DevOps Isn’t a Job

It’s still fairly early in the year but if I had to bet on which term would unseat “cloud” as the most hackneyed tech buzzword of 2015, my money would be on “DevOps.”  Just spend an afternoon browsing job postings and you’d think that the world no longer wants application support engineers or sysadmins.  Everyone needs to be more agile, increase synergy and optimize their Big Data—apparently the industry believes that this requires a new set of skills. Perhaps surprisingly, they are correct.  Despite being buried under a hail of buzzwords, DevOps is a true evolution in IT and one that’s occurring in real-time in front of us.

It’s easiest to dispel what DevOps is not:  It’s not a set of tools, it’s not a technology, and it’s definitely not a job function.  Ascribing the title of “DevOps Engineer” to an open position is akin to trying to hire an “Agile Programmer” or a “TCP/IP Firewall Manager.”  It’s a subtle sign to candidates that the hiring manager doesn’t have a clear understanding of whom they need.

DevOps is the philosophy of shared accountability

It’s a countermovement to the traditional corporate silos of the Information Technology and Development organizations.  The IT Operations team is primarily concerned about system up-time, stability, security and control.  IT thrives on order.  Developers, on the other hand, are tasked with quickly building complex applications to meet vague and ever-changing requirements.  While maybe not thriving on chaos, developers certainly have established a working relationship with it.

IT views developers as the code-slinging cowboys always willing to break things they don’t have a responsibility to fix.  Developers see IT as the rigid gatekeeper and naysayer to getting things done.  My career has been somewhat unusual in that I’ve walked in both sets of shoes and can see that everyone is right.  DevOps is the shift in thinking and attempt to change the culture necessary to bridge these disciplines.  At its core, this is a realignment of everyone’s interests to be focused firstly on customer success.  DevOps isn’t a job — DevOps is everyone’s job.

The tools and processes are an outgrowth of this mindset and simply cannot be grafted onto a business.  Trying to do so is just slapping a new coat of paint on the IT Operations team.  DevOps requires that both development and IT be measured by the same metrics and attend the same meetings. IT folks should be included in initial application design meetings, and developers should be a part of the after-hours escalation team.  It’s a blending of the normally segregated Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) and is rapidly becoming the new normal.  According to Puppet Labs research, companies with DevOps practices release code up to 30 times faster and cut deployment failure rates by more than half.  Any company that views its software as a competitive advantage needs to look past the buzzwords and consider the value of DevOps to their business.