The Future of DevOps: Purpose and the Integration of People, Process, Practices and Products
Despite a perennially evolving definition, ‘DevOps’ is all about integration. It brings together processes, people, practices and products to deliver new application value faster, more stably and with enhanced quality through a continuous delivery pipeline to better meet the dynamic needs of consumers. A DevOps approach aims to break down the potential for silo–ed development and operations activity – but offers far more than this to enable a tangible improvement on earlier methodologies such as waterfall, prototyping, spiral, rapid application, joint application and most recently agile. Fostering a culture of collaboration, tighter feedback loops and an ethos of constant refinement and discovery is an integral part of this end to end process, bringing people together to work towards a shared vision and goals, versioning, automation, measurement and improvement. According to the latest World Quality Report – 99% of respondents are now using DevOps practices in their organisation.
The growth of “SecDevOps’ is a natural and important extension to the original DevOps concept. It reflects the criticality of DevOps and Security to work more closely together in an environment where code, risk profiles and attack surfaces change frequently. SecDevOps must also bring to the fore the behavioral, psychological and economic aspects of potential threats – most issues are related to human error (or intent) factors and not the underlying technology itself. With deployment frequency typically regarded as a core metric of DevOps success, this approach can also mitigate unanticipated consequences regards pressure to deliver impacting decision making. It is therefore an imperative for Security to move away from being considered a ‘gate’ to delivery but rather, to be embedded throughout development and deployment workflows.
Given the speed of technological change coupled with increasing consumer expectations centered on experience, reliability and convenience, evolution across the DevOps field is set to continue. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are bringing data-driven intelligence to DevOps, enabling smart testing and critically, helping to reduce data complexity to enhance human capabilities. Supporting this human-machine partnership, IBM Watson is now available everywhere, capable of running on any cloud, whether it be private, public or hybrid. By being portable, AI can now be deployed wherever a business’ data resides, breaking open typically silo-ed infrastructure. According to the MIT Sloan report, 83 per cent of enterprises agree AI represents a strategic opportunity. This was one of the areas I had the pleasure to discuss with Martina Naughton, European Sales Leader for AI and HPC at IBM during the ISC High Performance event recently in Frankfurt – more on this to follow!
Additionally, DevOps teams need to respond to pressure to keep up with industry competitors, notably cloud native companies, pushing updates out faster. A further example is the introduction of folding smartphones, as premiered at the Consumer Technology Association (CES) and Mobile Web Congress (MWC) 2019 – teams need to ensure apps are fully primed to perform. This necessitates a greater emphasis on Quality Assurance and Testing to cover an expanded range of scenarios with the new features likely causing disruption to overall release schedules. Alongside AI, Site Reliability Engineering (SRE), a component of DevOps, can be also be beneficial in this regard. This automates routine repetitive tasks to enable at least 50% of team time to be directed towards enhancing application reliability rather than only its maintenance.
Looking to the future of DevOps, increased collaboration between industry and practitioners is critical with the Continuous Delivery Foundation (part of the Linux Foundation) an example of a vendor-neutral home to foster open source projects through collaboration, knowledge sharing and interoperability. There is also a renewed focus on expanding the purpose of DevOps, including consideration of critical issues such as ethics, diversity and inclusion. Indeed, this is a business imperative – not a ‘nice to have’. There remains a lack of digital skills at all levels of society as foregrounded by the European Commission’s Digital Progress Report, with gaps widening and reflected in technology sector skill shortages in Cybersecurity, AI and Blockchain, where women are particularly under represented.
To ensure DevOps is building technology that best serves the constantly evolving needs of customers and society, we need a diversity of experience and perspectives inputting into its conceptualisation, development and delivery. This must bring together digital and creative confidence, a key focus of Aspirational Futures with its foundation of STEAM learning – Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics. We also need an opening up of access to free resources to enable a wider range of organisations to benefit from the technological advances and to focus on trust which has seen a global implosion across sectors. Taking this further, within DevOps and beyond, we need to continually ask ourselves – what kind of world do we want to build?”