At IPExpo in London a couple of weeks ago, I was asked if it was possible to do DevOps in an ITIL environment.
My simple answer is yes.
ITIL and DevOps are two different things. They both attempt to provide a set of best practices, but ITIL is for service delivery and maintenance and DevOps is for software delivery and support.
DevOps is mostly concerned with a couple of things:
- The mechanics of building and delivering software changes (we’re talking about Continuous Delivery, deployment automation, configuration automation and so on).
- The behaviors, interactions, and collaboration between the different functions involved in delivering software (Business, Dev, Test, Ops etc.).
ITIL largely stays away from anything to do with mechanics and doesn’t touch on culture and collaboration. It prefers instead to focus more on the tangible concepts of IT service support. It’s essentially a collection of procedures and processes for delivering and supporting IT services. Most of those procedures and practices are just common sense good ideas.
DevOps isn’t a prescriptive framework; it’s more like a philosophy (in the same way as Agile isn’t a framework). Because it’s not prescriptive, it can work with any framework (such as Scrum) provided that framework isn’t at odds with the DevOps philosophy (such as Waterfall).
ITIL provides a set of concepts that you then implement in your own way. For example, ITIL promotes the concepts of incident and problem management. It doesn’t tell you exactly how you should do them; it simply suggests that these are good processes to have. There are recommendations around actions such as trend analysis and root-cause analysis, but it doesn’t prescribe how you should implement these.
Probably the area with the greatest amount of cross-over is change management. ITIL explicitly mentions it as a procedure for the efficient handling of all changes and goes on to talk about change advisory boards, types of change, change scheduling, and a bunch of other things to do with deploying changes to an environment.
DevOps also advocates smooth and efficient processes for deploying changes through environments – so there’s no conflict here. The only slight misalignment is that in ITIL, change management is seen as an activity that happens during the Service Transition phase, while in DevOps, we tend to advocate the identification and promotion of pre-authorized changes (standard change). This means that the change management process effectively starts prior to service transition, but that’s about it, really.
Some people get a bit carried away with the role of the change advisory board in ITIL and insist that every change must pass through some sort of CAB process (usually involving a monthly CAB meeting where a bunch of stakeholders review all changes queued up for a production deployment, which usually only serves to cause a delay in your software delivery process and add very little value). ITIL doesn’t explicitly say it has to happen this way – it’s not that prescriptive!
Similarly, DevOps doesn’t say you can’t have a CAB process. If you have a highly complex and unstable environment that’s receiving some sporadic high-risk changes, then CAB review is probably a good idea. The only difference here is that DevOps would encourage these change advisory board reviews to happen earlier in the process to ensure that risk is mitigated right from the start rather than right at the end.
In summary, ITIL and DevOps are not having a fight in the schoolyard at home time. There’s nothing to see here. Go about your business.