DevOps and the adoption of MSP-based IT operations are both surging trends in the IT industry today. They are also trends that contradict each other in some key respects. Here’s a look at what MSPs mean for DevOps, and vice versa.
DevOps and MSPs: A Primer
MSPs, or managed service providers, are companies that provide IT services on a contract basis. They’re a solution for organizations that want to outsource some or all of their IT needs. In turn, organizations can avoid maintaining IT staff in-house or reduce the size of their IT staff.
DevOps, of course, is an approach to software delivery that emphasizes collaboration between developers and IT operations.
The markets surrounding MSPs and DevOps may both be growing. But that’s not because they feed each other. On the contrary—in one key respect, MSPs and DevOps are at odds.
How? It’s simple. The more your company outsources IT operations to MSPs, the less it can embrace DevOps. That’s because, when IT operations are outsourced, companies lose control over the culture and process surrounding IT. Customers don’t typically dictate to their MSPs which culture, tools or processes to use. As a result, it’s not possible for companies with a heavy reliance on MSPs to “do DevOps.”
To put it another way: You can’t do DevOps if you have no IT Ops department because you outsource IT operations to an MSP. Likewise, if you maintain some IT staff but rely on MSPs to provide IT services that your employees can’t deliver, you can only embrace DevOps insofar as your in-house IT staff can support it.
The fact that outsourcing IT operations to MSPs means surrendering control over your IT culture doesn’t mean that you can’t use MSPs and embrace DevOps at the same time. There are plenty of DevOps-friendly MSPs out there. If you’re into DevOps as well as the MSP model, you simply need to find an MSP company that works within the DevOps culture.
Granted, DevOps is more complicated when some or all of your IT operations are run by a third-party provider. It’s more difficult to achieve the level of seamless communication and continuous feedback that DevOps demands when not all of your IT employees are in-house.
But it’s not impossible, especially if you find an MSP who is committed to transparent communication, the sharing of data and collaboration in IT planning—as opposed to one that delivers managed IT services inside a sort of “black box,” without involving the client organization in any of its operations.
Providing DevOps-friendly managed IT services requires more work on the part of MSPs. It also demands more initiative from their clients. But it can be done. And it’s an approach that more and more companies will need to embrace if the influence of both continues to rise within the IT industry.