Recently a member of the LinkedIn DevOps group started a discussion entitled, “Concise description of DevOps?” This member’s post focused on clarifying DevOps as a role mainly for the purposes of simplifying his recruiting efforts. The member pointed out that recruiters and vendors are starting to overload the term in an attempt to attract a wider pool of applicants even if the jobs they are recruiting for are primarily operations focused.
Overloading of technical terms in the information technology industry is quite the norm, but it does sometimes play an integral role in confusing technology consumers and delaying progress through failure or mismatches. The more popular a term, the greater it will be co-opted by various factions for their own purposes. DevOps is certainly not escaping this trend.
Another member in the forum responded to the discussion by stating their regret for introducing the concept of DevOps as a role since management immediately saw the role as a consolidation of multiple roles, thus leading to higher productivity for lower costs. After all, if we can get one person to do the work of three that would certainly be a great advantage. Unfortunately, if management really believes this they should be shot for not recognizing the old adage, “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is!” This member is now attempting to undo the damage by redefining DevOps in his organization as a movement.
I’ve provided my own beliefs on what DevOps is here. I would say based on this I am more closely aligned with concept of DevOps as a movement than a role, but then again I am only one opinion amidst thousands. I would say there’s broad agreement that DevOps incorporates collaboration across the various phases of software development lifecycle, which, oddly enough, is not a widely-followed practice in many organizations. The primary cause as I can discern for the lack of collaboration is a belief that the infrastructure should be organized to support the needs of the application. However, with the movement to cloud computing, the need to reduce disparate hardware stacks and lower overhead of managing the data center, all of a sudden, business is starting to see the impact of that decision on the bottom line and reversing this trend. This requires that the application developers and testers understand the limits of the environment in which they will be deploying.
A subset of DevOps professionals also believe that DevOps is the combination of development and operations in a single role. Here, however, the development effort is required for automation of the deployment and management of an operational environment. System administrators have been developing scripts for years to simplify the task of managing and operating an environment and now that effort is being recognized as an important skill. That is, those administrators that can also code scripts are more valuable than those that simply administer through human intervention alone.
In light of this skill, these developers are also now being grouped into the DevOps movement. The only issue with this is that there is no clear delineation between application developers and the operational developers. Perhaps differentiation is unnecessary, except in the case of recruiting since an agile Java developer does not want to waste time interviewing for a position that ends up being Python scripts for deploying machine instances.
One thing is for sure, the DevOps movement is very important to improving the quality and support of applications and infrastructure services. As I stated in my blog entry, “Thar Be Danger in That PaaS” “PaaS, is fraught with pitfalls and dangers that could cause your application to stop running at any point. Moreover, should this occur, the ability to identify and correct the problem may be so far out of your hands that only by spending an inordinate amount of time with your PaaS provider's support personnel could the problem be corrected.” PaaS is one area where support requires the collaborative efforts of a group that has both application and operational experience and can work with each other to uncover problems for their customers.
That said, should you be hiring DevOps? Or should you be seeking System administrators with ability to program automation scripts and software engineers and architects with an understanding of infrastructure architecture?