no single body is responsible for the development of a common taxonomy, and so defining it is difficult. Gartner has produced a DevOps definition of ‘a change in IT culture, focussing on rapid IT Service Delivery through the adoption of agile, lean practices in the context of a system-oriented approach’.  The key here is that DevOps is a philosophy and requires, in most traditional organisations, a change in culture.

Culture is notoriously difficult to define, but it is possible to break the concept down into a number of discrete components that are measurable.

  • Engage the Business
    • Establish/Acquire the Relevant IT Knowledge and Skills
    • Create Cross Functional IT Processes
    • Create Cultural Harmony Within IT
  • Create the Culture and Business
    • Clearly defined business strategy and objectives
    • Educate Business Stakeholders
    • Clear translation of business strategy into IT objectives
  • Establish the Infrastructure, Tools and Eco-System
    • Build the Right Infrastructure and Tooling
    • Select the Right Partners, Suppliers and Support
    • Underpin with Security and Compliance Measures

By establishing measurable components of the overall culture we are able to then assess an IT organisation against these criteria to determine how mature it is in DevOps terms. The maturity of an organisation against these criteria is not simply a measure of DevOps but a measure of the readiness to adopt a new Operating Model that will equip the organisation with the tools necessary for the rapidly changing IT agenda.  It is perhaps not too dramatic to say that meeting these objectives will save the traditional IT function from obsolescence.

Thus, it can be seen that ‘DevOps’ is, in fact, a broad philosophy that requires an organisation to embrace a number of core elements. At Attenda we believe that moving to a new mode of operation, with a new Operations Model, will create the foundations needed for a move to a DevOps philosophy.  It is key that IT functions realise that the move towards the new Operations Model will take time and require much discussion both within the various parts of IT, and between IT and the rest of the business, before any fundamental change can be achieved.

In our next article in the series we look at whether DevOps and ITIL are mutually exclusive.


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