DevOps is not just a way of approaching a software development project, it's a mindset change -- and a change that service providers used to a hardware-centric network model are struggling to adopt now that software-defined networks are nearly essential to keeping pace with skyrocketing bandwidth demands.
But adopting a DevOps mindset is not easy and many CSPs are either struggling or taking it in stages to get their workforce up to speed. Telco Transformation checked in with Gerardo Dada, vice president of product marketing and strategy, SolarWinds , to get his thoughts on the DevOps transformation because he's been at the center of the software-based web, mobile, social and cloud revolutions at companies such as Rackspace, Microsoft and Motorola.
Our interview with Dada is part of a series of Telco Transformation Q&As on DevOps, all of which will largely feature the same set of questions. In this Q&A, Dada provides insight on how companies can transform to a DevOps mindset.
Telco Transformation: What cultural transformations need to take place in order to implement a DevOps mindset across the entire workforce?
Gerardo Dada: At its core, DevOps is a modern approach to software development -- it aims to dissolve the siloes between the development and operations teams and encourage shared accountabilities and processes in order to better understand software performance. But DevOps is more than a methodology, it's an approach, a mindset. IT departments should not underestimate the required change in culture to adopt the new mindset.
To help ensure a more seamless move to a DevOps culture, businesses can start by understanding and adopting the core principles of DevOps: end-to-end monitoring to understand the impact of every change, automation, collaboration, and an application and end-user focus.
In particular, collaboration is at the heart of a successful DevOps culture, and is a major transformation across an entire workforce. To ensure success across an organization, employees need to see themselves as part of one team working toward one goal: application performance that delivers great end user experience. In a DevOps culture, if an application is down, everyone has failed. There is no room for silos or for a team organized based on infrastructure categories. This requires transparency, visibility, a consistent set of tools and teamwork.
TT: How are employees being trained for new services and applications?
GD: Adopting a DevOps mindset usually involves a couple of areas that require skills development: one is adopting configuration management, automation and monitoring tools that need to be understood, managed and optimized. A more fundamental shift is how the development and IT operations team and process changes to become one team aligned behind the same metrics and able to understand and react in almost real time to performance changes.
TT: How are new employees being recruited?
GD: With something as new as DevOps, finding IT professionals with DevOps skills can be extremely difficult. CIOs and other business decision makers may remember a similar experience several years ago when cloud computing exploded into the data center -- IT pros with suitable cloud experience were few and far between. The more viable option, therefore, is for organizations to invest in training their existing teams. Most "DevOps experts" were either software engineers or in IT operations just a short time ago.
TT: What is the impact of DevOps on breaking down service silos? Did that lead to the creation of cross-disciplinary groups?
GD: A team with a DevOps mindset is unified behind a set of metrics around end-user experience and application performance. In any true DevOps-oriented team, you will find monitoring is a first-class citizen in order to provide these metrics. When the impact for every change is measured and understood through this monitoring and the entire team is aligned behind the same goals, silos are broken, there is no finger-pointing. The constant iteration also creates a sense of urgency and a sense of group accomplishment because the team can identify an issue, work on it, implement it and see the performance benefit in hours.
TT: Do you have some examples of how DevOps has changed, or impacted services and applications?
GD: For every business preparing to adopt a DevOps mentality, end users -- and the applications they rely on -- are the singular focus everyone must align behind. The performance of every line of code and the metrics of each component of the stack are only relevant based on how they affect application performance. Therefore, performance needs to be a discipline. The integration of development, operations and quality assurance teams is intended to speed software updates, changes, deployments and time-to-resolution for bugs -- all of which deliver a better end user experience.
Taking agility one step further, shorter, iterative processes allow teams to move faster, innovate and serve the business more effectively. Development-to-production cycles go from months to hours. This is a key benefit of DevOps, but it should be noted that despite a focus on speed through "sprint projects," leveraging a DevOps culture does not impact an organization's ability to execute on larger, long-term projects -- they are just reduced to smaller chunks of work. In addition, everything is flexible and ready to scale or change, and there should be no monolithic applications. Everything is a service, from application components to infrastructure.
Finally, a DevOps process requires everything to be monitored and everything must be automated, leading to a better overall end-user experience. Visibility across the application stack and into everything that drives performance is critical for speed and collaboration. The impact of every change should be known. And to move faster, code deployments, tests, monitoring, alerts and more should be automated. IT services, too, should embrace self-service to allow everyone to focus on what matters most.
Watch for more Telco Transformation Q&As on DevOps to learn how other companies are implementing and utilizing this method for rapid innovation and delivery. For previous Q&As on DevOps, check out:
— Elizabeth Miller Coyne, Managing Editor, Light Reading