I’ve spent a bunch of time talking with Adrian Cockcroft, former cloud tzar at Neflix, and listening to his various talks and presentations. I’ve also spent a bunch of time looking around the various rooms within which he presents and seen the dazed look of attendees who have rightly assumed that just seen a picture of the way organizations should be. Netflix is unquestionably an exemplar for IT reinvented – where innovation, agility and developer enablement are natural parts of what they do.
But then I’ve seen these new disciples of the “Netflix way” write a list of the technologies that Cockcroft detailed and attempt to shoehorn those same approaches into their own organization. All to often the result is disappointment, failed projects and a swing back to the traditional rigid ways of doing things.
These thoughts struck me then I hear about this new masthead and its aim of creating a hub for DevLops thought leaders – surely giving IT practitioners a good place to find the latest tools and techniques will help spread the DevOps gospel?
Well yes, and no. You see I’m a firm believer in the viewpoint that DevOps has very little to do with products, processes and policies, and instead is a direct result of a particular type of culture. On the one hand you have Netflix, clearly a cultural outlier with its openness, willingness to experiment, embracing of failure-driven iteration and aim of planning for failure. On the other hand you have traditional IT shops that are top-down, driven by a rigid policy framework and consider the “operations department” and the “developer team” as two distinct entities.
This was a topic that Christian Reilly (he of the sartorial elegance and funny accent tendencies) and I discussed a couple of years ago, before the DevOps hype had really started to hit. In the video, he reflected directly on his organization, Bechtel, as an outlier at one end of the spectrum, while Netflix is an outlier at the other. It’s a somewhat dated video, and talks about public/private cloud, but the themes in terms of organizational readiness hold true for DevOps as well.
So my aim in my regularly irregular DevOps column in here is to talk about everything but the technology. And where better to start that the first step towards DevOps which is, I believe, all about building cultural bridges rather than making technology choices. It should be a natural concluding that, since DevOps is all about bridging the developer/operations span, that perhaps getting people in a room to talk about their particular drivers and metrics would be a good idea. But alas most people go from talking about DevOps to deploying their choice of automation tool.
There’s so many things to think about in embarking on this process – over on the ScriptRock blog Alan points out that visibility is a key first step before automation is embarked upon. While I agree with him that visibility is key, for me the money quote comes in his post where he writes:
Don’t automate what you don’t understand
But to then suggest that the first step should instead be a visibility tool does little to improve the outcomes – unless both sides fo the organizational divide are in the same room and accepting a common lingua franca and viewpoint on the data – visibility achieves little. So takeaway #1 focus on the culture. There’s lots of ways to build the bridges needed to change the way an organization looks – I’m going to cover some of that stuff over time.