SD Times

SD Times: DevOps Reality Check

So you don’t work at Facebook, Etsy or Netflix. Should you join the DevOps movement, now nearing the half-decade mark? With origins in the O’Reilly Velocity Conference, lean manufacturing, infrastructure as code and continuous delivery, DevOps, like agile before it, has captured the imaginations of practitioners, gurus, vendors—and now, executives.

“One of the things that has come out of the wash now that DevOps has moved from a bunch of enthusiastic people to a business problem is that a lot of people start asking, ‘Why are we doing this?’ DevOps is the goal, but it’s not the goal, it’s a means to achieve something,” said Andrew Phillips, vice president of product management for XebiaLabs, a Boston-based deployment automation company. “Ironically enough, identifying that business goal is much harder.”

In addition to defining the big, hairy business goals that faster delivery must drive toward, there’s the question of whether infrastructure as code makes sense for legacy applications. “The continuous-delivery success stories are all in greenfield development,” said Phillips. “The hidden premise is that if you can set things up right from scratch, you can do DevOps. But in a lot of companies, you have to make this work with an existing data center.”

In a Velocity 2013 conference talk entitled “DevOps Isn’t Just for WebOps,” Michael Stahnke, software engineering director at Puppet Labs, said, “DevOps is a little weird. There’s tons of press about it, tons of talks about it, and it’s an echo chamber: The same people talking to the same people talking to the same people who agree with the same people…

“It didn’t seem to apply to me. I was not ever doing 10 deploys a day. I did not have rockstar-ninja-pirates who were ‘the best people ever.’ I worked at a giant company. I was strongly discouraged from writing my own tools… We didn’t have awesome developers; we didn’t have any developers. And it was always in startups. I lived in flyover country.”

Despite all those limitations, in his time at Caterpillar, he applied newfound ninja sys admin skills to remedying the database variance problem at the 85-year-old company and ultimately spearheading a DevOps transformation.

Does the DevOps diet really work?

Along with the increasing number of DevOps victories occurring outside of the cloud, several new surveys are looking at these practices to discover their popularity and how much of a difference they make.

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