In infrastructure there are two economies of scale: operational and capital. DevOps should attend to the former, especially in the enterprise.
Soon after cloud burst (sorry, pun not intended) onto the scene we all learned about economy of scale because that, primarily, is what cloud computing’s business model is based on. At great volume, standardization can be used to achieve greater output and, thus, can cost less.
But there’s a second economy of scale at work with cloud; the operational economy of scale. If cloud providers scaled operations in the same way that enterprises traditionally scale operations, well, instance prices would be much, much higher.
What cloud providers recognized is that in order to achieve the economy of scale required to make cloud a success they had to address both the operational and capital economies of scale.
According to research, surveys and studies, operational overhead consumes anywhere from 63% to 80% of IT budgets. That’s just maintenance, management and general “keeping the lights on” kind of things. And each time a new application is pushed into production, that number gets bigger because there are more of everything – from storage to compute to network – to maintain.
To wit, Computer Economics “IT Spending and Staffing Benchmark 2014/2015” indicates that 67% of organizations were increasing their operational expenditures versus only 20% that planned on a decrease. Because IT budgets are generally determined as a percentage of revenue, that means operational budgets are chewing up the business, slowly but surely, and leaving little room for becoming an enabler of business rather than an application assembly line.
The holy grail, as its been described, for IT is to move budget from operational overhead to innovation. To do that means somehow magically reducing the costs associated with operations. Adding more people doesn’t help; that just adds more overhead. The goal is to do more with less; to increase the ratio of systems and services and applications per operator that can be managed. That’s operational economy of scale at work.
To do that, enterprises need to look to DevOps and its leverage of automation tools to enable leaner, more efficient operational processes. That means not just automating, but enabling a self-service model in which common provisioning and deployment processes can be orchestrated at the behest of the app or business owner. It means applying the same “gold image” standard used for provisioning and managing virtual machines to infrastructure; leveraging templates to gather the requisite input from app or business owners and automatically provisioning systems.
Limited variations on an infrastructure deployment template will enable customization where necessary, but otherwise provide standardized (stable) provisioning and deployment processes that can be self-service enabled. By empowering developers, app and line of business owners to provision application required infrastructure services, operations can use technology to scale to meet demand while lowering costs.
The goal of DevOps in the enterprise is not to enable 10 application deployments a day. It’s to achieve operational economies of scale and a more consistent, predictable and repeatable operational environment.