DevOps: The Unconventional Essentials

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Please, Spare Me the Issues!

It may sound peculiar, but I’ve reached the conclusion that DevOps is enjoyable but non-functional. Before you start hurling rotten tomatoes at me, just like what happened with my previous DevOps blog, “Kill DevOps,” please allow me to explain.

There aren’t many reliable definitions of DevOps out there, but Gene Kim’s definition hits the nail on the head, as far as I’m concerned. According to him, DevOps is, “the set of cultural norms, technical practices, and structure that enable organizations to have both a fast flow of work from development to deployment, as well as world-class reliability, availability, and security” for their data systems and IT services.

Resilient, Secure, and Swift

Gene Kim, one of the co-authors of “The Phoenix Project” and the recently published DevOps Handbook, builds upon his definition and describes technical practices in four categories: (1) flow, (2) feedback, (3) continuous experimentation and learning, and (4) integrating information security, change management, and compliance into the software development lifecycle.

A significant portion of these core technical practices revolves around continuity:

  • Continuous integration: Regularly synchronize developers’ working copies with the shared mainline version.
  • Continuous testing: Automatically test to obtain prompt feedback on risks.
  • Continuous delivery: The ability to always put a product into production.
  • Continuous deployment: Automatically deploy into production whenever a product passes QA.

Not surprisingly, this aligns perfectly with Gene’s emphasized vision of achieving resilient, secure, and compliant software production at a rapid pace.

Enhancing IT Performance

This concept corresponds to how the renowned State of DevOps Report describes the performance of the IT function in terms of deployment frequency, lead time for changes, mean time to recover, and change failure rate. The report also highlights the cost savings that can be reinvested in value-added activities, as well as how DevOps practices improve organizational culture and boost employee engagement. In an industry where work pressure can lead to serious issues, it’s encouraging to read that high-performing IT organizations had employees who were 2.2 times more likely than average to recommend their organization as a great place to work in 2016, and 1.8 times more likely to endorse their workplace to a friend. In other words, DevOps is not just about speed of change, operational behavior (reliability and availability), security, and cost—it’s also about having fun. These points perfectly align with the focus of The DevOps Handbook.

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Focusing on ‘Non-Functionals’

DevOps addresses many of the non-functional aspects of software exceptionally well. However, none of the practices seem to concern themselves with identifying the required functionality. This seems to define the “upstream” boundary of DevOps: once the functional requirements have been established, then DevOps’ technical practices can be applied. While many of DevOps’ generic cultural norms can and should be applied to domains of activities outside the “continuous” domains, concrete technical practices mainly focus on the non-functional elements.

DevOps Handbook

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