Back in 2019, experts predicted 2020 would be a pivotal year for DevOps, and it was, with more and more Australian organisations realising the opportunities DevOps can bring to their operations.
Perhaps more than process changes, DevOps culture can help teams do what previously seemed impossible: breaking down silos between business, IT, engineers, and managers. This may be the most significant effect as it becomes ever clearer we need increased and consistent levels of productivity, efficiency, and service delivery to successfully navigate the coming year.
While the nomenclature is new to some, the underlying goals of DevOps is both familiar and welcome: to foster the most important aspects of effective teams since the inception of IT: genuine, organic, engaged teamwork and shared responsibility. Some organisations go all-in on multidisciplinary blended teams, where operations, development, and business experts can collectively take responsibility for the life cycle of most aspects of the IT system. When everyone has ownership and visibility into technical domains and the customer journey, finger-pointing becomes unnecessary and unpopular.
Other organisations retain developers and administrators in their existing silos or teams but develop new, open, and mutually beneficial inter-team communications, attracting the broader team to selected elements of DevOps culture. Regardless, team members collaborate, experiment, and add continuous improvements to their ongoing mission. Blameless post-mortems, efficient sprint reviews, and data driven planning meetings are just a few hallmarks of DevOps that help teams provide useful and timely feedback, process improvement, and collaboration.
DevOps Drives Better Business Outcomes
20 years since its start as a “movement,” DevOps has had ample time to mature, shake the bugs out, and establish itself as more than a passing fad. Adoption today is more pragmatic as complexity becomes the number one challenge for many organisations. This means it’s expanded to include a greater emphasis on distributed applications, hybrid ops, software as a service (SaaS), and microservices. This, in turn, requires monitoring application performance across elements wherever they’ve been modernised. Collective observability and the flexibility to quickly adapt and share production performance data can facilitate more effective team interaction on its own. In particular, it’s not unusual for DevOps teams to invest in application performance monitoring (APM) alongside or even ahead of infrastructure monitoring.
The feedback-oriented approach of DevOps is also a natural fit for helping IT pros integrate APM into the business to measure impact. Nothing reassures managers that enterprise digital transformation project risks are manageable more than real data demonstrating reliable operations during changes and system stress.
DevOps + APM = A Match Made in Heaven
“Feedback loops” are kind of the glue which binds DevOps, and this is just one of the reasons why APM deployments benefit from DevOps culture. The more APM reveals, the more both dev and ops teams understand about realtime usage and performance. The more these teams know, the more they find opportunities to optimise. The more they optimise, the easier the application is to use. The easier it is to use, the more customers are drawn to the platform. And around and around we go.
When the specifics of technology, vendor, architecture, and operations styles take a back seat to overall service and change quality, silos are easier to dismantle. APM removes the walls blocking teams from seeing the big picture, and entire organisations can benefit, especially for applications with multiple components crossing team boundaries.
APM adoption may also be encouraged by the more academic associations of DevOps. Data- and research-based decision processes tend to be more typical among DevOps adherents. Collaboration between teams, especially in the more sceptical early days of the types of culture change DevOps espouses, is almost always improved (or at least friction is removed) by a shared view of verifiable production reality. When everyone agrees on metrics and event analysis, the team can focus on what it does best and enjoys most: configuring technology to meet the needs of the business. As improved access and uptime becomes the norm for complex and critical applications, more admins turn to APM for critical, dispassionate shared operational truth.
Dev and Ops Have Different DNA
What’s often lost in conversations about the value of DevOps is how frustrating performance degradations are for “traditional” operations teams. Dev is first in “DevOps” because it’s primarily led by developers seeking to help operations staff reduce toil. Developers and operations admins, however, have different DNA. Ops isn’t always eager to invest in instrumentation after a once-in-a-blue-moon problem is resolved; meanwhile dev isn’t always keen to drink from a firehose of uncorrelated performance data from production applications.
However, both experienced professionals on both teams know the importance of caring deeply about business success and are eager to discover and incorporate the specific needs and behaviours of the business into their technical processes. Business should drive tech direction—not the other way around. Moreover, IT should never be its own largest customer. APM systems and metrics can be a new common ground where ops can expand visibility and improve efficiency even while responding to a (seemingly) endless incident queue. At the same time, APM is a convenient tool for concise, digested feedback that doesn’t require data scientists to be useful to the dev side of the DevOps equation.
IT tends to hunker down during uncertain times and run lean in response to veering budgets. Launching a broad initiative to adopt DevOps culture might seem like something the business ought to defer until the smoke of the last several months of turmoil have cleared. But I’d argue the value it brings to IT teams can be key to enterprise’s transformation ambitions—digital, survival, or otherwise. Fortunately, adopting many of the principles of DevOps doesn’t have to be a rip-and-replace, all-or-nothing endeavour. The goal should be creating quality around shared metrics and assuring accurate, empirical feedback is available for everyone on the team, which can be an incremental process.
Whatever iteration of the “next normal” awaits us, the foundation for great service delivery remains fundamentally the same. In a bright technology future full of possibilities, DevOps focus on flexibility and continuous process improvement continues to break transformation logjams, increasingly as a rising star of the observability show.