DevOps is Enterprise Ready, Now!

The Wall Street Journal published an article by Rachel Shannon-Solomon stating that DevOps is not ready for the enterprise. You can, and should, see that article here. In my opinion, this entire article is a plethora of ridiculous statements. Not only is DevOps built for the enterprise, it’s ready now; enter DevOps 101: CAMS.

If you know anything of DevOps, then you would know that it can be defined, at a very simplistic level, by the acronym CAMS. This stands for Culture, Automation, Measurement, and Sharing. Any organization would benefit from each of these attributes, even enterprises. Would it be easier to adopt this in a startup that has no previous concept of product development and/or IT operations? Absolutely. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not ready for the enterprise. The answer to enabling DevOps in the enterprise lies not only in the aforementioned acronym, but also in the case Ms. Shannon-Solomon makes against utilizing DevOps in the enterprise. Enterprises, having worked in a few myself, are archaic and inefficient, making change painful. However, it’s not impossible. Additionally, and in contradiction to the WSJ article, I also believe that because they are archaic and inefficient, they are primed for the adoption of DevOps.

Siloed structures and organizational change. I work for a 90,000+ employee company. When our current CEO came in, he eliminated about 300 VP positions throughout the company. This was his first step in kickstarting a new culture, a culture that is inline with a startup mentality and the concept of DevOps. Painful? Yes. Doable? Definitely!

Buy vs. build. In addition to all the major internet companies such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, and eBay, companies like Abercrombie and Fitch are already building over buying; they are utilizing DevOps to make it happen. Additionally, other companies like State Farm, which are more conservative and have been around for a while, know that they are not ready for that change, so they outsourcing some of their application and platform development to third party companies; DevOps by proxy.

Vendors of DevOps solutions acknowledge that when selling to the enterprise, they are trying to sell a cultural revolution. This statement is true, but it doesn’t eliminate the necessity or benefits of DevOps in the enterprise. Are companies like Chef, Puppet, Ansible, and Salt trying to revolutionize the cultures at the enterprise companies to whom they sell? Absolutely; but they are also selling a much needed platform for infrastructure automation and configuration management, something that guys like me have been doing manually with homegrown scripts for the last 50 years.

Return on investment. In the Marine Corps, we had a saying during marksmanship training, “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.” I use this saying as a basis to make the DevOps analogy that “Lean is efficient, and efficient is profitable.” In a way, DevOps is a bit of a scam, a way for companies to squeeze more out of their operations teams without the necessity of hiring more bodies. They do this for two reasons; first, good ops personnel are hard to find and even harder to keep. Secondly, it’s just more cost effective to do more with less. Nonetheless, through the implementation of DevOps, companies will see a near immediate return on investment. If nothing more, it will separate the studs from the duds and it will enable you to trim the fat. I’m in no way condoning terminating an employee because they don’t know how to write code, or how to use Chef, or Puppet, SaltStack and/or Ansible for that matter, but if they don’t have the ambition and dedication to learn, then they will have no place in a DevOps organization; but I digress. Bottom line, DevOps is profitable and if done right, will almost guarantee a return on investment. Unfortunately, the failure the writer of the article refers to is actually a failure of culture, not of technology. The companies referred to here need to hire individuals that know how to build a team with a DevOps mentality and manage operations the beneficial to the process, otherwise, failure is an almost certainty.

In closing, I can understand why enterprises shy away from DevOps; it’s the easy thing to do. The DevOps methodology and mentality is not for the faint of heart, and most definitely not for the process-driven cowards that fill our corporate ranks these days. But, if you find an enterprise organization that has some technical chops, can operate with some latitude and leniency, and is not terrified of being proactive, the implementation of a DevOps ecosystem will definitely be beneficial.

Let me be very clear that there is no disrespect meant towards Ms. Shannon-Solomon; I’m sure she is an excellent journalist. These are the views of someone who’s been in the industry 20 years and understands what it takes to build a team with a startup mindset and a DevOps culture.

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