DevOps: Understanding its Multiple Dimensions

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Introduction: Navigating the DevOps Landscape

DevOps is a term that has gained immense popularity. However, due to its broad nature, there is often a lack of clarity surrounding its exact meaning. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Well, DevOps can encompass a range of concepts and frameworks, such as ITIL®, IT4ITâ„¢, and more. To truly grasp DevOps, it’s essential to disambiguate its different aspects.

Unraveling DevOps: A Multifaceted Approach

Initially, the pioneers of DevOps intentionally refrained from providing a rigid definition, fearing that it might hinder its organic growth. However, as more early adopters struggle to comprehend and extract value from DevOps, there arises a genuine need to codify it without stifling its flexibility.

The Foundation of DevOps: Cultural Norms, Technical Practices, and Structure

Let’s turn to Gene Kim, one of the prominent figures in the DevOps movement, who offers a comprehensive perspective. In an interview with Aprill Allen, Gene defines DevOps as “the set of cultural norms and technical practices that enable organizations to achieve a seamless flow of work from development through testing and deployment, while ensuring world-class reliability, availability, and security.” Moreover, Gene has recently emphasized the importance of incorporating “structure” as well. Therefore, DevOps encompasses cultural norms, technical practices, and structure. It’s crucial to clarify which aspect of DevOps one is referring to: cultural norms, technical practices, or structure.

The Varying Scopes of DevOps’ Components

Why does this matter? Let’s delve deeper into cultural norms and technical practices. Cultural norms, such as respect, trust, and a “no victims” attitude, are applicable to all facets of IT, business, and life in general. On the other hand, DevOps’ technical practices have more restricted applications. These practices can be categorized into those that enhance (1) flow, (2) feedback, (3) continuous learning and experimentation, and (4) integration of information security, change management, and compliance. While a few practices, like continuous experimentation and learning, are relevant throughout the entire IT value stream, most practices are specific to certain IT value streams. For instance, flow-related practices often begin with the term “continuous,” such as continuous integration, continuous testing, continuous delivery, and continuous deployment.

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Clarifying Ambiguities: The Meaning Behind “Deployment”

However, even within seemingly straightforward terms like “deployment,” confusion can arise. Traditional understanding associates deployment solely with software, referring to the release of new software into the production environment. However, in progressive DevOps environments, the new software is already live in the production environment long before users can actually interact with it. Access is provided through feature flags and user profile configurations. Some also refer to this process as “service request fulfillment.” Therefore, when the term “deployment” is used, clarifying whether it pertains to software software deployment or software service deployment would be highly beneficial.

Bringing Clarity to DevOps: A Call for Precision

To debunk the vague and unsubstantiated claims surrounding DevOps, it is crucial to identify meaningful verbs and objects. The more concise and tangible the verb, the better the disambiguation.


DevOps is an expansive concept that encompasses cultural norms, technical practices, and structure. To truly understand DevOps, it is essential to identify which aspect is being discussed. By bringing clarity to the various dimensions of DevOps, we can navigate this dynamic landscape with confidence.


  1. Mark Smalley (source:
  2. Gene Kim (source:
  3. John Willis (source: and
  4. Gene Kim, Jez Humble, Patrick Debois, and John Willis, The DevOps Handbook (source:
  5. Various contributors (source:
  6. Wikipedia (source:

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