Fresh Stats Comparing Traditional IT and DevOps Oriented Productivity

This is a guest post by Krishnan Badrinarayanan (@bkrishz), ZeroTurnaround

The word “DevOps” has been thrown around quite a lot lately. Job boards are awash with requisitions for “DevOps Engineers” with varying descriptions. What is DevOps, really?

In order to better under what the fuss is all about, we surveyed 620 engineers to examine what they do to keep everything running like clockwork – from day-to-day activities, key processes, tools and challenges they face. The survey asked for feedback on how much time is spent improving infrastructure and setting up automation for repetitive tasks; how much time is typically spent fighting fires and communicating; and what it takes to keep the lights on. We then compared responses belonging to those from traditional IT and DevOps teams. Here are the results, in time spent each week carrying out key activities:

DevOps Oriented Productivity Stats

Conclusions we can draw from the results

DevOps oriented teams spend slightly more time automating tasks

Writing scripts and automating processes have been a part of the Ops playbook for decades now. The likes of shell scripts, Python and PERL, are often used to automate repetitive configuration tasks but with the newer tools like Chef and Puppet, Ops folk perform more sophisticated kinds of automation such as spinning up virtual machines and tailoring them to the app’s needs using Chef or Puppet recipes.

Both Traditional IT and DevOps oriented teams communicate actively

Respondents belonging to a DevOps oriented team spend 2 fewer hours communicating each week, possibly because DevOps fosters better collaboration and keeps Dev and Ops teams in sync with each other. However, Dev and Ops folk in Traditional IT teams spend over 7 hours each week communicating. This active dialogue helps them better understand challenges, set expectations and triage issues. How much of this communication can be deemed inefficient is subjective, but it is necessary to get both teams to onboard. Today, shared tooling, instant messaging, task managers and social tools also help bring everyone closer together in real-time.

DevOps oriented teams fight fires less frequently

A key tenet of the DevOps methodology is to embrace the possibility of failures, and be prepared for it. With alerts, continuous testing, monitoring and feedback loops that expose vulnerabilities and key metrics, teams are enabled to act quickly and proactively. Programmable infrastructure and automated deployments provide a quick recovery while minimizing user impact.

DevOps oriented teams spend less time on administrative support

This could be a result of better communication, higher level of automation and the availability of self-service tools and scripts for most support tasks. If there’s a high level of provisioning and automation, there’s no reason why admin support shouldn’t dwindle down to a very small time drain. It could also mean that members of DevOps oriented teams help themselves more often than expecting to be supported by the system administrator.

DevOps oriented teams work fewer days after-hours

We asked our survey takers how many days per week they work outside of normal business hours. Here’s what we learned:

Days worked after hours Traditional IT DevOps Oriented
Average 2.3 1.5
Standard Deviation 1.7 1.7

According to these results, DevOps team members lead a more balanced life, spend more time on automation and infrastructure improvement, spend less time fighting fires, and work less hours (especially outside of normal business hours).

DevOps-related initiatives came up on top in 2012 and 2013, according to our survey. There’s a strong need for agility to respond to ever-changing and expanding market needs. Software teams are under pressure to help meet them and the chart above validates its benefits.

Rosy Stats, but hard to adopt

How we got here

IT Organizational structures – typically Dev, QA, and Ops – have come to exist for a reason. The dev team focuses on innovating and creating apps. The QA team ensures that the app behaves as intended. The operations team keeps the infrastructure running – from the apps, network, servers, shared resources to third party services. Each team requires a special set of skills in order to deliver a superior experience in a timely manner.

The challenge

Today’s users increasingly rely on software and expect it to meet their constantly evolving needs 24/7, whether they’re at their desks or on their mobile devices. As a result, IT teams need to respond to change and release app updates quickly and efficiently without compromising on quality. Fail to do so, and they risk driving users to competitors or other alternatives.

However, releasing apps quickly comes with its own drawbacks. It strains functionally siloed teams and often results in software defects, delays and stress. Infrequent communication across teams further exacerbates the issue, leading to a snowball effect of finger-pointing and bad vibes.

Spurring cultural change

Both Dev and Ops teams bring a unique set of skills and experience to software development and delivery. DevOps is simply a culture that brings development and operations teams together so that through understanding each others’ perspectives and concerns, they can build and deliver resilient software products that are production ready, in a timely manner. DevOps is not NoOps. Nor is it akin to putting a Dev in Ops clothing. DevOps is synergistic, rather than cannibalistic.

DevOps is a journey

Instilling a DevOps oriented culture within your organization is not something that you embark on and chalk off as success at the end. Adopting DevOps takes discipline and initiative to bring development and operations teams together. Read up on how other organizations approach adopting DevOps as a culture and learn from their successes and failures. Put to practice what makes sense within your group. Develop a maturity model that can guide you through your journey.

The goal is to make sure that dev and ops are on the same page, working together on everything, toward a common goal: continuous delivery of working software without handoffs, hand-washing, or finger-pointing.

Support the community and the cause

Dev and Ops need to look introspectively to understand their strengths and challenges, and look for ways to contribute towards breaking down silos. Together, they should seek to educate each other, culturally evolve roles, relationships, incentives, and processes and put end user experience first.

The DevOps community is small but burgeoning, and it’s easy to find ways to get involved, like with the community-driven explosion of DevOpsDays conferences that occur around the world.

Set small goals to be awesome

Teams should collaborate to set achievable goals and milestones that can get them on the path to embracing a DevOps culture. Celebrate small successes and focus on continuous improvement. Before you know it, you will surely but gradually reap the benefits of bringing in a DevOps approach to application development and delivery.

Start here

For deeper insights into IT Ops and DevOps Productivity with a focus on people, methodologies and tools, download a 35-page report filled with stats and charts.

About the author  ⁄ Martin J. Logan

I am a long time technologist that is never happy with the status quo. I saw the value of devops before it was a term and continue to see that value as it becomes more and more the way top tech companies operate. I am a founding member of devops.com. I also wrote a book on fault tolerant, distributed systems written in the functional programming language Erlang (http://manning.com/logan).

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