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How to implement a DevOps structure in your IT

​by Daniel Dern
Adopting a "DevOps" methodology helps you build an ideal IT infrastructure for today's rapid develop-test-deploy operations model.

It’s no secret that IT’s role in today’s business is expanding. From the teams supporting back-end business operations to those helping drive growth and changing how the company works, IT is integral to the modern business.

But how can IT departments address their growing pains?

Methodologies like Agile can help speed and focus development. Elastic cloud services can help production systems react to load changes. But there is still (at least) one major IT chasm that needs bridging – the one between developers and operators.

Historically, according to J. Wolfgang Goerlich in Wired.com, these two “only communicate when it’s time for the operations team to install a new version of the programmers’ software, or when things go wrong.”

​Any major change like this, no matter where in your business it occurs, demands a plan and the time and flexibility to implement it.

And when it comes to defining what “going wrong” means, it may be anything from inefficiencies to the miscommunication that occurs when developers are expecting certain things as part of the production environment that turn out not to be there.

The solution? “DevOps” — short for “Development and Operations” or “Developers and Operators.”

What is DevOps?

At its core, DevOps is a process from which companies can get new software up faster, if operations knows what resources will be needed. Conversely, developers can develop that software better if they have operations-like environments to develop in. And this development cycle is constantly in motion.

Or perhaps even more simply: “Talk amongst yourselves. And play nice.”Just like Agile software development has helped many companies “kaizen“-ize their processes, the DevOps mindset can help bring development and operations into a smoother, faster path.
For an example, consider the iterative DevOp process currently in place at Flickr. According to C. Aaron Cois at Carnegie Mellon University’s Software Engineering Institute1:

[Flickr’s] live software platform is updated at least 10 times a day. Flickr accomplishes this through an automated testing cycle that includes comprehensive unit testing and integration testing at all levels of the software stack in a realistic staging environment. If the code passes, it is then tagged, released, built, and pushed into production.

Implementing DevOps

Of course, before implementing any new process or strategy, your leadership needs to learn about it. See who in your IT department is already familiar with DevOps, and ask them questions. Consider bringing in an outside trainer or consultant to help bring IT developers and operators up to speed on DevOps. Begin identifying DevOps-friendly tools, environments and services. Odds are this will include automation tools like Puppet, Chef and Microsoft PowerShell. Keep in mind that DevOps, like Agile, can require changes in how some of your employees work, and in intra- and inter-departmental interaction. Be prepared to invest the time in education, perhaps organizing some social events to help these formerly separate groups meet. And give them time to adapt. Any major change like this, no matter where in your business it occurs, demands a plan and the time and flexibility to implement it.

And, of course, monitor the use of DevOps, and collect feedback from developers and operators to assess benefits, problems, concerns, and/or changes.

Implementing DevOps

Find out if a DevOps infrastructure is right for your IT department.

Is a DevOps structure right for your IT?

As with any new process implementation, there is some cost, time and effort required in integrating DevOps into your IT workflow. Weigh the costs with the potential benefits: while it may not seem obvious immediately, the perfect time to begin is before a need arises.

And the process of DevOps-izing may lead to additional, unforeseen insights — from top management, Line of Business managers and IT — on business opportunities that will require, or benefit from, a DevOps environment.
Daniel Dern
Daniel P. Dern is an independent Boston-based technology, business and marketing writer whose articles have appeared in sites and publications that include the Boston Globe/BetaBoston.com, ComputerWorld, IEEE Spectrum, ITWorld.com, and TechTarget.
1  C. Aaron Cois. "An Introduction to DevOps." Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute. https://insights.sei.cmu.edu/devops/2014/03/an-introduction-to-devops.html