Monday, September 24, 2012

DevOps - a fad or an essential new skill set?

The geek in me is coming out again! I found myself really excited listening to the ITSM weekly podcast this morning - I woke unable to sleep around 5am and saw a post from Chris Dancy on Back2ITSM alerting me to the fact that episode 96 was currently being broadcast...and no, I didn't have it in the back of my mind that it might help me get back to sleep! In all honesty, I had opened up my laptop planning to watch an episode of Coronation Street (how's that for a true confession moment!), but decided on a more constructive use of my sleepless state.

I have seen a lot of mumblings on various blogs, tweets etc about DevOps, but to be perfectly honest I really didn't have the bandwidth available to take any time to find out just what the buzz was about. That changed this morning, listening to Gene Kim discussing his upcoming book "When IT Fails" and the subject of DevOps, I realised that this was an important topic that I really needed to pay some attention to. So on goes the researcher hat again and I will share with you what I have managed to glean from the podcast and a few other sources this morning.

So, the first thing I did was to simply ask Google - "What is DevOps?" Have to say that, while that bought up a total of 1.64 million results in 0.23 seconds, most of it just managed to confuse me further, and certainly did nothing to improve my understanding at all. There seem to be a lot of, sometimes conflicting, definitions of DevOps. So I am going to try to put it into reasonably plain English, and hope that I have got it right in my own head...I am sure someone will tell me if I don't, one thing our community is not is silent!

© vege -
Put simply DevOps describes a blurring of the previous strong division between the development team and the operations team. The disciplines encapsulated in the DevOps professional allow us to bridge the gap between the two parts of the IT organisation for the benefit of both IT teams and ultimately the customer.

This brings with it a need for a new breed of IT professionals and business executives - we need people who can converse just as easily around a board table as they can around at an IT development project meeting....someone who does not need a translator no matter which side of the table they sit on.

I can see that the best degree someone could come out of university with at the moment would be a double major in an IT field and in business management. Too late for me, but I know what I will recommend to anyone heading to university now who aspires to a future in IT or business...aim for both, you don't have to choose!

DevOps give us the ability to break the barriers and bring the developers down from their ivory towers and have them converse and work with the rest of us mere mortals. But before this happens we need a breed of developers who have a new skill set...sorry guys but a lot of you just don't currently have what it takes to play the pivotal role in operations and in the business that the DevOps movement requires. My brother, and I love him dearly, is a developer and, from all accounts, a very good one, but really...stick him in front of a business customer and he could do some real damage. He might be able to make sweet music with strings of code, but trying to get him to explain what that code is going to do in business terms would be like pushing the proverbial up hill with a very sharp stick...asking him to talk to customers about how his applications work would be commercial suicide!
© nikdoorg -

My next bit of research was to see if there was a market currently for a DevOps professional. Well, sadly a search for Dev Ops (or DevOps) on returned not a single job offering. Australia is obviously a wee bit more advanced that good old NZ (or maybe just bigger) and the same search on brought up 9 vacancies for people with a DevOps skillset. gave me around 50 vacancies. Have to say that the rates of pay being offered were not too shabby either!

This result is reminiscent of 11 years ago when I did a search on the same sites to see just who wanted me with my shiny new ITIL Managers Certificate...not many businesses found that an attractive skill to have at that the same search now and there are pages of vacancies. I am sure that the DevOps search will return a similar result in a very short timeframe.

Well, is that as clear as mud now? I think I understand the DevOps skill set now, and it opens an exciting new world of opportunities for those entering our industry in the future, really giving IT the ability to be entrenched in the business, more than being integrated with, or partnering with it. Of course there is a possibility I have it all wrong, and I am sure that someone will tell me if I do!


  1. I first heard about the DevOps concept from Adam Jacob in Velocity 2010, and I have been a fan of the concept ever since. I believe there are two major aspects in DevOps, as a culture movement and as a technical approach of doing things.

    As a culture movement, DevOps is about collaboration. Whether you are in Dev or in Ops, we are still on the same team. It is also not possible to work in isolation these days – having a well-run IT requires a collaborative effort. DevOps as a culture and professional movement can be empowering for the people involved.

    I would, however, caution portraying DevOps as a job, as an organization role, or as a career path. DevOps to me is more of an approach or a mentality we can use to guide our actions. DevOps focuses on collaboration and breaking down the traditional boundary. Understanding of how Dev, QA, and Ops teams can work together and leverage each other’s strengths to support the pace of change needed by the organization is utmost critical for success DevOps. I think we already have people doing that type of work in organizations today but don’t necessarily have the term DevOps in their job title. DevOps also does not have the foundational frameworks or body of knowledge that COBIT and ITIL have defined and put in place. Defining the exact skillset needed to do a “DevOps” job does not seem to make sense to me at this time.

    In summary, I believe DevOps, when understood and applied properly, is a good thing for IT. I am also hopeful that how we implement service management can be refined and benefited with the inclusion of the DevOps concept.

  2. Thanks for taking the time to comment David. I agree with you that is probably a mind set and a bringing together, in one person two disparate sets of skills rather than an actual, definable job. What it can do is to blur the lines between two parts of the business that have previously been in very separate silos.