devops in a box

Is DevOps Bullshit?


In a recently trending rant on hackernews Josh Johnson pointed to his negative experience with the DevOps process after taking on a new job in a firm that had a “dedicated devops team”. The post is mainly a rant about “that devops is utter bullcrap” and any sane developer should run when they hear the term.

My problem with this is that they didn’t even have a properly functioning agile processes in place and decided to create a dedicated “DevOps” team handling the deployment/infrastructure automation. I mean what could go wrong? They might as well have bought some “DevOps tools” from some new BS company hitching on this term.

DevOps is not a job title and if you come across an offer like that it should make your alarm bells ring. If you take on a DevOps role make sure they really want a (backend) engineer interested in automation but being part of the same team otherwise. if your’re doing devops right it means that everyone is in this together. There is no such thing as pushing your commit and let the “devops team” face the music.

Unfortunately there are many companies right now which have hi-jacked the DevOps buzz but lack total understanding of what it is. Somehow it feels like 2005 again when Agile became the latest rage. If you need a laugh just check stackoverflow for a bad example of actual sysadmin positions which are trying to sound sexy.

devopsing

The root of the problem (the idea that sysadmins can’t program) might come from the fact that every company whether furniture/clothing store or any other sizable non-tech business needs sysadmins. But only if technology is your core business you need good developers. This probably leads to generalization of sysadmins not knowing their bits/bytes. Sure guys working for ISP’s and in datacenters are a different breed but they still get thrown into the same category because of the job-title.

Admittedly DevOps is much harder to do in large established companies than in a start-up. (but what isn’t? Agile is/was equally hard the bigger your firm is). DevOps (same as Agile) requires support from top-down as much as from bottom up. The bigger the company the more crucial it is to live the mindset of “Continuous Improvement” in the whole organization and not just in R&D.

This makes DevOps as much a political exercise as a technical challenge. As a rough indicator if DevOps can be a success in your firm ask yourself if you could politically get away with deploying the ChaosMonkey. The Netflix Chaos Monkey has nothing to do with DevOps at first sight, but the cool thing is that it only works with a stable DevOps process/mindset in place (in all ranks of the org) if not it will force you (brutally so) to improve your deployment automation and sort out your politics (and technical debt).

borat

We’re constantly searching for “DevOps Engineers”. But rest assured that our clients know the difference of a silly job title and what the role entails. They are well aware it has nothing to do with trying to make the role of the system administrator (who apparently hates programming) more hip.

As a rule of thumb for assessing DevOps job opportunities: the bigger the company the more questions you should ask about the specific tasks which the “DevOps Engineer” will be expected to perform.

To answer the question in the title, devops isn’t bullshit but you get many companies (and recruiters) hi-hacking the term without a real understanding of what it entails.

For some non-technical background reading please check the lean principle and Antifragile books by N.N. Taleb (DevOps has it’s roots in those).

— by Joachim Bauernberger

Joachim Bauernberger
Passionate about Open Source, GNU/Linux and Security since 1996. I write about future technology and how to make R&D faster. Expatriate, Entrepreneur, Adventurer and Foodie, currently living near Nice, France.

Valbonne Consulting provides Research & Consulting for emerging technologies in Internet/Web of Things (WoT/IoT/M2M) and Emerging-Tech. We specialise in decentralisation, security and privacy. We work across a variety of traditional industry verticals (Telecommunications, Automotive, Energy, ...). We support Open Source and technologies built on open standards.

2 thoughts on “Is DevOps Bullshit?

  1. You may be surprised to find out that two out of the three places I mentioned in my post had, what some may say were “proper” and “comprehensive” Agile practices.

    At one, we had to fight to start to define our own process, since trying to do scrum like the developers didn’t work out. We settled on a Kanban-style approach that worked pretty well.

    At the other place, we had good control over our process, but there was a culture intrenched in management that really loved process, at times for the mere sake of process itself – our scrum master and product owner(s) were really good (we had dedicated people for both roles), and we were able to avoid the worst of it, but where our process interfaced with the development process, there were a lot of issues.

    In retrospect I think it’s possible to express operations work in any number of Agile processes, but it requires some very out of the box thinking. We had trouble in both cases juggling interrupt-driven work (support calls, deployments, “I don’t know how git works”) with project work. The result in both cases were JIRA issues that would languish, even with “SLAs” in place. There were a lot of other issues contributing to this too, of course.

    P.S.
    I didn’t think that was a rant! <3

    I honestly wrote it as a love story about me and DevOps – my angst comes from seeing it fail, and the realization that I had DevOps culture baked into the kind of developer I was. 😀

  2. devops is best practiced by developers who service a moving target and don’t need stringent operational discipline (or ‘process’) because it slows things down. The idea of CI/CD or developers performing sysadmin tasks in a scientific or financial environment with 5 9’s and stability as the paramount need (rather than features and business agility to market) is laughable. Conversely, there is not a lot of room for traditional ops in a shop geared toward writing features and rolling them out as a your business. There is no ‘false dichotomy’, only apples and oranges.

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