How to get started with DevOps

We’re living in exciting but demanding technological times. Big Data, Internet of Things, ubiquitous computing, smart machines, robotics, and wearables . . . things that were the talk of science fiction only a few short years ago are on every CIOs wish list today. And, oh, did we forget deliverables by drone in 30 minutes or less with Amazon’s Prime Air? But to the point, the revolution in technology has led to major shifts in how organizations today ideate, plan, develop, and deploy software solutions. It used to be that software release cycles would take upwards of 18-24 months or more. Now, with the innovations spurred on by the consumerization of IT and heightened customer demands and business competition, companies today are hard-pressed to get applications out the door as fast as possible.

 

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The need for creating a novel software application from “soup to nuts” is about 3 months for an initial version and upwards of 6 months for the full feature set. And not only has the lifecycle shortened but apps have become much more complex and require cross-collaboration and integration between various IT constituents, such as Operations, Development, and Q&A in ways previously unimagined. The result has been a new discipline known as DevOps.

Much of DevOps is about a cultural shift in how organizations, and specifically IT shops, are run. Since smaller businesses are obviously not tied down as much or any to legacy systems, these can really stand to benefit from more agile solutions. If your organization is going to compete in the digital market in 2015 it best be focused and centered on DevOps and ready to embrace this as the new paradigm shift in software development.

There tends to be a lot of confusion around what DevOps is and how to develop a strategy. So let’s walk through some key steps for kicking off your DevOps initiative in 2015 and hopefully making your software or product development cycle as efficient and streamlined as possible.

1. Define DevOps for Your Organization

Gartner defines DevOps as “a change in IT culture, focusing on rapid IT service delivery through the adoption of agile, lean practices in the context of a system-oriented approach, where system-oriented is the process of understanding how things, regarded as systems, influence one another within a whole.” Now that’s a mouthful but it really boils down to this. DevOps is not just about technology but it’s about people and process. It’s about effective collaboration and communication across the organization. To accomplish the change in culture, you start with incremental changes in behavior and over time things will begin to transform. Start by creating an environment in which innovation and brainstorming are welcomed practices. Reward people for their ideas. Host a monthly innovation contest by providing a free lunch or $50 gift certificate to whoever finds the best solution to a manual, time-consuming process. Incentivize it and make your employees know they’re important contributors in the process of IT transformation.

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2. Develop an App with DevOps

Rather than theorizing about DevOps, there’s no better way to get started than by picking a project and going into it with a DevOps mindset. Gartner recommends this path. While improved culture and collaboration will follow, the best results of driving towards DevOps adoption is through systems of innovation in real time. Developing your application with a lean, automation-oriented, and continuous delivery mindset will provide a great opportunity for bringing your organization or department together towards a common goal.

3. Measure Quality not Quantity

Everything today is about metrics and performance. Indeed, the growing complexity of physical, virtual, and cloud environments today requires a more holistic approach to monitoring the numerous devices, systems, and transactions within an IT infrastructure. But as Gartner points out, there’s been a tendency within organizations to drive metrics for the sake of preserving a “hero mentality” and rewarding those who can fix the most issues. It goes on to advise a better approach: “Build new shared metrics that align with the business needs and impacts, but, more importantly, help people realize that they must work together. Goals should be service-focused, with an eye toward improving agility (velocity) and improving business value (quality).”

 

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 4. DevOps is about Automation

The benefit of automating the testing and deployment process hardly needs explanation. With just a few clicks a continuous integration tool will run a series of unit tests, deploy the code to a new server, and then carry out a series of integration tests. The obvious takeaway is that continuous integration automation reduces cost and increases efficiency so that developers can spend their time writing code instead of tracking and fixing bugs.

Developing the ability to automate an organization’s infrastructure may seem like the most daunting of tasks, and it’s at this point that companies usually become their own worst enemy. However, there are a significant number of automation tools on the market now that can help make your build, test, monitoring, and deployment process efficient and effective. A tool like Monitis can give your organization a jump start on your DevOps strategy by providing continual performance, testing, and monitoring updates for your infrastructure.

5. Build a DevOps RoadMap

Once your selected team has built an app and employed some automation and taken in some metrics with a DevOps mindset, it will begin to see the cumulative benefits of all the changes. The next step is to take what you’ve learned and apply the principles across the organization in a more systemic manner. Share what you’ve learned with other teams and get executive buy-in. As you organize your strategy and outline the scope and approach, begin to ask yourself what the endgame is and what you want to achieve in 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, and 5 years? Obviously, you want to produce higher quality products and services faster and more efficiently, but you’ll need to wrap some context around that. To monitor your progress on the path to full DevOps adoption, begin to set some standards for performance based KPIs such as:

* Time to set up an environment

* Time from change request to release

* Number of deployments per week or month

* Mean time to resolution

 

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DevOps is an epic transformation in the world of IT that is creating a host of new opportunities for businesses to become more agile and efficient in the delivery of their products and services. If followed through, the foregoing strategies can dramatically save your organization significant amounts of time and money while boosting efficiency at all levels. The DevOps train is leaving the station, but it’s not too late to get onboard. Get started today to see the differences DevOps can make in the level and quality of your business practices in 2015.

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