DevOps is an ethereal concept. It means different things to different organizations and individuals. It also is going through an evolution, which means that as quickly as we might think we have a grasp on what it is and how to effectively employ it, DevOps has moved on. There’s no way to accurately predict whether DevOps will even still be a thing in another five years, or if it will have faded into oblivion—replaced by the next hot tech or development model. We can, however, take a look at how DevOps has changed in the past year, and what the immediate future holds for it.
It isn’t an easy question to answer because first we have to agree on what DevOps is. Are we talking about DevOps as a culture or business model, or are we referring to the evolution of the tools and applications generally used in a DevOps environment? I reached out to the DevOps community to get some expert insight.
Current State of DevOps
“The technology question is a common one when it comes to DevOps. We are still faced with the problem of a clear definition of DevOps. So what makes this difficult is … I’m squarely in the camp that believes DevOps is more about culture than tools or tech,” explains Andrew Storms, vice president of Security Services at New Context. “That being said, a well-rounded and mature DevOps organization does require a shift in people, processes and technology. A lot of people will likely point to orchestration of infrastructure as the most important DevOps tool. However, I think the bigger driver of orchestration has been virtualization and cloud.”
One of the defining characteristics of DevOps from my perspective—aside from the IT culture aspect—is the fact that we continue to raise the bar for automation. Each new automation tool further streamlines the process and puts a spotlight on the next bottleneck. Eventually, a new solution is developed to automate that as well.
Chef CEO Barry Crist believes that one of the most important evolutions in the world of DevOps in the past year is continuous delivery (CD)—or the process of rapidly developing software and iterating through quick, small-batch releases. “Continuous delivery was previously exclusive to the web innovators like Facebook, Amazon and Google, but over the last year companies have realized it’s a primary key to unleash an organization’s innovation engine. When the whole stack—infrastructure, compliance, security, microservices and apps—are all expressed as code, IT is able to deliver value more quickly.”
DevOps also has introduced more common ground between developers and security/compliance officers. In high-velocity organizations that have embraced DevOps, IT can deal with security threats more quickly by assessing a vulnerability, creating a fix, testing it and deploying it rapidly before damage is done. DevOps is also starting to automate and define compliance. When compliance is defined as code, the software can be managed and tested like any other piece of code in the organization.
The Evolution of DevOps
Storms stresses that the immediate future of DevOps revolves around it becoming more mainstream—the new normal. “We are already seeing the business value of DevOps. Companies are getting code out the door faster and at a more efficient means. Other departments, like those of security, are starting to see the value of DevOps and looking at ways to incorporate key points into their departments,” he says.
Crist sees DevOps as evolving beyond IT itself. “In the next few years, the DevOps tent will expand beyond ‘devs’ and ‘ops’ to include executives and other business units,” he says. “DevOps is really about building high-velocity organizations. Mature DevOps organizations see both innovation and quality increases that drive more profit and shareholder value, as well as advances in security and safety.”
Only time will tell how DevOps will actually adapt and evolve. I tend to agree with Chef’s Crist that the natural evolution is to take the core principles and practices of DevOps and expand them beyond development and beyond IT to streamline all aspects of the organization. I guess the real question is whether or not we’ll still refer to it as “DevOps” at that point.