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Clouds Trend in 2019: DevOps as an Enabler

The following blog comes from an interview with Perficient’s DevOps Consulting Director, Sean Wilbur, and is part of a series on cloud trends with experts from within Perficient.

With cloud adoption soaring, businesses are being forced to find further advancements to stay ahead of the competition. Simply being on the cloud isn’t enough. Businesses need to be able to innovate when they’ve made it there. For many, the next step in innovation is DevOps – and DevOps adoption rates reflect that.

Indeed, DevOps was seen in one of four enterprises as of early 2018, and those numbers only increased throughout the year. While the practice isn’t growing as fast as cloud technology itself, DevOps is capturing the attention of businesses looking for an edge.

People are looking toward DevOps as the next step in improving their ability to deliver and adopt change more quickly for several reasons. These reasons include building the competitive advantage a fast pace of adoption affords, removing technical debt to lower costs, improving quality, and, in terms of cloud, the ability to utilize commodity cloud resources more efficiently and more cheaply than traditional on-premises data center resources. The ultimate goal of any DevOps transformation is to optimize the flow of change through their internal, external, and hybrid systems. Businesses absolutely need to automate to achieve this in a scalable and sustainable way.

Unfortunately for many businesses, automation is an area where they’re lacking. While businesses are looking to innovate, they’re also finding that they’re behind in terms of technological advancements. The very nature of their technical debt can be due to the lack of automation. These businesses need to enable automation in able to clear the debt – and they need to adopt DevOps to do so.

Businesses need to evolve

Technology is always evolving, which means businesses need to constantly evolve too. Those that don’t evolve will be left behind in a hurry. Businesses are seeing new features that cloud providers are offering and want to be able to use them. Many businesses are unable to utilize these offerings because of the technical debt that they’ve acquired, though. There has been a clear trend whereby organizations that don’t do their homework and clear their technical debt find themselves in a position where they can’t catch up.

As highlighted above, this technical debt is often in the form of a lack of automation. This absence of automation rears its head in particular in the areas of validation and verification, as well as a lack of security buy-in and manual governance. These issues are often exasperated by knowledge gaps within a business, a lack of consolidation of the problem when moving to the cloud, and “analysis paralysis” – seeing the multitude of options but not being sure what to do next.

Businesses need to overcome barriers and make decisions if they are to progress. They need to change the way they are producing and validating changes to reduce technical debt and optimize processes.

The old manual processes do not align with a modern vision. Businesses must have a factory mindset to achieve the scalability required. Adoption of an automation-first strategy is a must have in today’s environment. Without it, businesses are unable to operate at cloud scale or be cloud native and will instead fall further behind.

DevOps enables evolution

Businesses that need automation may look to DevOps as a tactical enabler. The idea behind this is to simplify IT processes and eliminate the silos that IT teams otherwise operate in. The businesses utilize DevOps to build a consistent and repeatable process that supports the flow of change from a developer to the end client.

This process must be automated to provide the ability to scale. The automations must also possess the ability to support a progressively rigorous set of validations in testing. This way, the IT team will trust deployment decisions when a change has progressed through the automated process. With this trust, teams are able to try things – and even fail – faster.

This uptick in speed that automation has brought has had a remarkable effect on businesses. A business intelligence project that may have taken over a year just five years ago may take only one month.

As well as encouraging continuous integration, continuous delivery, continuous testing, and continuous security alignment, automation encourages overall increased cohesion and collaboration throughout an IT organization. This collaboration and cohesion that breaking down silos brings is one of the main goals of DevOps as we look to optimize the whole flow versus just a specific technical practice area.

Organizational evolution

While automation brings tremendous opportunity for businesses, teams need to adjust how they’re working to enable it. The separations of platform, technology, and operating system in IT teams needs to change. Instead, IT workers must share knowledge and become holistic engineers that work together.

Development and operations teams in particular need to work together and learn from each other in a DevOps approach. Doing so brings an operational excellence and teaches developers how to treat infrastructure more like software. Operations teams meanwhile learn to treat infrastructure more like software.

This creates more of a site-reliability-engineering model, with the operations team focusing on how they can do things better. In this new role, operations teams are no longer the ticket-approving gatekeepers – they become a valuable part of the chain of improving software delivery and operational support in the organization.

The changing of roles often means that businesses are moving toward having lighter operations teams. In extreme cases, some businesses even decide to let go of operations teams entirely in favor of a “no-ops” model. The focus on collaboration means operations teams are more integrated, and developers have a better understanding of requirements. These developers involve themselves in the process and no longer work behind closed doors.

This is a vast change for businesses and IT teams, and the required skillsets are often lacking. However, the move toward an agile, DevOps model results in businesses operating in a much more efficient, cost-effective way. More businesses are making the shift because they know it’s necessary. Businesses need to automate to relieve technical debt before they get too far behind.

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