What makes DevOps so important? Part of the answer lies in how DevOps encourages more appreciation for and investment in software maintenance.
Traditionally, the IT industry has been like the construction industry. People who design new things (architects or software developers) are at the top of the value hierarchy, whereas the folks who build and maintain them (construction workers and IT Ops admins) are not held in such high esteem.
This isn’t to say people hate admins, of course (or construction workers, for that matter). What I mean is that the work of building and maintaining tends to be seen as less creative and exciting—and ultimately less important—than the work of designing new things.
This is why software developers in the pre-DevOps world got most of the glory. They created new code that did exciting things.
Meanwhile, admins on the IT Ops team were stuck deploying and maintaining that code—and occasionally cleaning up messes created by developers who wrote bad code. Admins were also the first folks to take the blame when something went wrong.
This isn’t to say that developers cause all the problems, of course. Some mistakes can be attributed to admins. Others are the result simply of poor communication between developers and admins.
Still, in general development work—which involves creating new features and innovations—was what was celebrated. Maintenance work performed by IT Ops was less glorious.
DevOps and Software Maintenance
One of the most important—yet also most underappreciated—results of the DevOps movement is that it has made software maintenance cool again.
In addition, DevOps provides more organizational support for maintaining software, while also facilitating the type of communication between developers and admins that leads to better maintenance.
DevOps does this through principles such as the “you build it, you own it” mantra, which stipulates that whoever writes code is also responsible for deploying and maintaining it.
Even if your organization doesn’t adopt that particular DevOps practice, it probably still seeks greater collaboration between developers and IT Ops. As a result, when something breaks in production or needs to be upgraded to maintain reliability, developers are involved, too.
Celebrating Software Maintenance in DevOps
Despite the emphasis that DevOps has brought to software maintenance in practice, you still don’t hear a lot of talk about maintenance work in the DevOps world.
In essence, coding is still seen by many people as the coolest type or work that is done in the DevOps world. What DevOps has done is break down the silos separating those who code from those who maintain. It hasn’t necessarily made maintenance itself the object of more excitement.
It may be time for that to change. Forward-thinking organizations should recognize that software maintenance—which includes tasks such as applying updates, monitoring applications and scaling host infrastructure—is just as crucial for a seamless application experience as the applications themselves. This should become an explicit part of the DevOps conversation.