The problem that DevOps solves is universal, urgent and important. Every IT organization is responsible for two things: deliver fast flow of projects and features, while preserving reliable, stable and secure services. Until very recently these were thought to be mutually exclusive, we thought it was only possible to achieve one of those objectives, at the expense of the other. This caused years (or even decades) of inter-tribal conflict between Development and IT Operations; led to chronic underperformance, with features taking slower than ever to reach market, deployments taking longer, an ever-increasing number of Sev 1 outages, and IT Operations becoming buried in technical debt and unplanned work; and a variety of other symptoms.
We now know that there is a better way. The proof is that high-performing organizations such as Amazon, Google, Twitter, Etsy and Netflix, are adopting a set of techniques that we now call DevOps, and are routinely deploying hundreds or even thousands of code deployments per day, while preserving world-class reliability, stability and security.
During the 2012 Puppet Labs DevOps Survey of Practice ), we benchmarked over 4000 organizations. We found that the high performers were massively outperforming the low performers. Those employing DevOps practices were doing 30 times more frequent code deploys, and had deployment lead times measured in minutes or hours, versus weeks, months or quarters.
DevOps organizations also had far better deployment outcomes: Their changes and deployments had twice the change success rates, and when the changes failed, they could restore service 12 times faster.
This is what every IT organization needs to be able to replicate.
DevOps Isn’t Just For The Unicorns
“If there’s anything that all horses [enterprise IT organizations] hate, it’s hearing stories about unicorns [DevOps shops]. Which is strange, because horses and unicorns are probably the same species. Unicorns are just horses with horns.” — Christopher Little
We know that without something like DevOps, IT organizations will fall into the downward spiral. However, most enterprise IT organizations will come up with countless reasons why they cannot adopt DevOps, or why it is not relevant for them.
One of the primary objections from horses is that all the unicorns (e.g., Google, Amazon, Twitter, Etsy, etc.) were born that way. In other words, from their beginning all unicorns used DevOps style work patterns.
In reality, every unicorn at some point in their history had the same problems as horses: an inability to grow capacity fast enough to keep up with market demand, dealing with years of accumulated technical debt, lack of automated testing to sustain high rates of change, monolithic and overly tight architectures that prevented developers from being productive, and so forth.
The unicorns have made the journey that every horse will need to make.
The DevOps Survey of Practice showed that DevOps isn’t just for unicorns. Not all of the 4000 or so respondents were startups, and they weren’t all web operations companies either. Instead, 42% of the organizations that were implementing DevOps practices had over 500 employees. The link to those slides is here.
DevOps is equally relevant for startups as it is for legacy enterprises. The need to decrease time to market and shrink lead times is universal. In fact, it may even be more urgent for the multi-billion-dollar enterprises – creative disruption is making the tenure of Fortune 500 companies ever more tenuous. Richard Foster, a professor at Yale University, has said that the average life of a Fortune 500 company has decreased from around 75 years to 15 years in the last half century. Of the Fortune 500 companies in 1955, 87 percent are no longer on the list.
Increasingly, IT is the value creation and customer acquisition engine for organizations. As my friend Chris Little says, “Every company is an IT company regardless of what business they think they’re in.”
DevOps Isn’t A Fad
I compared the plight of DevOps to apartheid. With ridiculously worse conditions and a much more self evident problem, Nelson Mandela sat in jail for 27 years to show a minority of people in only one country that racism is wrong. Industry level change doesn’t take seven years. It takes upwards of 27. — Stephen Fishman
Some may worry that as more people write about or seek knowledge about DevOps, that DevOps will become a dismissible fad.
I’d encourage anyone who wants DevOps to become a pervasive reality to look at it this way: there is a spectrum of awareness, spanning from “no one has heard of it, and dismiss it as a movement that is irrelevant to them” on one side, to “everyone has heard of it, and rolls their eyes that it’s the latest fad.”
If I had to choose one of those scenarios, I’d choose “fad” every time. Why? Because there is nothing worse than trying to solve a problem that no one else thinks is important. The fact that so many communities are working to solve the DevOps problems is amazing. Development, testers, agile coaches, IT operations: We all believe it’s important.
As DevOps advocates, we must always be ready to respond when someone asks us, “I’ve heard about this DevOps thing. Is it something we should be doing?” The response should always be, “Yes, of course, we should be doing it! Here’s what I can do to help!”
As the DevOps community grows past what Geoffrey Moore called the “innovators” and “early adopters” (i.e., the unicorns), we must continue to tell the story so that the “early majority” and “late majority” will realize that DevOps is for them, too. Only by doing this can we have mainstream adoption, a phenomenon that Moore called “crossing the chasm.”
To create DevOps outcomes, we need a coalition that spans the entire value stream, from Marketing, to Product Owners and Product Managers, to Development and Testers, IT Operations and Infosec. Only then can we help our organizations go from low-performing IT to high-performing, which we’ve shown we can do through DevOps practices.
When IT does poorly, the business will do poorly. And when IT helps the organization win, those organizations will outperform their competitors in the marketplace. DevOps allows IT to win.