The trouble with the word DevOps
The other day, I saw a sticker on someone’s laptop that said ‘DevOps Specialist’ What does that really even mean? Over the past few years, this term has come to mean many things to many people. It has gone from an adjective describing a process flow to being a verb. We do this often – the concept of changing nouns or adjectives into an action but never truly defining and often losing the raw meaning. I say it daily – ‘Let me google it’. Obviously, to all of us, we know that to ‘google’ means to log into google.com and search for something. However, I never limit my queries to just looking at the results. Sometimes, I ‘google’ reference documents or the built-in search in a vendor’s site. Over time, we have grown accustomed to just saying word ‘google’ instead of ‘to search’. So what is wrong with our use of the term ‘DevOps’?
My career has spanned nearly two decades in the Tech industry. I have been in just about every Tech role – helpdesk, engineering, architecture, infrastructure, storage, automation, etc. The industry has morphed over the past ten years into something quite amazing. We have seen the emergence of private cloud, public, cloud and DevOps. As each technology has morphed into the next, we find our terms ever evolving into new meanings. What did DevOps originally mean? To do this, we need to use our way-back machine and look at the first Wiki entry for DevOps
DevOps is a new term to describe the interdependence of development and operations activities in IT organizations to accomplish the business objectives of producing software products. It is a particularly thorny issue where new development methodologies (such as agile) occur in a traditional organization with separate departments for dev, IT operations and QA. Development and deployment activities that previously did not necessarily need deep cross-departmental integration with IT support or QA, now require intimate multi-departmental collaboration.
DevOps (a clipped compound of “development” and “operations”) is a software engineering culture and practice that aims at unifying software development (Dev) and software operation (Ops). The main characteristic of the DevOps movement is to strongly advocate automation and monitoring at all steps of software construction, from integration, testing, releasing to deployment and infrastructure management. DevOps aims at shorter development cycles, increased deployment frequency, and more dependable releases, in close alignment with business objectives
In eight years, our understanding of the word has completely transcended that original definition. Now, we have moved beyond the focus on producing software through agile methods to reshaping how we look at the entire process beginning to end. DevOps is not a tool or even a defined practice. It expresses an ideal. The DevOps mindset is not about picking and choosing tool sets. DevOps Engineers are not developers that couldn’t cut it or Infrastructure folks that just want to break everything with their scripts. We are visionaries into how things could be. We are the dream shapers of IT process. DevOps is about speed and fast turns. The agility to know that a bug or problem is only one sprint or patch away (or in some cases, a 90mph drive down the highway).
As we have progressed in our technological evolution, we can look back at our history to see how each step has moved us closer to that goal and every advancement has been to improve the speed of our output. As DevOps Engineers, we are constantly searching for the ways to make our lives easier and improve our products. This isn’t a new concept as you can see James Burke explain in this awesome clip from Connections: Faith in Numbers
So, what is trouble with the word DevOps? We forget what it really means – innovation. DevOps isn’t a standard set of methods or a practice. You can’t buy DevOps from a vendor. It is a mindset to always look for ways to innovate. DevOps isn’t the goal of an organization. It is the journey that we take as we continuously evolve our understanding of this industry. DevOps is about looking forward based on where we have come to improve the world we will live in.
I DevOps…. do you?
A special note:
If you have never heard of James Burke, then I highly recommend looking into his amazing work. His series Day the Universe changed and Connections captures the true spirit of innovation and in my opinion the DevOps mindset. The entire video is located here – Connections: Faith in Numbers (full version on archive.org)