Although enterprises today all claim to be software companies, there remain four distinct groups of organizations: the technology leaders, the technology followers, the technology hopefuls and the technology laggards.
The first group are the industry leaders who are paving the way. These are the organizations coming up with new technologies, processes and cultural shifts. They write articles and books and present at conferences, and despite perhaps working at smaller companies, they are the names you may recognize. These are the companies the rest of us aspire to be—the Googles, the Amazons and the Microsofts that keep the rest of the industry hanging on to every word.
The technology followers typically are smaller organizations that tend to adopt the latest and the greatest technologies. They are the leaders’ first wave of followers who are not afraid to try new things, nor afraid to fail. They have cultures that allow them to experiment and adapt and are given a lot of free time to invest in learning and implementation, after they watch the big guys successfully implement.
However, the first two groups are the minority of software organizations, since not everyone can lead the way, nor can everyone have the luxury of spending a significant portion of their time experimenting with new methods. After all, most of the new technologies do not have a long lifespan. They appear, generate some attention and then disappear. Front-end frameworks provide a great example of this: new ones pop up and exist for a few months before being superseded by other frameworks.
Another example of technology followers is containers—few doubt their usefulness and most of us are convinced they are the best solution. The only question is which cluster orchestration framework to choose. These frameworks are evolving so rapidly, with new ones introduced on a weekly basis, that it’s almost certain most will be defunct within a year. So, if you are into experimenting with the latest offerings, chances are you could make a wrong choice. Will it be Kubernetes? Docker Swarm? Mesosphere Marathon? Rancher OS? Cloud Foundry’s Diego? CoreOS Fleet? The question is not whether to adopt one of those tools, but rather, which one has the best shelf life.
Most of us fall under the third group, the technology hopefuls. We don’t have the ability to lead the way, nor do we have the luxury to explore the latest and greatest technologies. Yet, we cannot allow ourselves to become obsolete. The industry is moving so fast that just a few years can leave you at the back of the pack where no effort or investment can get you back in the game.
The technology laggards are the software companies that have fallen behind. This group includes businesses that are struggling to remain intact and run the risk of disappearing. These are the organizations that do not innovate, do not adapt, do not invest (enough) in improvements and do not even understand the current industry trends. They are the organizations that do not comprehend that becoming obsolete doesn’t take decades, but years—sometimes even months.
Based on the definitions of these groups, chances are, unless you are Google or Microsoft, you are not in the first or even second groups. By reading this article you are making the effort to be informed so you don’t lack the self-awareness that places you in the fourth group. Like most software organizations, you fall into the third group of technology hopefuls.
As part of this group, you have to balance between the latest and the greatest technologies and the chance of becoming obsolete. You cannot try every new solution that comes along, nor you can let years pass by until you jump on the train. The big questions you have to ask are, How can I distinguish what will stay and what will disappear? How do I make a choice between what to adopt and what to ignore?
There may not be a one-size-fits-all answer, but one process you absolutely cannot ignore is DevOps. If you’re asking yourself whether your organization should adopt DevOps, the answer is a resounding “yes.” And I encourage you to adopt it now, before you are replaced by other companies that are already living and breathing DevOps. Otherwise, you’ll be unable to adapt to the speed needed to keep up in today’s market and understand the cloud and scale accordingly when an avalanche of users come to your site after a successful marketing campaign. Lacking preparedness could cost you your business, especially in a competitive market.
DevOps is here to stay, evolving similarly to Agile by providing value and answering many of today’s challenges. The only problem is that adopting DevOps can be difficult. To implement DevOps, you might have to change your company’s culture; you might need to adopt new tools; you might need to change processes; and, you might need to change your software architecture. Changing any of those aspects is hard, but changing all of them is very hard.
Your culture and company structure need to be agile (in the literal meaning of the word). The old, monolithic tools need to be replaced with smaller, much more dynamic ones that will work well with the ever-changing nature of cloud infrastructure. Processes need to be automated, since there is no time to pause for manual intervention. To accommodate the needs of automation and frequent deployments, your applications and services will need to be relatively small for continuous delivery or deployment to become a standard process. Your teams need to be highly specialized and fully capable of working on all aspects of the software development life cycle, from requirements to post-production support.
It’s a harsh and challenging road ahead, but at the end of it lies success. You’ll experience faster time to market, greater reliability, high availability and faster adaptability to market changes. Some are already there, while others already embarked on the journey. Don’t be left out—the alternative will leave you obsolete.
To DevOps or not to DevOps is not the question. For most organizations, adopting DevOps is the answer.
About the Author / Viktor Farcic