When it comes to launching nuclear weapons, there are a variety of steps and a variety of fail-safe mechanisms, all designed to ensure that those pushing the button really want to do what the nuclear launch system is designed to do.
I fear it is some sort of mini-Godwin argument to equate nuclear warfare with releasing code, but bear with me, since we do say, “That nuked the system!” when things go horribly wrong, so I am willing to make the argument.
There are those in the DevOps community—and more in the ARA community specifically—who want you to automate every step between development and release. While I fully understand the mentality, there are definitely applications for which you don’t want to go live without someone saying, “Yes, this is truly ready,” just as you don’t want to launch nukes without the president (in the United States) saying, “Yes, we really intend to do this.”
It’s a Tiny Bit
An associate of mine pointed out the obvious fallacy of “eliminate manual intervention”: both infrastructure as code and the code itself is manual. The biggest bottleneck to release is still actually creating something. So telling people not to insert the occasional sanity check at a critical juncture in the process is kind of … silly.
Manual Intervention is Warranted at Times
Take the easy example. Do you want nuclear plants to release new code to their controls without final review and approval? No? Well, if your application is your breadbasket, or even has a significant impact on the business, why would you want code released without a manual approval step? You shouldn’t. The belief in DevOps circles that anything is recoverable, and speed is everything has a built-in self-destruct. Pendulums swing on the type of chaos that can be created if you release and your customers lose the ability to use your app.
Just prioritize the approval process, and make the process push-button—a “Yes, we are ready to do this,” that authorized individuals can push and finish the deploy. We’re talking about minutes in the most well-run environments, and days (pessimistic estimate, weeks) in more complex, less-thorough environments. It’s not a huge investment, and it’s a step outside of CI/CD that really only impacts release automation. Most enterprise grade companies aren’t deploying a zillion times a day, so it won’t have to be a bottleneck.
In short, relaxing what we tolerated, reducing short-term goals and automating large portions of the develop/test/deploy environment are all great steps forward. But take a look at your business and determine what possible impacts a given app can have on your business, and the state of the automation, before deciding whether releasing to the wild without approvals is a good idea. Quite often it is not, no matter what the pundits say. But also quite often it is. I don’t want to leave the impression I’m against full process automation; I’m just in favor of getting approvals when the organization’s livelihood is on the line and the solution is a complex one.
As always, you have to ask yourself, Who knows your business and your business’ systems better, the pundit or you? There is a balance here; the pundits have some great ideas, but the business has balancing needs.
As automation continues to grow, the number of apps requiring approvals before release no doubt will continue to decrease, but don’t let the fad impact your bottom line. DevOps is not about itself, but rather the business and its needs.