What is DevOps? Unpacking the rise of an IT cultural revolution

DevOps seeks to accomplish smooth and efficient software creation, delivery, monitoring, and improvement by prioritizing agility and adaptability over rigid, stage-by-stage development. A quick search reveals that the term has taken off since surfacing in the 2000s, returning over 87 million results at the time of writing — but what exactly does it mean? How do organizations implement this approach to software development, and what capabilities do they need to make this shift a success?

What is DevOps?

DevOps is a general collection of flexible software creation and delivery practices that looks to close the gap between software development and IT operations, which are two critical but often misaligned efforts. As DevOps pioneer Patrick Debois first described it in 2009, DevOps is not a specific technology, but a tactical approach. By working together, development and operations teams can eliminate roadblocks and focus on improving the creation, deployment, and continuous monitoring of software.

This shift is critical to support the ever-accelerating development speeds that both customers and stakeholders demand. With the help of open-source solutions and agile APIs, teams can now deliver and maintain code more efficiently than ever. In short, combining development and operations makes it possible for process to keep pace with progress.

Solving for silos

Consulting firm Deloitte notes that technology teams are now expected to deliver projects four times faster with the same budget, and most of that budget goes toward running the business — not process or software innovation. Dynatrace’s own 2020 Global CIO Report backs up these findings: companies spend an average of $4.8 million annually on performing manual, routine tasks just to “keep the lights on.” One major challenge that contributes to these problems is siloing — the traditional separation of development and operations teams in terms of their priorities and the resources and insights available to them.

When developers are only focused on getting code out the door and operations teams are solely responsible for monitoring and management, there’s a blind spot in implementation — a no-man’s-land of “Who’s responsible?” where code is kicked back to developers for revision if it doesn’t meet operational requirements, often without clear direction on what needs to happen or why.

DevOps looks to eliminate these silos by creating a combined process that focuses on visibility-powered collaboration.

Development potential

So, what does this combined process look like in practice? When it comes to development teams, the goal is to recognize code creation as an ongoing cycle rather than a straight line. Partnering development with operations teams helps apply the principles of agile development — quick, bite-sized improvements based on priority — to the entire software life cycle. This includes initial design, proof of concept, testing, deployment, and eventual revision.

Taking this approach is especially important as both customer needs and C-suite expectations intensify. Development teams instructed to produce and deploy software as quickly as possible are now capable of doing just that, while operations teams, understandably, have concerns about the impact of rapid-fire code implementation and the changes necessary for putting that code to work at scale.

Operational impact

On the operations side, a collaborative approach to deployment makes it possible to extend agile processes past software into platforms and infrastructure to consider details and context of all layers within the IT environment. By applying design thinking to IT infrastructure, operations teams can help drive the delivery of outstanding user experiences more quickly than ever.

In effect, this dev-and-ops effort looks to leverage rather than limit the impact of development on operations by applying software development principles to every aspect of IT — all while maintaining operational focus on standardization and security.

The right solution for the job

A successful DevOps initiative is characterized by a culture of experimentation, risk, and trust — one in which constant feedback between all members is both welcomed and put to use. But culture alone isn’t enough to scale the benefits of such combined effort; teams also need the right technologies to get the job done.

Consider the critical role of observability within the full-stack environment. According to a recent Gartner report, leaders should consider solutions during pre-production to maximize insight into app performance, service availability, and overall environmental health. As soon as possible, teams need to adopt software intelligence solutions capable of all-in-one observability and AI-assisted automation to improve deployment times and enhance business outcomes.

There’s also an emerging push to include other areas in the DevOps effort: “DevSecOps” teams seek to integrate security testing in delivery and deployment pipelines, while “BizDevOps” efforts strive to understand app performance from a user experience perspective. But achieving these goals doesn’t happen simply by shattering one silo or another. Organizations moving to these enhanced DevOps initiatives demand services that provide a single source of truth for all on- and off-premises infrastructure. Such capabilities are key to delivering real-time data about what’s happening, where, and why it matters.

Closing the gap

What is DevOps? A cultural and tactical shift aimed at closing the gap between development efforts and operational obligations by combining teamwork with technology to streamline software delivery and solve for potential pitfalls. Following this model, any committed team armed with an automatic and intelligent observability platform can cut waste and turn their focus back to their organization’s core mission.

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