There has been a lot of discussion in the blogosphere, including here at DevOps.com, lately about the challenges of adopting DevOps in the Enterprise space. These challenges at the end boil down to the need for organization change. There are organizational structures that appear to hinder DevOps adoption in large enterprises, that are inherent to enterprises and smaller companies do not have. In enterprises different functional teams – Dev, Ops, Security, QA, etc. may be under totally different management chains. It is not uncommon to have to go up thru several layers of management to reach a common senior executive. In other cases, there may be an entire software supply chain in place that is made up of not just internal but also outsourced or external suppliers. These suppliers may or may not ‘play ball’ when it comes to the changes in processes required to adopt DevOps. Especially if they are bound by outsourcing contracts that do not make change possible or profitable for them.
DevOps as a philosophy has had as its centerpiece the principle that all the application delivery teams (Dev, QA, Ops, Business Analysts, Architects, Security…) need to align better and collaborate towards the common goal of delivering applications, in a efficient and constantly improving manner. This is a people and organizational principle, not just a process centric principle. To me adopting this is more important when adopting DevOps than any process or tool.
This post discusses key guiding principles on which this DevOps driven alignment of different teams in an enterprise should be based. They are designed to improve collaboration between these teams and to break down the proverbial ‘wall’; to end the water-SCRUM-fall, when it comes to the relationships between the different application delivery stakeholder teams in the enterprise. This is not an easy effort. It depends on the existing culture at the organization, the presence of outsourced suppliers, politics, contracts and above all, the desire to change.
These guiding principles are:
1. Shift Left:
Organizationally the goals of DevOps are to bring all the teams involved in application delivery together closer. Not just at deployment time, as they may do already, but all thru the delivery cycle. It requires Ops to allow Developers to take more responsibility of the operational characteristics of the applications they are building, for example. In turn, it requires Developers to keep Operational considerations in mind while building their applications. It requires analysts and architects to think holistically and work with Dev and Ops teams as they design and enhance the application. This is referred to in the DevOps world as ‘Shift Left’. As in shifting towards the left, Ops responsibilities. Shifting it to earlier in the software delivery lifecycle, towards Dev. It is shifting left the testing of your software to as early in the lifecycle as possible. It is shifting left the point at which collaboration between teams begins. It is shifting left the responsibility to deliver code to production – way left. Can someone in finance be held responsible for code not being delivered on time because they delayed approving a budget line item?
2. Collaborate across all teams:
Different functional teams typically use different tools to manage their projects and activities, for change management and (outside of email) different collaboration tools. In order to better collaborate across the organizational boundaries, all teams should start using the same Change Management and Work Item Management tools or in the worst case, use tools that are integrated. This allows seamless visibility across tools and traceability between respective Change Requests. Real-time collaboration using a common tool is obviously the best scenario.
3. Build ‘Application Aware’ Environments:
As we move towards Software Defined Environments, we have the ability to build, version and manage complex environments, all as code. All of the benefits of this are moot if the environments are not a perfect fit for the applications and more importantly the changes to the applications being delivered. The goal is hence to build Environments that are ‘Application Aware’ or are fine-tuned for the applications they are designed to run. No more cookie cutter Virtual images for all kinds of applications. More importantly, one needs to ensure that the environments are architected in a manner to allow for the evolution of the applications, both as they are developed; as they are projected to change or as they may evolve in the future. This obviously, would require close collaboration between Dev and Ops. Development Architects and Product Managers need to work with the IT Architects and Operations Managers to architect environments and their projected evolution to align with that of the application. Not only that, but also allow enough resilience in the environments to allow for unexpected change. For example, massive change caused by a super successful App. Think Instagram and how the founders had to keep changing their server environment almost daily as millions joined their service.
4. Environment Sprints:
Agile Development Principles prescribe that at the end of every Sprint, developers have a build. An executable build that runs, even if does not do much in terms of functionality. The next evolution of this concept is to extend it to environments. This would mean that at the end of each Sprint, the Dev team would have an executable AND the Ops team would have an environment, a production-like environment ready that the executable can be deployed on. This would allow the build to be tested. That too in a production-like environment. This would also provide immediate feedback to the Ops teams on the behavior of the application in their environment and use that feedback to improve the environment. This requires the Ops and Dev teams to align better. They will both have to use a single Sprint plan for releases – of their Builds and Environments respectively and will provide feedback to both at the end of every Sprint, using which Dev can enhance their Apps to improve functionality and performance and Ops can enhance the environment for the same. Leveraging full stack deployment – deploying at each instance the full stack that includes the environment, middleware and the application being deployed – could very well be called the ‘holy grail’ of DevOps. (Brief commercial break – IBM just announced the new offering UrbanCode Deploy with Patterns that provides full stack deployment leveraging OpenStack HOT patterns).
The Human factor
These principles are designed to foster Application Delivery team alignment from a teaming perspective, from a people perspective. These however do not replace the need for good old team building. Whether it is thru face to face get togethers or in todays distributed worlds, thru regular virtual meetings and online collaboration in real time. The best teams are the ones where the people know each other, trust each other, look out for each other and when there are challenges, know who to pick up the phone (or launch Skype) and talk to.