Why DevOps is more a bi-directional rather than a simple top-down approach
DevOps is one of those buzzwords that nearly everyone wants to discuss these days. However, it often is interpreted as an extension of Development’s influence to the detriment of Operations teams.
So much has changed in the past few years that it is conceivable we will see another major shakeup: Could Operations teams disappear altogether? Or to put it another way, is “NoOps” the future of IT? While DevOps promotes faster delivery of new digital services and a blurring of the lines between Dev and Ops, in reality, is Dev consuming Ops entirely?
Before DevOps was called DevOps, the two disciplines were growing further apart. Agility has been driven by Developers since the turn of the century, with the famous Manifesto for Agile Development. Meanwhile, Operations formalized repositories of good practices into frameworks such as ITIL or COBIT, which were implemented by most large companies in the mid-90s. Those two approaches seem to oppose, as DevOps advocates the acceleration and multiplication of changes and ITIL tends to monitor and control them.
NoOps, or the End of Operations?
If you believe everything you read, then Operations is a dying art. But in practice, Development does not want to be involved with infrastructure, while few organizations would trust developers to manage their data centers, whether physical, virtual or cloud. So breathe easy: DevOps does not mean the end of Operations teams.
On the contrary, Operations remains essential throughout the DevOps approach. Production infrastructure is a complex and delicate stack of technologies, often with a discreet mix of modern architecture and historical applications. It often is impossible for Development to replicate these types of environments. And that is why an application successfully tested in a qualification environment often does not work properly in production. However, it is crucial to validate new developments in a representative replica of the production environment.
So is DevOps doomed to constant failure because of lack of continuity between qualification platforms and production systems? Well, this is probably the case if we merely consider DevOps as a simple top-down approach from Development to Operations. Focusing on producing changes at a higher frequency only shifts and grows a bottleneck that sits in production, without producing the added value expected by the company. As a consequence, DevOps must also be seen as a bottom-up process. In other words, if we consider DevOps, we must also take very serious look at “OpsDev” (OK, it doesn’t flow off the tongue, but you see my point!).
DevOps or OpsDev?
For a successful DevOps approach in practice, Development must position itself as a consumer of turnkey infrastructure environments. Operations then adopts an OpsDev approach and provides infrastructure on demand for all steps of continuous integration, from compilation to qualification, through unit testing.
If DevOps is a radical change in how Development works, OpsDev would also revolutionizing common Operations practices. It comes with more agile “declarative” infrastructures (described and built from source code), an even more sophisticated level of automation and the ability to provide self-service infrastructure for developers.
The adoption of DevOps does not mean that Operations will disappear or will be replaced by Development, but rather the emergence of bi-directional agility that needs to be supported by more sophisticated automation. In fact, DevOps implies OpsDev rather than NoOps. Finally, whatever you consider your release process under the ITIL or DevOps angle, isn’t the end goal exactly the same: delivering zero-default service to customers?