Ten Years of DevOps, So What?

Thoughts from DevOps Days NYC 2020 and what we have learned

Three years ago, I went to my first DevOpsDays event, and it is fair to say that it radically changed my career path. I had been with Stack Overflow for a little over a year, had just launched this newsletter six months prior, and had little clue what DevOps was all about.

One of my colleagues, Tom Limoncelli, had mentioned the conference to me. I was also in discussions with one of the organizers, Ross Clanton, who said that we could meet up there. I did meet Ross as well as many other incredible folks, all part of a community that openly shares ideas, builds relationships, and learns together.

The DevOpsDays NYC 2020 Organizing and Volunteer Team

Three years later, I am a second time organizer for DevOpsDays NYC. I changed the name of this newsletter to DEVBIZOPS and launched a business. Key people in the DevOps world have been super supportive of my content and in participating in the Heretechs podcast. In three years, I went from a total noob to someone that knows a few things (but still always learning).

Some of the DevOpsDays groups try to organize content around a theme. In NYC we went for more diversity of ideas. That being said, if I could point to one key idea of the event, it was in the talk given by Kris Buytaert on what we have learned in the past decade of DevOps. His view is that despite having all the tools, not much has really changed.

Culture, Tools, which one wins?

Case in point is the change in the culture of how we deliver software. Ten years ago, startups like Netflix and Flickr were leading the way. Concepts like Agile and Lean were taking root in enterprises. The rise of the Cloud gave organizations greater flexibility in how they create, manage and deploy code. It was a time of optimism.

Ten years later, most enterprises have little to show in terms of substantive change. Agile became SAFe or some variant requiring certified “Agile” coaches. There are few real success stories of massive wholesale change in enterprises. Rather they were cargo culting culture from more progressive companies in the hopes that rituals and language will enable change. Simply adopting the Spotify or ING model however never seems to work.

This did not stop organizations from buying all the tools. IT orgs are all about Docker and Kubernetes and multi-cloud these days. Because this is what is all the rage, we are now in a cycle of resume driven development fueled by the hype of better systems, orchestration, and software delivery. Do you need everything microservices? Probably not but it does not stop IT teams from justifying these infrastructure choices in the name of agility.

Most organizations have DevOps like they have Agile. They have the bits and pieces that are good for show, but have not necessarily shown significant business outcomes. For example, every company I speak with has Continuous Integration, but are they actually doing Test Driven Development as an ongoing practice that would result in much better code quality? Enterprises say have do Continuous Deployments, but they still release software to end users every quarter instead of every hour.

When you see truly advanced usage of CI/CD, it is invariably by outliers. These are the teams of rebels in the company that took it upon themselves to initiate change. But holistic change across an entire enterprise is still more of a dream rather a proven success story.

Fix the culture first!

It is not for lack of interest or trying that Enterprises do DevOps halfway. They have to first overcome many of the challenges that lead to organizational silos. It is nice to say you want developers and operations to collaborate more closely, but it is another thing to enable the trust and shared purpose across teams to make collaboration and the use of tools effective.

Ten years later we have come to appreciate how difficult the promise of DevOps is. Over the next ten years, culture and community are going to be the major themes that guide organizations to true DevOps transformation. It’s notable that many of the DevOpsDays talks in NYC and elsewhere have focused less on technology and more about changing practices and working across teams (check out my live tweets of the conference).

Such an awesome and well-attended DevOpsDays NYC 2020

Some of the talks spoke directly to a better understanding and establishing trust. Jessica Fredican shared her experiences in product management and platform engineering working together. Christine Yen talked about developers having more ownership of the testing and management of code in production. Victoria Geronimo discussed in her Ignite talk where InfoSec fits in the DevOps lifecycle. Quintessence Anx spoke to the value of creating greater serendipity, understanding, and learning through more diverse developer and IT teams.

The other set of talks addressed thinking differently about process. Jaana Dogan walked us through the concepts used to be prepare organizations for production. Tom Limoncelli stressed the culture of having developers write documentation by building it into delivery timelines. Jameson Hampton raised awareness of incorporating ethics constructs into your code. Quincy Iheme talked about thinking of failure as a balance of high learning and low risk (or blast radius).

This leads to a third bucket of talks questioning the rationale of the tools explosion we have seen in DevOps. Angel Rivera tackled this head on in his talk about the sprawl of tools in our DevOps pipelines. Matt Stratton got to the essence of the delivery of services and how it relates to achieving business outcomes. And in one of the more hilarious talks, Dave Stanke shared his perspective that all tech is tech debt, so perhaps stop worrying so much.

Enterprises treated DevOps as a toolkit. But DevOps was never meant to be a title or a team or a toolchain. It was meant to be a way of deploying better quality code to customers faster. Automation is helpful, but the people, processes and culture around the tools need to change first before there is real team and organizational impact. In other words, we are still on that long strange journey that John Willis shared three years ago in NYC

How has your organization adopted DevOps? What aspects of DevOps has been the most difficult for you to implement and what have been the blockers to success?

Amanda Barkus of MetLife on Building Diverse IT Teams

In celebration of International Women’s Day 2020, we are sharing our very first Heretechs podcast episode with Amanda Barkus of Metlife on building diversity into your tech teams and supporting women in IT.

Check out past podcast episodes on Apple PodcastsGoogle Podcast, or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts. Please like and subscribe 😁

This is a special section from the newsletter that we normally do not share publicly on the blog. If you wish to receive the newsletter, you can sign up here.

This past Sunday was International Women’s Day 2020 and it was awesome to see the outpouring of support from Enterprises and Startups alike in fostering greater diversity in technology teams. There were examples of programs in enterprises being shared, lots of historical perspectives into the stories of women pioneers in technology, and lots of positive allyship from men.

International Womens Day. Vector illustration with women different nationalities and cultures. Struggle for freedom, independence, equality.

To that end I wanted to share three stories, two from my past writings and one from a regular reader of this newsletter. In one of my earliest posts, I wrote about the story of Dame Shirley who gathered housewives and homemakers during the 60’s in the UK and turned this group into one of the most diverse and innovative tech services companies in the world. A year later I shared the story of Margaret Hamilton who was instrumental in making sure the Apollo astronauts got to the moon safely. Her contributions created the foundation that is now known as software engineering.

The last story is from someone I met at DevOpsDays NYC 2018. Jackie Damiano was with Verizon , one of the main sponsors and organizers that year. Over the years we got to know of and appreciate each other’s work. So it was inspiring to learn of her work to make Project Athena happen, an IT apprenticeship program in Verizon to enable people from underserved & underrepresented communities to become technologists. I highly recommend her talk from DevOps Enterprise Summit and hopefully it inspires you!