Why do we need DevOps?


“On September 8, 2006, thousands of Chicagoans visited Marshall Field’s, which for years had been Chicago’s town square. Meeting under the clock at Marshall Field’s was a Chicago tradition.

On September 9, thousands stayed away. Why?

Because on September 9, Marshall Field’s changed its 126-year-old name to Macy’s (Macy’s acquired Marshall Field’s). The store was the same, it was selling the same stuff but the familiar name was gone, and Chicagoans demanded the familiar”.

Is DevOps a real movement or an attempt to redefine something familiar – Agile/Scrum. In early 2000 Agile development faced similar problems. They published a manifesto, which served as some guidelines for people to actually implement. Then, they developed more specific frameworks like Scrum, XP that gave people a clear path as to what to do to be Agile. Yet the success of agility depends on comprehensive scaling of agility at the practice, structural and cultural level – just making culture statements is a simple wishful thinking.

Lack of clarity breeds inertia

DevOps intentionally lacks a clear definition. Many pundits say it is more of a philosophy. DevOps is an umbrella term, with many, already well-established frameworks and best practices underpinning it. So what are the best practices and how they are different from the existing best practices in the Lean Agile world?

Very few people would agree with the goals of DevOps, and even of they agree there is hardly any who would know how to practice DevOps or achieve those goals. Several others identify DevOps with some tools for CI/CD. So why DevOps? Why DevOps is adding to the vagueness instead of simplifying agility?

A movement for cultural shift without any move

“DevOps is the culture shift in enterprise IT”. Proponents argue that you have to think of DevOps as a cultural movement, one that emphasizes communication and collaboration, not just between development and operations, but across the entire spectrum of business.

So how would DevOps initiate a new culture in the company? Would it be a zeitgeist of 21st century software development or harbinger of cultural revolution within an enterprise? You just can’t say “we need culture change” and expect people to change their culture.

DevOps may solve companies’ past problems but…

By definition DevOps means close collaboration between Dev and Ops (operations). If you don’t have monoliths, if you are set up like Microservices, you are completely automated, you can release into production 3 times a day…. why would you need DevOps? DevOps in my opinion is an attempt to provide some Agile response to the problems of big monoliths, big Ops, big support where no one is accountable for the code. So why wouldn’t you chip away the monolith (large systems) instead of asking Dev and Ops to collaborate more.

Probably DevOps does not tell how to build a modern enterprise based on the foundations of social, mobile, cloud, and big data, the four pillars of digital transformation. They simply assume the monoliths will be there and enterprises will continue to bask in the glory of monoliths and supporting structures forever.

Please feel free to counter my ideas and I would love to get some meaningful responses.

Ashok is an agile thinker, innovator, writer, and entrepreneur. Ashok specializes in helping companies adopt and improve their use of agile practices to build extremely high-performance organizations.

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