The State of DevOps in Pay TV
Pay TV is largely rooted in an ancient operator model. “Operators in this industry usually take a year or longer to release new code into software. Their Ops teams are focused on making sure that existing environments never fail,” says Mark Hydar, Head of DevOps, Ericsson TV Platforms. That is as opposed to moving to the CI and CD of DevOps with their continually changing environments.
Newer Pay TV models that revolve around sending TV shows to a web browser in exchange for a modest monthly subscription arrived with DevOps and evolve faster because of it. Older models where you offer a set top box for a consumer’s home TV are still transforming sluggishly, taking small bites at adopting DevOps.
“An operator such as a Vodafone has customers who pay a lot of money for the reliability that comes with the set top box model. It’s on a big screen, the customer uses a remote, and they demand 4K and to be able to connect it to their home audio system. The expectation with that is that it never fails,” says Hydar. Environments of constant change such as DevOps where the perception is that the risk of failure is high present a lot of apparent / assumed conflict for operators and ops teams supporting the legacy model.
Moving Operators to DevOps
These operators need a guiding hand as they take baby steps toward fast and ferocious innovation and improvement. “Our approach is to first educate the operators’ directors and above on what the consumer tells us they want. Our field research and R&D tell us that by 2020, there will be a lot more connected handsets and smart devices out there,” says Hydar.
The current generation, the Millennials, have “surpassed the Gen-Xers as the largest generation in the U.S. labor force”. This generation is spending less time in front of a fixed screen and a lot more time with mobile screens, says Hydar; operators need to figure out what they can do to stay aligned with what the current consumer wants while protecting and growing the revenue they currently have with “cord cutters”.
Ericsson next works to help operators roll innovations out to customers faster by adopting Agile methodologies and moving to a DevOps deployment model while learning how to sustain that model, according to Hydar. But this transition only happens as Ericsson aids its operator customers in dealing with an expected level of internal apprehension and hesitation by bringing each internal group along a bit at a time.
For example, Ericsson will recommend that operators and their CIOs take existing data center engineers who address trouble tickets and retool their skillsets so that they can look at software bugs and start to think more like developers.
“Once we suggest that, the CIO will often feel like, wow, and then there will be some push back, some resistance, and what-if questions. Over a period of a month or two, there will be a high volume of pointed questions that come to us, but that goes away,” says Hydar. Operator leadership eventually wraps their heads around it, see the benefits, and translate the changes to a lower cost of ownership, says Hydar.
As for the operations side who are still keeping the status quo up and running, Ericsson simply informs them as to what is coming down the pike in a very positive way. “We tell them how it is going to make their life better and how they can accomplish more,” says Hydar.
When approaching the test and development teams, Ericsson focuses on how they test and roll software today, introduces them to how they can innovate and deliver software faster, and leads them to want to align with that process. “They start to see the benefits and gain momentum both on the test and development sides,” says Hydar. Development begins to change.
Finally, Ericsson goes back to the Ops teams and brings them together in summits where they discuss the speed of delivery of some the software projects, and the test findings. “The Ops team starts to take notice. They want to learn about Agile. That’s where you introduce training in what it takes to be a Scrum master, what DevOps means, and how they as operations people can integrate themselves with development,” says Hydar.