There are just a handful of business books that I have read that have had a profound influence on me. One was Gene Kim’s “The Phoenix Project”, another was Eliyahu Goldratt’s “The Goal”. A third one was Geoffrey Moore’s, “Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers”. Even though written in the early 90’s, it is as relevant today as it was then. Though our technology has changed (dare I say advanced), the adoption curve of who uses it has remained static.
When I look at the world of DevOps today, to me it is on a classic chasm model. The real question is will it or rather how quickly will it make the hop over the chasm into mainstream. The picture above is a great representation of the chasm. Most technologies go through the enthusiast period, moving to the visionary. I would say that DevOps has been in this visionary period for a few years now.
In order for any technology to jump the chasm it needs to build up enough momentum and critical mass to successfully make the jump. Now there are some technologies that never build up enough critical mass to successfully jump over to the pragmatist’s cliff of mainstream adoption.
Back in my StillSecure day’s NAC had a tough time making the jump. It was not until mobile technology and BYOD served as ignitions that NAC made the cross-over to mainstream. But enough about NAC lets return to DevOps. For DevOps the Cloud and virtualization have been ignition points. Using software to replace hardware has allowed for rapid deployment, automation and continuous delivery models that characterize DevOps.
With so many pundits and analysts predicting that this is the year Cloud goes mainstream (I thought it did already), DevOps will not be far behind. As disruptive as Cloud is, could it be as disruptive if not for DevOps? There is a symbiotic relationship between the two.
But it is not just Cloud alone. DevOps has other boosters that will help it over the chasm. SDN is another big boost. Software will eat the world according to Marc Andresseen. It may very well start with networking hardware. But software is eating more than hardware.
One of the hottest trends in security (and one you will see featured here in the SecOps neighborhood of blogs on DevOps.com) is Software Defined Security. It may sound like marketing speak to you, but it involves putting security right into the virtual, software stack. It is DevOps for security. In fact DevOps and security is something you are going to hear more about from the likes of Josh Corman, Dave Mortman and Dwayne Melançon and others. Their “Rugged DevOps” discussion is ripping through the security industry for the last year or more.
All of the above aside the real key for DevOps to making the leap is that instead of just enthusiasts and visionaries being involved, what Moore calls “the Pragmatists” get involved. These pragmatists are not hung up on labels or new versus old. They just want to get the job done. If DevOps will help them get the job the done, that is good enough for them.
The pragmatists make up a good chunk of the mainstream market. The silent majority if you will. To win these pragmatists over DevOps just has to show that its benefits are real, quantifiable and worthwhile. The good news is that the Pragmatist are the first group on the other side of the chasm.
Having the Pragmatist as the first part of the mainstream is a good thing, because after that it gets harder to gain traction. According to the Chasm model after the Pragmatists come the Conservatives. Though not quite reactionary, this group doesn’t like change. They won’t change until they are nearly forced to by business pressures. They will resist adopting DevOps just because it is different than what they do now. Generally technology has to be pretty mature, its benefits well established before this group will consider doing anything more than a small trial. With DevOps representing as much a change in philosophy and culture as it does new tools, this is a really bitter pill to swallow for the Conservatives.
I would think we are years away from DevOps making real traction into this group. Especially when there are still some folks who claim that DevOps is DOA, DevOps is much ado about nothing, that it is doomed to failure. But hey there are people who still say that the science doesn’t point to climate change and that we should teach creationism in schools.
Call me the eternal optimist though. I do think that as Cloud and the other catalysts behind DevOps continue to expand, DevOps will be swept up even into the conservative base.
Between Conservative and Pragmatist, a large slice of the market is spoken for. Added to the pre-chasm market and DevOps is well beyond critical mass. Whether the last segment of the market, the skeptics ever adopt is not even relevant. Many of these skeptics have a bone to pick. As I have grown older I am convinced that they are just wired to be skeptics. They literally look at everything through a half empty glass.
So there is little doubt in my mind that DevOps will not be a stillborn technological movement. It has the catalysts, the benefits and most importantly timing and circumstances are lined up to help push this from the early adopter crowd and right over the chasm into the mainstream. What’s more is I think this is already under way and will be much quicker than most people think.
This is all a big reason why we launched DevOps.com. There is a big enough critical mass now to support a site dedicated to DevOps like this. But as we cross the chasm to mainstream, we want to ride the crest of the wave, helping to bring DevOps to pragmatist, conservative and anyone else who would benefit from it.