If the snake oil salesman still exists in the 21st Century, it does so in the guise of the DevOps vendor. Like the secondhand car dealer, the solar panels sales guy, or the crooked cop, the DevOps vendor will tell you black is white — oh, no actually white is black.
Their lies travel like Japanese Knotweed.
Almost every week, a new technology solution is launched which promises to solve all your problems. One that will boil the ocean. Maybe some hot new trendy DevOps startup that just raised $10 million in seed funding and is ready to save the world. Why trust me? Because I used to run one of those trendy DevOps startups myself.
And if there’s one thing I learned, it’s to not believe a word of it. It’s all just a pack of lies. In fact, I’ve sat in so many presentations, watched so many launch demos from DevOps start-ups that I decided — for your delight and pleasure — to make a list of the lies I’ve seen spun recently.
1) The Platform Lie
“I will solve all your problems, all you have to do is just throw out all your old systems and replace them with our shiny new platform.”
DevOps vendors typically call on vulnerable customers to demolish their existing IT management practices and replace them with their solution. The name of their solution will vary from vendor to vendor. They might call it Platform-as-a-Service, or a Container Orchestration Platform, or a DevOps Management Platform. The names change but the truth doesn’t: These vendors simply want you to rebuild your systems on their architectures.
The Truth: New platforms that require major changes in IT processes, no matter how popular or trendy, carry major hidden risks around integration, production readiness, security and robustness.
2) The Rebuild From Scratch Lie
“I will solve all your problems, all you have to do is just rebuild all your applications in our shiny new programming language.”
There’s a reason your most important code is 30 years old and still written in Cobol: It works. Almost every organization wants new, innovative code. But the insidious part of the lie is when vendors refuse to service your older apps. Refuse to help you add agility and modern tools to old code that still works. Not everything needs to be rewritten in Go or Clojure or Rust before it’s ready to go into a Continuous Delivery pipeline.
The Truth: Sometimes you can teach an old dog new tricks. There are solutions out there that can add agility to existing IT processes without rebuilding every application from scratch. But you have to look hard for them.
3) The Cloud Lie
“Everything is moving to the cloud. Get on board before it’s too late.”
Vendors can’t stop themselves calling out the benefits of the cloud. Cheaper, more efficient, more reliable. It’s the future—on-premise is over. Soon they’ll argue the cloud will guess next week’s lottery numbers for you. It’s hype. Pure and simple. Yes, there are occasions when it makes sense to rent space (cloud), but sometimes it’s better to own (datacenter). Saying nobody’s going to own datacenters soon is like saying nobody’s going to buy a home in the future. The idea that somehow everyone’s going to magically realize one day that renting a house is better for everyone in all situations: It’s a lie. Datacenters will never go away. Sorry Amazon.
The Truth: Sometimes the total cost of ownership is lower than the total cost of renting. Sometimes renting is cheaper. There is no one-size-fits-all. Anyone who says otherwise has an agenda that’s probably not in your best interest.
4) The Open Source Lie
“It’s open source, so it’s better.”
Open source has come a long way over the years, and the always-active open source communities are one of the primary reasons for its success. And there are many open source projects that are solid and battle-tested. But don’t let those DevOps vendors sell you snake-oil. Not all open source software works well at scale, and not all software that works well at scale is open source. While there are benefits to open source software, what you should be looking for in a DevOps solution is a long track record of stable and scalable execution.
The Truth: You would be surprised at how many open-source projects, even popular and trendy ones, have never been deployed in a system with more than 50 servers. Buyer beware, you might actually be getting exactly as much as you pay for it.
5) The Hottest New Trend Lie
“Everybody’s talking about X, so you should have an X strategy.”
Don’t believe the hype. Especially if your job depends on it. New technology trends might end up becoming battle-tested eventually. But let other people forge those paths for you. The upside potential of new, disruptive technology is only matched by the unforeseen downsides of putting it into production. The reality is that if a system you’ve used has worked for the last 10 years, it’s likely to keep working for the next 10 years.
The Truth: Everyone wants to lead you in an IT Revolution. Nobody wants an IT Iteration. But what is lost in that discussion is the fact that there were good reasons to build things the way that they were built. For all its shortcomings, it works. Maybe what enterprise IT needs most today is iteration, not revolution.
So watch out. Many DevOps myths could end up murdering your business.