Clients are looking to DevOps in software development, but they are not necessarily looking at service providers to help them make that move. Everest Group noted recently that fewer than 10 percent of application services agreements in 2014 required DevOps-based delivery, suggesting that enterprises do not yet believe that service providers can play a meaningful role in their Agile to DevOps journey.
The report added that “though even today enterprises may only be experimenting with Agile, this is not stopping them from exploring the DevOps model for faster application delivery. However, most enterprises are focusing on adopting the DevOps model using internal resources rather than leveraging service providers.”
A 2014 RackSpace survey of companies in the US, UK and Australia found that over three quarters (77%) of respondents were familiar with the concept of DevOps. Close to three in five (59%) saw DevOps as a software development process that brings developers and IT operations closer together and a quarter (26%) saw it as a cultural movement where developers and operations work closer together to increase business agility.
Understanding The Drive For DevOps
Carlos Melendez, COO of Wovenware, a software development company in Puerto Rico, said that the main benefits of moving to DevOps is a more responsive software development process, that will deliver faster time to market with lower failure rate of releases. “With DevOps you should be able to achieve continuous integration and deployment of your software through automation,” he said.
Because DevOps is so new and has higher risks, outsourcing caution is a natural hesitation — Tomás Gutiérrez, Scalable Path
While the specifics of differences between Agile, the reigning approach adopted by most software developers, and DevOps are a bone of contention, there is agreement that DevOps is a valuable option.
Ernest Mueller, James Wickett, Karthik Gaekwad, and Peco Karayanev of TheAgileAdmin.com write that DevOps is “the practice of operations and development engineers participating together in the entire service lifecycle, from design through the development process to production support.”
Colombian-born Tomás Gutiérrez, Partner at Scalable Path, said that Everest Group’s assertion that “moving from an Agile model to DevOps is the single most important trend in application services” is unclear. “Agile and DevOps are apples and oranges,” he said.
Gutiérrez added that some define DevOps as having a crossover between application development and system operations, while others define it as bringing concepts from agile to the domain of operations. “Either way you define it, it’s not an either/or. The trend toward agile will continue even as the trend toward DevOps continues,” he said.
Gutiérrez said that agile is a methodology, a process for software development, and works better with software development than it does for DevOps because it has the concept of “releases” which does not really happen as much with DevOps.
The Role Of Outsourcing
Turning to an outsourcing partner is not as simple when it comes to DevOps. “Since contributing to application development often requires less sensitive company access to infrastructure, agile is easier to outsource than DevOps roles,” he said.
With DevOps you should be able to achieve continuous integration and deployment of your software through automation — Carlos Melendez, Wovenware
Additionally, since DevOps involves more systems-level access, it is more difficult to outsource without setting up elaborate schemes to allow remote access and protect sensitive data and systems.
There is clear interest in DevOps, however, and clients are asking questions about a move to it. Melendez said: “I’m seeing more customers interested in the initial setup of DevOps. They are still trying to understand if this should be an internal or an external role. For me it should be both, internal and external teams working on DevOps.”
Gutiérrez explained that outsourcing software development to an agile development shop has been long established, but DevOps is just now coming into its own and many organizations are coming to terms of what it means and how it will work at their organizations.
“DevOps involves mission critical infrastructure like servers and databases. With a single deliberate or accidental action, a DevOps contractor can take a live web application down or wipe out a vital database,” he said.
Gutiérrez added that software developers are more easily siloed off into their local development environments and committing code to a repository that is tested thoroughly before going to production. “Because DevOps is so new and has higher risks, outsourcing caution is a natural hesitation,” he emphasized.
But Gutiérrez believes that organizations can still outsource their development – and use Agile if they want – and then have a DevOps team manage their infrastructure.
Internal Or External?
He added: “The real trend is to have your Operations team be more ‘aware’ of the application’s functionality, instead of being in separate camps where the developers say ‘the problem is the environment’ and the operations people say ‘the problem is the application’. There is a trend toward more communication and crossover between these roles.”
DevOps is not for everybody — Melendez
Joan Wrabetz, CTO of QualiSystems, a provider of DevOps orchestration and automation solutions for IT infrastructure, network, development and test organizations with offices in North America and Israel, explained that the reason that service providers are not being required to deliver through DevOps is that their agreements with customers typically have an SLA and a commitment to yearly reductions in cost.
“The customer doesn’t care anymore how it gets done because they already have an SLA. I think that more customers will start to add a new SLA around speed and frequency of deployment for new applications,” she said.
“When this happens, IT service providers will focus more on DevOps. In the meantime, many are starting to focus on devops and automation in order to hit the cost reduction goals because the majority of their cost is in operating cost.”
Wrabetz said that automation through DevOps and for basic service delivery allows them to perform operations remotely and automatically, which means lower staffing overall and much lower on-site staffing cost.
LATAM Evolving Skill Sets Through Experience
“This is the driver that we are seeing now for the IT service providers. We are now being pulled into a few managed service providers for this very reason,” she said. “Full DevOps will be the next natural step in this evolution for Service Providers – whether or not customers actually specify DevOps.”
Melendez said that most LATAM providers are approaching the move to DevOps by gaining more experience and understanding of the big cloud providers. “Most are using DevOps in their internal projects and using that experience to help customers,” he said.
Gutiérrez added that LATAM providers are attempting to remain relevant in a world where rapid shifts in software development practices and IT operations is changing how business is done. “Exploring and adopting new technologies and practices, such as Chef, Puppet, Containerization (Docker), continuous deployment, and IaaS/PaaS is key to bringing the best of DevOps to their organizations,” he said.
Melendez added that DevOps is not for everybody. “There are still a lot of software businesses that require their software to be personally installed on-site. If it makes sense to implement in your business, then bring someone who has done it before to help get you started.”