Now more than ever—with today’s constant pressures to provide new and innovative services—IT organizations must encourage and institute a culture of continuous learning and improvement. DevOps, a relatively new approach that draws on agile IT development but goes far beyond, can help IT achieve these goals.
Telecommunications companies are increasingly adopting DevOps as the next logical step in rolling out an agile approach across the enterprise. While it may be difficult to define (just search the Web and you’ll find many varying definitions), in execution it aims to unify development and operations teams and their practices, tools and organizational cultures so the IT organization can quickly deliver optimal services, best meet the needs of their internal and external customers, and foster innovation.
While it’s still early days for DevOps, adoption is accelerating. According to research from Gartner, about 25 percent of Global 2000 companies are expected to adopt DevOps by 2016, and tools to support the work could be a $2.3 billion market by the end of this year. Through closer communication and collaboration, and stressing the interdependence of software development and IT operations, organizations can more rapidly produce more effective, quality applications.
According to a comprehensive study of DevOps conducted annually by Puppet Labs, companies that successfully employ DevOps do see positive results. In fact, in its 2014 study, the IT automation software vendor said that analysis of its survey data shows that DevOps practices improve IT performance, and that “IT performance strongly correlates with well-known DevOps practices such as use of version control and continuous delivery. The longer an organization has implemented—and continues to improve upon—DevOps practices, the better it performs. And better IT performance correlates to higher performance for the entire organization.”
The business benefits from a DevOps-centric approach include:
- Greater collaboration between different stakeholders, leading to cross pollination among teams
- Risk mitigation around critical delivery deadlines
- Ability to push out changes to applications faster
- Path offered to reduce technical debt
- Increased efficiency around automation
Organizations using DevOps are already reaping the rewards as they are able to streamline, improve and create business processes to reflect customer demand and positively affect customer satisfaction. Examples abound in the Webscale world (Netflix, Pinterest and Etsy) but expect to see companies in vertical industries like telecommunications, financial services, healthcare and others that are benefiting from DevOps. One industry survey conducted on DevOps in mid-2013 found that telecommunication businesses are leading the pack; in fact, the survey found that at the time telecommunications companies were almost two-times more likely to be using DevOps (68 percent) than the aggregate of other industry sectors (39 percent). In fact, a total of 88 percent of telecommunications companies said they were either using it or planning to use it.
One of DevOps’ chief goals is to close the long-standing gap between the engineers who develop and test IT capability, and the organizations that are responsible for deploying and maintaining IT operations. Using traditional application development methodologies, it can take months to design, test and deploy software. No business today has that much time, particularly in the age of IT consumerization and end users accustomed to smart phone apps that are updated daily. The focus now is to stay ahead of competitors by quickly developing business applications that can better harness the cloud’s rapid business capabilities. New Age applications that are typically based on mobile, cloud and Big Data architectures are influencing how consumers and enterprises intersect to conduct business.
Culturally, DevOps can open doors for businesses to enable part or all of their IT organization to act as a start-up, free from the conventional shackles of a central, top-down management approach. The DevOps model essentially turns developers into consumers of a self-service infrastructure when using Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) on an OpenStack cloud. PaaS can also help smooth the discord with operations teams who generally dislike the kinds of constant, day-to-day infrastructure changes required in fast-paced, agile application development. This model is a great fit for financial services, especially given the industry’s emphasis on risk management and rapidly changing business conditions such as high-frequency trading, stock market changes, home mortgages or wealth management platforms.
It is important to note that DevOps isn’t just a philosophical exercise. There are DevOps principals, methods (such as Quality Assurance) and practices (including continuous integration and continuous delivery) in place. There are also a growing number of tools, such as configuration management and containers, designed to facilitate DevOps and its principals, methods and practices. In the end, DevOps’ success can be measured with these litmus-test questions: How responsive is IT to the business needs; how fast can IT create new application stacks; and how responsive is IT to market and customer demands?